- Porsche 718 Cayman S - 1:23.2
- Alpine A110 - 1:24.8
- Audi TT RS - 1:25.2
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Can our contenders cut the mustard on a race track? Hot laps at Bedford Autodrome will reveal all.
Audi first. There’s a feeling this might be the TT’s best shot at showing the others how it’s done. On the road it seems to have boundless grip and traction, and the in-line five feels the strongest engine here. And indeed it feels pretty quick around the lap, punching out of corners on full throttle with very little understeer.
Once the nose is hooked into a curve, the fat, low-profile Pirellis hang on tenaciously – it’s everything you’d expect of a compact and powerful four-wheel-drive coupe. There is a small amount of adjustability into the fastest corners that finish the lap (O’Rouge and Tower), so you can get on the power very early and accelerate flat-out all the way through. The clock stops at 1:25.2, which doesn’t seem to reflect quite how it feels.
What a contrast the Alpine is, again. It feels like it’s floating over the surface, and wringing out the in-line four, the A110 doesn’t feel any slower than the TT, but there’s a huge difference in how it tackles the corners. There’s so much more movement, so much more obvious shifting of masses – and also a sense of so much less mass. Yes, it rolls massively into the turns and sits back on its rear wheels when the throttle is snapped open, slicing through corners with a much more obvious balance – but it feels effective.
After a couple of fast laps its Michelins go off a little, meaning a light understeer in the quickest corners and oversteer everywhere else. But this isn’t an issue because even when the Alpine kicks its tail out, you can use it to steer the car with surprising precision, partly because the tail doesn’t keep on going, thanks to low mass and inertia. It’s more exploiting its adjustability than over-driving it.
There was some fade of the TT’s brakes by the last flying lap and the Alpine’s rumble a bit but keep on working just as effectively. And the readout shows a best of… 1:24.8.
Can the Porsche do it? Having experienced the Cayman on a wet racetrack and marvelled at its disdain for the conditions, I wouldn’t bet against it. It’s dry today, and I’m slightly concerned early in the first flying lap when the tail eases generously out of line under power at the hairpin, but a couple more corners further round, everything is hooked up. And then there’s no stopping it.
As on the road, it combines the TT’s solid grip with the A110’s agility… and nails the time on its second flyer – 1:23.2. That’s two seconds a lap faster than the TT, and 1.6sec faster than the Alpine. Fast and fun, job done. Though I wonder how much the £22,424 of options contribute to this.