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Old 03-13-2012, 12:19 PM
mlc mlc is offline
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My Ariel Atom Experience

Not sure if this is the correct place to put this but I would consider it Driver Education.

Like the title says I had a chance to do the Ariel Atom Experience at VIR, what a day to say the least. Here are some of my thoughts about it if anyone is thinking about going.

First off all of the personnel were great, Keith, Graham and Mark are all really car guys at heart and it shows. All of the others were every helpful as well and the guy driving the pace car was spot on.

You start the day getting a racing suit and spending a good amount of time in the classroom going over how the day will go and the details and procedures to make it fun and safe as well. Then you get lunch that was really good.

Onto the driving and the car. The car was set up with R-comp Hoosiers that are really sticky and help out a lot. If you havenít seen an Atom before, see pictures below, it is basically a race car frame with a couple of plastic body panels on it. It weighs just 1375lbs. with a 200HP Honda engine. To say it is a straight forward car is such an understatement, besides having no real body there is no ABS, no stability control, no power steering, like they say in the class it is pretty much a big go cart. Everything you do is immediate, gas, brakes, steering, clutch any input is translated at once, good or bad. It is a car that needs to be driven very smoothly and it is a little hard to do that without some seat time. To say it accelerates fast is not even close; I donít think there are many cars in the world that will do what the Atom can do. Obviously, on the track you arenít doing 0-60 runs but coming onto a straight and accelerating hard is like nothing I have ever driven the 40-80 MPH is incredible, definitely in supercar territory. The steering is as close to a go cart in a car that you will feel, no boost to get in the way just linkage but in a car so light on donít feel like it is a problem. Weight transfer is critical in the car, do it right and it is magical, do it wrong and well be ready to get very busy.

We had three driving sessions; they are all behind a pace car which is also an Atom but with a nice custom suspension setup in it and a professional driver behind the wheel. There are only four to five cars that go out at one time not including the pace car and you take turns during the session behind him then move to the back. There is no need to lag back as you are going plenty fast enough just being in line. The first session is at a pace to basically get you used to the car, not to fast just right to learn the braking zones and where the apexes are and learn the course some as well. After the first session there is a classroom talk to go over your line and answer any questions and do a little debrief with the other drivers. It is amazing how when you first show up and no one knows each other it is kind of quiet, after the first run everyone is chatting and checking out the other groups lines and there is a lot more conversation.

The second run was much more enthusiastic, you have to concentrate more on the weight of the car and your line, braking in the correct spot and be way more diligent. When we got done with this session and everyone took their helmets off is when you could see all of the smiles. No more learning time, it was time to drive, the pace car kind of paced himself to what you were doing if you pushed him a little he would step it up some. To be honest being right behind the pace car was the most fun, you knew the line was right and where the braking zone was and I could have run a 100 laps there just learning.

Time for the third and last session, they put you in groups based on your experience with this type of driving. I was in the second group so not an experienced racer. I think most people were a little nervous before this run but looking forward to it. I started next to last in line for this session and got sideways once but saved it, just late on entire and paid for it on exit. When I did get behind the pace car we were definitely pushing it for my skill level but it was fun. When I moved over to go to the back of the line one car went by and I kept waiting for the other twoÖÖit would have been a long wait, they both spun. After waiting so long I was a good ways back of the pace car and tried catching up, no chance of that, but I did get some time all alone to run basically as hard as I wanted to what a car.

As an added bonus I got the chance to go on a ride along with Mark Swain one of the owners of TMI, the North American manufacturer for the Atom, and an accomplished race car driver. Man, I am a bad driver after that eye opener. It was painfully obvious just how much capability this car has beyond my skills.

All in all an absolutely great day, everything was done first class and the right way. No short cuts and they make sure you have a good time. The staff was great and there for any questions and to help in any way they could. I would highly recommend this and I get the feeling this will NOT be my last time; it was definitely worth every penny and then some. I know I am a better driver for going.

If you are interested check out here for more details http://virnow.com/ .

Kevin

Here are some pictures, sorry i didn't take more I was to busy driving.
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  #2  
Old 03-13-2012, 01:09 PM
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Wow! Would love to give it a try!

Care to share how much!

Thanks for posting
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Old 03-13-2012, 01:13 PM
mlc mlc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3604u View Post
Wow! Would love to give it a try!

Care to share how much!

Thanks for posting
Sure.

It is $495 for a half day and $1695 for a full day.

I did the half day, but am now making plans for the full day.

Click on the VIRnow.com link for more details.

Kevin
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Old 03-13-2012, 02:56 PM
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sounds like it was a great experience



beev
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  #5  
Old 03-13-2012, 04:51 PM
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Glad you enjoyed it. These cars are great fun!

Not sure you saw this link, but here is a post I made about the spec race series using the atom. Good group, anyone would be welcome.

Spec Racer Atom Series
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Old 03-13-2012, 06:44 PM
mlc mlc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sainthoo View Post
Glad you enjoyed it. These cars are great fun!

Not sure you saw this link, but here is a post I made about the spec race series using the atom. Good group, anyone would be welcome.

Spec Racer Atom Series
I have seen it and really enjoyed the videos. We had two guys spin in the last session and I almost went around once as well, saved it like you did a couple of times.

I agree the guys at TMI are great. Mark couldn't have been more helpful, I had a chance to to a ride along with him and man he can drive!

Kevin
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Old 03-17-2012, 02:29 AM
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those cars look amazing!
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Old 03-17-2012, 09:49 AM
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Thanks for sharing!
Must have been a great experience and very learnful!
I love those Atoms, hope to get one some day as a pure trackday car!
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Old 04-26-2012, 11:38 AM
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SRA car for sale- mentioned here: Spec Racer Atom Series
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