Whereas a battle with an M3 was always going to end up one way, this duel isn’t quite so certain. This time, the 240-horsepower Caterham Seven 485S is up against a V6-powered Lotus Exige that makes 345 horsepower and weighs just 2,300 pounds! That’s still quite a bit heavier than the Caterham, which looks like it weighs as much as a photo of itself, but the power-to-weight ratios of these cars suggests a close fight.
The Exige gets the advantage from the start of the lap, and with some gutsy overtaking and a little good fortune, it streaks away into the distance. About halfway through the lap, once our man closes the gap, we see the Lotus not only turns in well—though not quite as well as the Caterham—but it simply walks away at the corner exit. With an additional 141 lb-ft of torque available 2,000 rpm lower in the rev range, this isn’t hard to understand! Considering the two cars sprint to 60 in roughly the same time, the value of accessible torque is obvious here.
The Lotus’ driver is not merely relying on the supercharged V6 to make good, either. Charging into the Karussell at 6:21, the Lotus’ driver shows little concern for his own vertebrae, and despite his significant weight handicap, he can keep the gap stretched comfortably for some ways on. His driving is top-notch.
With a torqueless Duratec powering the Caterham, it simply stands no chance going uphill. However, it’s obvious that the Seven can take tighter, more efficient lines to gain on the car ahead. There’s not a massive difference in the shape of the lines taken through the faster corners, but it seems the Caterham’s driver is able to release the brakes earlier and turn in sooner, all while keeping a slightly higher minimum speed at the apex. Not only is this quicker, but it’s likely much easier on tires over the course of a few laps at the Nordschleife.
Where our man really begins to claw back ground is when the road tips downhill slightly before Brunnchen 2 at 7:10. This location is a favorite for observers since so many crashes occur here. Because of the corner’s adverse camber, the crest, and the semi-blind entry, many are lured into turning in too early before realizing they’re running out of road on the exit. Unfortunately, with the nuances of this bend, there’s little to do to recover cleanly from excessive entry speed and a misjudged line.
Though the Lotus’ driver does not fall prey in that way, he does seem to miss his braking point and/or turn in a tad late, thereby taking a longer line into the deceptive corner. The Caterham, not fazed by early turn-in at all, is suddenly within sniffing distance of the Exige’s bumper, and waits for the right time to pounce. Perhaps the Lotus’ brakes are past their best, since his entry into the subsequent corners seems a little ragged, but he gives way like a gentleman; admitting he’s been fairly caught and beaten.
That doesn’t mean he’s thrown in the towel, however, as he lurks in the Caterham’s rear view from there on; seeming to find speed he didn’t have when pursued. They always say it’s easier to be the cat than the mouse.