BAC MONO 2.5

LEADERBOARD

We felt sure the McLaren P1 GTR had set an unassailable time around Anglesey, but that was merely a red rag to the folk from BAC…

by RICHARD MEADEN
PHOTOGRAPHY by BARRY HAYDEN

hen we created the EVO Leaderboard video series we did so in the hope it would foster a competitive spirit amongst the sports and supercar manufacturing community. Pride, ego and the challenge of going quicker than your rivals is catnip to engineers and test drivers. It’s also great fun (for us at least), and perfect fodder for evo’s YouTube channel.

Judging by our most recent laps I think it’s fair to say we’ve captured the industry’s imagination. In recent months we’ve fired some seriously, er, serious metal around Anglesey’s Coastal Circuit. McLaren’s scintillating 675LT laid down an impressive 1:12.8 lap, only for Ferrari’s 488 GTB to match it to the tenth of a second. In retaliation McLaren went nuclear, letting us loose in the P1 GTR – the slick-shod, aero-drenched, hybrid-powered hypercar. 1:08.7 later we had a new Leaderboard lap record.

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To be honest we feared this may have cooked the Leaderboard goose, but we’d underestimated what it is that makes the fast-car industry so special, in particular the British sports car industry. Undaunted by McLaren’s apparently impregnable benchmark, the boys from the Briggs Automobile Company, or BAC, fancied a tilt at the record in its new Mono 2.5.

As is becoming the tradition with these laps, we arrive to the spectacle of BAC technicians busily fettling the car. BAC’s official tyre partner, Kumho, is here with a truck stuffed with plenty of Ecsta V70A tyres in a choice of compounds, while BAC’s tame professional driver, Adam Christodoulou, and technical maestro, Alan Jenkins, are on hand for advice and information. Impressive stuff.

None of this comes as a surprise, for BAC is an exceptional outfit and the Mono, now in its second evolution, has always been a terrific machine. This new Mono 2.5 ups the ante with a bigger, gutsier 2.5-litre Ford Duractec four-cylinder, built and thoroughly reworked by Mountune to deliver 305bhp and 227lb ft of torque. With just 580kg to haul that makes for an explosive power-to-weight ratio.

Other technical highlights include carbon-hybrid wheels (the rims are carbonfibre, the centres lightweight alloy) that pare a couple of kilos from what were already the lightest 17-inch wheels you can buy. Within them sit exquisite carbon-ceramic brakes (again another few kilos per corner lighter), while more carbonfibre forms the beautifully sculpted body cladding. With the optional wheels, brakes and carbon, the only thing heavyweight about the Mono 2.5 is the price – around £190,000 with options – but it shines with quality and looks worth every penny.

Stepping into the Mono is worth the asking price alone. You have to pinch yourself as a reminder that this is a road-legal car, for the ingress ritual and driving environment are pure race car. One trimmed and finished to the highest quality. You sit low, eyeline just above the nose, shoulders tucked below the cockpit sides. Pull down the belts and you’re already in your own zone, fully focused on the road ahead. Start the motor and the tub pulses with tingles and vibrations transmitted from the engine mounted just behind you. It’s a harsh and alien sensation, but as you depress the clutch and hear the hiss-clack of the six-speed sequential gearbox’s pneumatic shifter as it selects first, you are already oblivious to anything but the rising swell of adrenalin in your bloodstream and the thud of your heart against the shoulder harness.

Running on what Martin Brundle would describe as a set of ‘stickers’, the box-fresh Kumho V70As need careful treatment for the first half a lap or so. But as the compound begins to key into the circuit, the Mono finds its feet, as though attracted to the track surface by magnets. It’s a fabulous feeling, much like that you get from a racing car on slicks as they come up to temperature.

The Mono is not an aero car. Its grip is all mechanical. That’s worth remembering, not least because it means the limits are much higher than you’d expect, but also more progressive. You gain confidence quickly and have fun testing yourself as you feel your way towards the edges of the Mono’s performance envelope. Through the daunting kink and compression that feed you up from the back straight into the super-tricky Rocket complex, it beggars belief that you can not only keep the throttle pinned flat in top into the kink, but also up the hill. Every lap you can’t believe you’ll get the car stopped (from somewhere in the region of 145mph), but the carbon brakes have epic power mated to supreme feel and precision. The only thing you have to watch is not overbraking into the tighter corners, but this is finesse that comes with wheel-time.

Torque is the new Mono 2.5’s trump card. Where you might be tempted to use second gear it will happily pull third, working the rear tyres with a smoother, less abrupt slug of propulsion. This keeps the car flat, maximising grip and traction across front and rear axles for the cleanest, most efficient and, crucially, quickest exit from any given corner.

In a world obsessed with oversteer, that might sound dull, but like any challenging pursuit, chasing that sensation where the car feels serene yet blindingly quick is where you get your buzz. And if you’ve ever pitted yourself against the relentless ticking of the clock, you’ll know that chipping away to gain a few tenths here and half a tenth there is to indulge in the purest of addictions.

One more set of tyres. One last effort. To be honest the Mono is one of those cars you could continue to learn from every time you drive it. There always seems to be a way of going quicker, but in line with Leaderboard practice – and the inevitable time constraints of shooting stills and a video, as well as doing the timed laps – we do just three runs of five laps. Allowing for out and in laps, that’s nine meaningful attempts. In truth that’s three optimum efforts, as the tyres always tend to give their best on the first flyer.

Drawing from all I’ve learned in previous laps, then pushing that little bit harder than I have before into a few key areas, ‘the lap’ feels like a good one. The VBOX confirms it, Liverpool’s fastest export clocking a 1:07.70 for a blistering new Leaderboard record, and a £2million scalp for BAC to hang on the wall in reception. Good work, fellas.

'You gain confidence quickly and have fun testing yourself as you feel your way towards the edges of the Mono’s performance envelope'

‘the carbon brakes have epic power mated to supreme feel and precision’

BAC Mono 2.5
Engine In-line 4-cyl, 2488cc
Power 305bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque 227lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission Six-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip diff
Front suspension Pushrod-activated double wishbones, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar  
Rear suspension Pushrod-activated double wishbones, coil springs, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes Ventilated 295mm discs front and rear
Wheels 7.5 x 17in front, 8.5 x 17in rear
Tyres 205/40 R17 front, 245/40 R17 rear
Weight (dry) 580kg
Power-to-weight (dry) 535bhp/ton
0-60mph 2.8sec (claimed)
Top speed 170mph (claimed)
Basic price £163,140
On sale Now

evo rating: ★★★★