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My Ariel Atom Experience

Old 03-13-2012, 06:57 AM
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My Ariel Atom Experience

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 .


Here are some pictures, sorry I didn't take more I was to busy driving .

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Old 03-13-2012, 07:12 AM
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Sounds like you had a blast! Looks like it was awesome!
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Old 03-13-2012, 07:45 AM
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looks like a ton o fun, you must still b grinning
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Old 03-13-2012, 08:09 AM
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Wowie. Sounds cool. 1375/200hp is definetely supercar territory but a 3000-4000 lb supercar could never be that accurate. I think the atom is one of the most exciting cars in existence. Too bad we dont see more of them around. Exotics get all the press.
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Old 03-13-2012, 09:18 AM
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Sweet, that looks like a ton of fun.
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Old 03-13-2012, 09:30 AM
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'Fantastic write-upp Kev.
Dankz'fuh sharin'.
('Guess green ain't'da hoodoo color no'mo, eh?)
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Old 03-13-2012, 09:54 AM
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So jelous! The atom is a beast and I would love the oppurtunity to drive one.

Looks like it is only $495? Can you confirm?....

Gonna go back and do the second day?
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Old 03-13-2012, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by StrayS2k View Post
So jelous! The atom is a beast and I would love the oppurtunity to drive one.

Looks like it is only $495? Can you confirm?....

Gonna go back and do the second day?
That is correct $495 for a half day, you get everything, racing suit, head sock, helmet, gloves, just wear comfortable shoes and show up and go.

And YES, already spoke to the Misses about the full day . She can make it my B-day, V-day, Fathers Day, X-mas and call it even. I think that is a hell of a deal!

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Old 03-13-2012, 12:16 PM
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They should let you go for free after that write up!! Definitely a glowing referral that will probably get them more business! Sounds like a great time!
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Old 03-13-2012, 12:33 PM
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i want to drive one of those soooo bad lol.....
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Old 03-13-2012, 01:34 PM
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Good thing they give you a helmet or this will be you:

And don't end up like this person:
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Old 03-13-2012, 02:10 PM
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Nice! I would love to drive one of these all in all, well worth the $500, right?
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Old 03-13-2012, 02:13 PM
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That's awesome! looks like a great time.
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Old 03-13-2012, 02:15 PM
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yooo new to this thing how do i post a message where everyone can see looking to buy an s2k

thanks for the help
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Old 03-13-2012, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Gardimontana_S2K View Post
Nice! I would love to drive one of these all in all, well worth the $500, right?
No doubt about it!

Well worth it for me.

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Old 03-13-2012, 04:42 PM
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Man, that looks like a load of fun!!!
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Old 03-13-2012, 05:18 PM
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thanks for the write-up! my wife was asking me what i wanted for my b-day and x-mas and i told her this. she gave a very emphatic, "NO!" well i'm gonna show her this write-up and hopefully she'll be a little more open
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Old 03-13-2012, 05:20 PM
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thumbs up man!
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Old 03-13-2012, 05:21 PM
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That does indeed look like a hoot....I'm giving serious thought to making a weekend trip to VIR this summer.

Also, those Atoms must be so nice to work on. Everything is just right probably don't even need a jack!
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Old 03-13-2012, 07:42 PM
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I thought the atom had a Subaru engine?
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Old 03-13-2012, 09:55 PM
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Old 10-26-2012, 05:30 PM
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The closest thing to a pure race car on the street today. Definitely badass....
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