Setting a lap time in the BAC Mono was always going to be the trickiest task of the day. The learning curve is steep, the environment alien, and the way this car finds time is very different from the rest. There’s no doubt in my mind it should be faster than the Ferrari, but where the 296 GTB makes up so much time in raw acceleration and peak speed, the Mono requires immense commitment in braking zones and through each corner to fully deliver on the promise of its no-compromise engineering. That means it’s a hell of a challenge and endlessly fascinating to try to master… but when you basically have a quick warm-up and then straight into flying laps, it’s also intimidating and not conducive to extracting everything the Mono can give.
Welcome to our PCOTY track notes. These are the stream-of-consciousness scrawlings from our resident hot shoe, editor-at-large Jethro Bovingdon, following his hot-lap sessions in each contender.
So, excuses out of the way… what’s it like? The driving position is fabulous; feet up, hips low, and torso reclined way back. For the first few minutes, you want to loosen the harnesses and lift yourself forward for a better view. Soon though, it becomes totally natural and in reality the vision afforded is superb and the drama of being right in the middle of the car is exciting all on its own. The Mono is alive with vibrations from the engine and gearbox. It's physical and, at times, uncomfortable. The resonances make me cough and several other testers had similar ailments.
But to drive it’s pretty spectacular. This is not an aero car at all—it’s all mechanical grip. But there’s so much of it! Unlike the Ferrari, the Mono doesn’t need super light and very fast steering to create agility—it’s inherent in its low mass and chassis layout—and so the steering is quite heavy and wonderfully precise without being darty. It’s also loaded with feedback. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is gruff and angry, but the noise is dominated by the sequential Hewland gearbox, which whines and chatters like a full-on racecar.
At first, even finding the limit seems impossible as the Mono carries enormous speed into turns, but with time confidence builds and the car’s balance is actually really forgiving. There are some issues—mostly the rear axle locking on downshifts under heavy braking— but for the most part, it’s an incredible experience. There’s intensity but nuance, too. The speed through each corner is incredible and with a lot more seat time it would be easy to go much, much quicker.
The Mono is not a rational car, but it does offer a unique dynamic experience, is gorgeous to look at and the engineering within is top drawer.
About PCOTY hot laps:
Our lap times are simple. They are meant to inform us about how these cars perform on track, not to chase an elusive or ‘ultimate’ time that would require multiple sessions in each car. The laps were set after just a few sighting laps and no prior experience on the circuit. Unless a car didn’t get a fair shake, we did one out lap, three hot laps, and a cool-down. Whilst all the cars could go quicker, the times are representative. The delta between the cars would be consistent even with many more laps and sets of tires to burn through.
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