First impressions are very important, it is hard-wired into our DNA to make quick assesments based on such flimsy evidence. Experience and some hard earned lessons teach us however that it is sometimes better to take a deep breath and use the other 95% of our brains before committing. Think about it, how many times have we gone WOW! at the first site of a girl or boy or car or ……..almost anything, then having made our decision, had to repent at our leisure. It would appear to be so for me with the KTM X-BOW.
I was hanging out of a photo tower over the entrance to the Parabolica, the final corner on the Monza Autodromo, last March when a strange contraption popped into the viewfinder.
A mental WTF? passed between my ears, had the bodywork fallen off or was this thing meant to look so ugly? The car seemed to travelling at a reasonable speed so I had to assume that this was the proper shape and that no accident had modified the lines. No, the car looked like this by design.
There were no wings, must be in GT4 then, the latest series in the the SRO stable. Pitched up against the elegance of the Aston Martin N24 or the muscular Mustang 500 the X-BOW looks weird but and there must be some point to the sculpted carbon fibre body panels……….but what?
Well the truth is that I did not really answer that question at the time. In fact I did not think about the car again till arriving at Wembley Stadium last week for the Race of Champions. One of my clients had a request in from KTM to provide material for a brochure and other marketing collateral, so my interest was renewed.
As soon as I took a closer look at the car the answer was pretty simple really, the KTM X-BOW was in fact a Lotus 7 or a Caterham but for the 21st Century. It was built without compromise using the latest technologies to generate bangs per buck. It all made sense and a quick look at the specification and design confirmed this. This is an attempt to take contemporary racing technology to the streets to give an unadultered driving experience.
KTM, I was familiar with, as Europe's second largest motorcycle manufacturer, specialising the sport end of the market. The car was conceived by them and built and designed in association with Dallara.
Dallara are the biggest manufacturer of racing cars on the planet. Aside from having a Formula One heritage, they are the constructors for GP2, World Series by Renault and the Indy Racing League, as well as having almost a monopoly on Formula Three. Dallara were also responsible for the design of the Lancia LC1 and LC2, Ferrari 333SP as well as recently their own GrandAm prototype. They have built Le Mans chassis for Audi (R8), Toyota (GT-One) and Chrysler (LMP). It could be safely said that they know what they are doing.
The other partner in the development is Audi, who provide the 2 litre 4 cylinder turbo charged engine that powers the 700 Kilo car with some 230 bhp. That power is delivered to the wheels by a VW six-speed manual transmission.
There is a carbon fibre monocoque with crash boxes located front and rear, the rear one doubling up as a silencer. Suspended on double triangular wishbone axles, the wheels feature suspension and damping elements by WP Suspension, with a pushrod system up front. Brembo make the brakes, four pot up front, two at the rear.
Another race track to street element can be seen above with an underbody diffuser. This also accounts for the location of the suspension points and the aerodynamics. This arrangement produces phenomenal downforce of around 200 kilograms at a speed of 200 km/h – about three times more than most other supersport cars. The transversal acceleration of 1.5 g is significantly higher than any other homologated road car, making extreme cornering speeds possible.
Of course anything that has a VW or Audi badge somewhere on the bodywork is fair game for the tuners. So it has proved with the X-Bow, as MTM have announced that they have stretched the horsepower up above the 400 mark, bad craziness.
One drawback for you SoCal and Japanese SpeedHunters who want to drive one is that at the moment the KTM X-BOW is only approved as a road car in Europe, everywhere else it will be confined to the track until the relevant homologation issues are sorted.
A mate of mine took one of these little devils for a test on a track, he reckoned that it was largely idiot proof, even I might be able to complete a lap or two………maybe, maybe not.
The plan was to build 1000 cars per year but in today's financial climate who knows? There are also plans to create a race series supporting the various international and national GT race series as well as the GT4 Championship. This would be a turnkey operation, just pay the money, turn up and drive….and have fun.
Just like the superstars who raced the X-BOWs at the Race of Champions, the car was given a big thumbs up by all of them.
I worked in the London Ad business during the 80's and we had a pretty good time, some wise man described it as the most fun you could have with your clothes on, the KTM X-BOW could easily be the motoring equivalent.