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Gumpert Apollo — Track Day launch at Brands Hatch

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Headline figures
  don’t come much
  better than the
  Gumpert Apollo’s:
  224mph, 0-62mph
  in 3 seconds and
  0-124mph in 8.9!
  Driving it is even
  more impressive:
  ‘Wow, wow, wow!’
  and ‘Unbelievable
  grip and power’

  are just two of
 
the reactions...

MENTION THE WORD SUPERCAR and a handful of names trip off the tongue. One that is rapidly entering the hearts and minds of British devotees of über-exotics is the German-built Gumpert Apollo — the extraordinary, ultra-modern 224mph supercar that celebrated its UK launch at Brands Hatch on 29 August (2007).

Even before you saw the car, you could feel the terrific atmosphere trackside beneath the Nigel Mansell Suite at Brands Hatch as potential buyers and members of the press waited in anticipation for their drive or ride — an encouraging and exciting sign for distributor Racetech UK's MD Andrew Ward. And a fitting reward for Andrew's wife Samantha, who had worked solidly for three weeks to prepare the launch. "To get to this stage in such a short time is fantastic," Andrew said. "Brands Hatch has been great and the reaction to the launch is overwhelming."

MotorBar has been following the progress of the German supercar since it was first spotted at Salon Privé in July, and we were also at The Bluebird on the King's Road to see off a supercar rally that marked the first outing on UK roads for the first UK registered Apollo. So when Lancashire-based Racetech UK offered us the chance to run a competition to win a 'the ride of a lifetime' in the Gumpert Apollo at the UK launch, we naturally jumped at it.

The Apollo was created from a vision by Roland Gumpert — the man responsible for all Audi motorsport during the 80s and 90s. The charming and talented German wanted to develop a super sports car that would combine style and practicality with outstanding road performance. The dream has since become a reality: the Apollo is a purist car that has the potential to be as much a success on the track as it is outstanding fun on the road.

“...with such superb
aerodynamics that
the downforce would be
sufficient for it
to be driven at speed
upside down
on the roof of a tunnel
...
Roland's overriding desire was to create a car with such superb aerodynamics that the downforce would be sufficient for it to be driven at speed upside down on the roof of a tunnel. The Apollo has successfully achieved this, along with precise and predictable handling — even at its highest 224mph speed.

The attractive, functional, aesthetically pleasing design of the Apollo is not only seductive and refreshingly different from other supercars, but it also helps to offer an amazing driving experience — at a price that "cannot be matched by any other car in this exclusive class". Power and torque are available in abundance (700bhp and 627+lb ft of torque) from the bi-turbo 4.2-litre V8 engine. It propels the Apollo forward on a seamless wave of power at a heart-stopping rate! Incredibly, three seconds is all it takes to go from standstill to 62mph and 0-124mph is reached in a staggeringly quick 8.9 seconds. Eat my dust — if you can draw breath!

The road-authorised Apollo already fulfils international motorsports norms and the rigid chassis, tubular steel sub-frames and the carbon monocoque ensure both occupants will arrive safely — whether it is to a destination or crossing the finish line.

The Apollo literature states that the car is "powerful, uncompromising and unique." We can't say better than that. But the acid test is the reaction of drivers and passengers. Our own John Steel has given his verdict elsewhere on this page, and we have the impressions of a number of other people, too — including the winner of our competition and also Racetech UK's track launch driver for the day, VW Cup Champion Tony Gilham.

From the many entries we received to win what was truthfully billed as the 'Drive of your Life', we narrowed it down to six semi-finalists. The lucky winner — who turned out to be one of the few ladies to enter, was 43-year-old mother-of-three Ann-Mari Thomas from Surrey.

Formerly a Response Driver for the Police ("I loved every minute of it — I could take emergency calls and use the blues-and-twos but couldn't take part in a high-speed pursuit"), Ann-Mari gave up her career after thirteen years when her daughter was born. Ann-Mari is now a fitness instructor and a singer/bass guitarist.

Apollo"I'd had a really bad week following a number of problems in my life," Ann-Mari explained, "so when MotorBar called to say I'd won the competition I couldn't stop shaking — I even shrieked down the line! Excitement is an understatement — I've never won anything before and I couldn't believe it!"

Describing herself as a 'rock chick', Ann-Mari enjoys travelling the country with her music trio The Unruly Mops. She was formerly the Linda McCartney in a Wings tribute band and lives for her children, music and cars — one of her friends had a Ducati motorbike and she also liked riding pillion.

Ann-Mari hadn't heard of the Apollo until she saw the competition described on the UK's number one car website, MSN Cars. "When I read about the Demelza Hospice Care for Children charity I wanted to support it but I thought the car was absolutely gorgeous," she says.

The love of cars runs through Ann-Mari's family, who take their motoring very seriously. Her father Richard came with her to Brands Hatch and assured us: "She'll burn that track up and if she doesn't, she'll answer to me."

Having acquitted herself well, Ann-Mari enthused: "As I put the harness on, I thought 'Oh my goodness! It's like a fairground ride' but as soon as we got past the marshal, Tony put his foot down and I was pushed back in the seat. It was the kind of feeling you get from turbulence on an aeroplane — just amazing!

"Tony Gilham is an incredible driver — really astounding. He drove the Apollo so smoothly and effortlessly. When I drove, I felt I was fighting it at the bends. You do get whacked around a bit on the track at that speed (we were told she was driving at around 140mph). I liked the gearstick — it was push and pull and so easy. The car has a very definite feel about it — no degrees, just everything. I was too excited to be nervous until I sat in the car. But once I'd driven off without stalling I was fine. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the wheel and I wanted to put my foot down hard and go for it! I got it up to fourth gear. The car seemed very wide but I felt quite natural on the 'wrong' side of the car — it's a good spatial awareness exercise."

She added: "The best fun I'd ever had before this was when I had to drive a police van with eight of the riot squad trying to contain a prisoner. The challenge was to drive safely but get quickly back to the station before anything untoward happened with the van rocking from side to side.

Apollo"The Apollo's amazing; Tony's amazing — the whole day has been amazing! Tony was tremendous and I'd have gone on quite happily. I loved cornering but I'd like to have a go at a long straight — I'd take the Apollo home quite happily. It's curvy, it looks incredible. The entire shape is lovely."

A friend was going to buy Ann-Mari a track day drive in something special for Christmas but, she says, nothing could top the Apollo. "At the first bend, my stomach got left behind! I wondered if I'd be able to drive as fast as that. I feel really satisfied — I went in at the deep-end and had The Best. It's Fantastic and I want to do it again — Now! But I'd go faster next time."

"The Apollo has unbelievable grip and power," says Tony Gilham, the VW Cup Championship leader and Racetech UK's professional driver for the day. "It's absolutely awesome and brilliant to drive. All the drivers are doing well and having a lot of fun. Ann-Mari was very confident driving and got up to around 140mph."

Tony was with over one hundred drivers on a scholarship and came in the top four with Jensen Button and Anthony Davison — both of whom are now in Formula One. He'd never raced before but last year saw him racing a Mk I MR2 and he now races a Golf. Out of his last eight races he's had eight podiums. Even on his first time out in the Apollo his skill and professionalism were clearly in evidence as he tirelessly drove around the track throughout the day at high speeds.

If you'd told Tony last year that he'd be driving a Gumpert Apollo at Brands Hatch, he wouldn't have believed it — he said the whole day had been "unbelievable and superbly well organised" and after two or three laps he was into the swing of handling the car.

Two representatives from Demelza Hospice Care for Children, Sue Piper and Louise Owen-Thomas, spent much of the day at the trackside watching the Apollo strutting its stuff — and during the afternoon Louise even managed to bag a passenger ride.

Louise climbed out of the Apollo reluctantly but with a huge grin. "Wow, wow, wow!" she exclaimed. "It's the most amazing car — corners are so smooth! I don't know much about cars, but the Apollo has the WOW factor in a big way. It's beautiful — a work of art."

Louise was not the only one to think that. By the time the Racetech UK team got to Brands Hatch, Andrew had already sold his first Gumpert Apollo. When MotorBar asked the buyer — a keen track day driver — what had made him decide to add the supercar to his stable, he was keen to share his passion for the marque. "It's an absolutely fantastic experience. Noise levels are low, you can get an excellent driving position and everything works as it should — which is more than I can say for some other cars. There is simply nothing to compare it with. I am a VW/Audi fanatic and when Andy mentioned he was taking on the Apollo I was hooked.

“It can be hammered
all day — as it has been
here — and it’s still
reliable and easy on
consumables
...
"The Ultima I have is a machine and a half but I couldn't drive it on the road. When my Apollo is delivered, I will use it — you can sit in it and drive all day and every day. The cooling system is fine; it can be hammered all day — as it has been here — and it's still reliable and easy on consumables.

"On the way down Andy got 25mpg, so the Apollo is practical as well as being a track day car. It has proved to be very durable during the track day launch — nothing has broken; everything is as it should be. It has a very good warranty — you can just jump in it and go without wondering what will fail next!

"I've had ten Audis over the years — RS and S — and never had any issues with them. My RS6 was driven over 70,000 miles without any trouble at all. I'd say the Apollo is as bombproof as that. It will be the seventh car in my stable — and even my wife approved."

Towards the end of the day, Andrew Ward took stock: "The most remarkable thing is that the car's not stopped all day. It has worked hard — not stuck in a showroom. Out there on the track everyone can see what the Apollo is capable of — it can be used and appreciated, not wrapped in cotton wool. Buyers will enjoy it on the road or at the track where it will make a great impression."

MotorBar was equally impressed by the way the Apollo, with just 1,250 miles on the clock and only just run in, was hammered all day long on what is a very demanding track, yet continued to run faultlessly. And running on standard road tyres, too — which stood up to the treatment as well as every other part of the Apollo. With the pedigree and uniqueness of the Apollo — the first time a road vehicle design concept has been created with a racing car's construction — it was no surprise that the UK launch of this fabulously different über-exotic was such a resounding success.


Watch the Apollo on track (Quicktime movie only).

Gumpert Apollo — in detail

THE PERFORMANCE-ORIENTATED, purist super sports car is a perfect synthesis of form and function, with no compromises. The unique two-seater, mid-engine supercar is available in luxury road, sport road, race road and full FIA GTI race spec.

The Apollo catapults its 'pilot' and front passenger from zero to 62mph in three seconds; from standstill to 124mph takes just 8.9 seconds. Top speed is 224mph. And that's just the 'entry level' 650bhp car... Also available are a 700bhp and 800bhp version with a power-to-weight ratio superior even to a McLaren F1. For the record, prices
start at £215,000; a Race spec Apollo will set you back £325,000.

Equally impressive, despite its eagerness to serve up maximum performance and ultimate acceleration, the Apollo's bi-turbo 4.2-litre V8 is also perfectly suited to day-to-day driving at lower speeds.

For the first time in a road vehicle, the Apollo's design concept comprises a racing car's construction: the base — and symbolic backbone — of the Apollo consists of a round tube frame made of top-quality and highly-stable chrome-molybdenum-steel with an integrated monocoque safety cell made of high quality carbon-fibre.

The construction is so effective, torsion-resistant and non-elastic, and it has such high grade crash properties, that it has already been homologised for use in a variety of racing series by the German Motor Sports Association (DMSB) and the Fédération Française du Sport Automobile (FFSA). It satisfies the high requirements for front and side crash situations in motorsports and, of course, all of the requirements outlined by the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations. To further improve the passive safety, a crashbox has been integrated into the front section of the Apollo — just like in Formula One racecars. Consequently, the Apollo achieves racing safety standards for the road.

Low weight was a top priority and has been achieved by only using high-tech materials. For instance, both the monocoque and the integrated instrument panel are made of carbon-fibre. The seats are also integrated into the monocoque. The driver's seat position is individually set for each customer with padding, upholstery, adjustable pedals and the steering column all optimised. The Apollo is, in every sense of the term, a 'made-to-measure' sports car and, in line with this principle, customers can design the interior to meet their preferences — either pure performance or unashamed luxury. Those looking for more comfort may prefer top quality leather seats with a full leather instrument panel that includes an eye-catching centrally-positioned rev-counter.

The Apollo's air conditioning system guarantees the perfect interior temperature when travelling. The high-end navigation system with DVD player and sound system helps you get from A to B while delivering quality in-car entertainment. And the rearward facing camera integral to the system helps the driver when reversing — or simply shows you how quickly overtaken cars disappear from view!

The Apollo began development five years ago in Altenburg, Germany, and went into full production at the end of 2005. Roland Gumpert, managing director and the driving force behind Gumpert Sportwagen-manufaktur GmbH, is well known within the motor sports arena. In the mid-1970s, the long-standing Audi Sport Director was the driving force behind the development of the four-wheel drive vehicle 'Iltis' — the original predecessor of today's quattro.

In 1979 he prepared an Iltis for the Paris-Dakar rally and achieved victory. Under his management during the following years, Audi Sport won a total of 25 World Rally Championship races and was the four-times winner of the World Rally Championship.

Roland Gumpert's professional success has been marked not only by his unswerving passion, but also by his ability to effectively and successfully combine innovative ideas and proven technology with a future-oriented attitude — qualities faithfully reflected in the Gumpert Apollo.

Success in motor sport is a defined goal for Gumpert Sportwagen-manufaktur. In March 2005, the Apollo met homologation for the French GT Series (FFSA) and finished third place in its race debut at the German Hockenheimring, entering the DIVINOL Cup and competing against 40 other cars. Gumpert is also in the final stages of homologating the Apollo as a race car according to FIA GT1 and ACO regulations. A Le Mans success is the ultimate, and very likely achievable, goal.
Maggie Woods

Riding shotgun at 160mph with Tony Gillam...

ApolloONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY MILES PER HOUR with the infamous Paddock Bend at Brands Hatch just ahead is a true test of car and driver. Neither misses a beat despite the 'standard' road tyres — a dab on the brakes to set the car up, a little initial understeer, a head full of G-forces, then a few deft movements of the controls negotiated the daunting corner without drama and it was back on the power. The Gumpert Apollo driver is the VW Cup Championship leader Tony Gilham, and he is having to temper his pace as the brand new car is still being run-in.

There were some experienced and serious supercar owners invited to the Apollo launch who rode — and drove — with Tony Gilham. Our hosts, the Gumpert Apollo's UK distributors Racetech UK, had invited prospective customers, a number of other guests and a few hangers-on including yours truly. There was a little spare time for me to be driven in the car and when my turn came, I shoehorned myself into the passenger seat — easier said than done, as getting that second leg in without scuffing the paint needed both hands! However, once seated, although a snug fit, it was comfortable and the four-point harness tightened enough to enable me to relax without hanging on.

The short distance from the pit exit to the bottom of Paddock bend rewrote the rule book as this phenomenal machine created both accelerative and lateral G-forces more commonly associated with the Red Arrows before we even exited the corner.

Despite having driven all day with only a short lunch break, Tony drove with verve and was keen to show everyone the potential in both the Apollo and himself. His handling of the car was exactly right — everyone could immediately appreciate that the Apollo is a very sophisticated piece of engineering and requires a very light touch to get the best out of it. And no need of the 'chuck it in and sort it out later' cornering technique mandatory with less well-honed machinery.

There was obviously no pussy-footing about Tony's approach, whether it was the way mobile chicanes of other track users were despatched or the way Brands Hatch's most difficult corner — Clearways — was tackled. Smooth, free-flowing and stunningly quick everywhere.

In the all too brief time I was in the Apollo, it was difficult to assess it relative to the Koenigsegg, Pagani and Spyker sampled on the memorable Rio Rally. Those cars were all very different in temperament and here was another with its own unique character. I thoroughly enjoyed all four, but other people had their individual favourites and I can appreciate why they would single out a particular car. The Apollo will dance to your tune; ask and it will be done. It seems to be able to communicate what is happening through the seat of your pants, even for the passenger — so it must give chapter and verse to the driver. Mind you, managing all that horsepower is no easy task. Give the wrong command and you have to account for that excess of 50+mph that appears as if by magic — more than Whoops.

My allocated three laps were being gobbled up very quickly but I wanted to tease a little more out of Tony, despite the knowledge that the Apollo was being run-in using only 550 of its 700bhp. I asked how many tenths we were travelling: "7½." "Is there room for an extra tenth?" An extra lap was offered and the scenery went into fast forward. However, other track-users' mirrors were filled rather too quickly with the electric blue Apollo for their drivers — particularly for one car at Graham Hill Bend. We had to manoeuvre and lose speed rather rapidly in mid-corner, but both the Apollo and Tony were as cool as cucumbers.

For everybody, the worst part of the drive was ending it. But not a murmur of discontent from anyone. The car park for our party included some very quick cars, including an SLR 722 and a Diablo VT. The latter did some laps at a speed that restored faith in the Lamborghini marque while its driver extolled the virtues of the Apollo, being more than happy with his drive.

If I were in a position to buy one, I would want a set of 'slick'-tyred wheels to give a reported extra third in grip. The mind boggles. Wives and partners will be amazed that the Apollo also has a boot with a capacity for more than the proverbial tooth brush.

The complete Apollo package, from the entire drivetrain through suspension to tautness of the chassis, were far superior to the massively wide road-going tyres. They were being asked to do something they are not designed for; but, to their credit, they hung on well, letting go in a predictable manner. Quite extraordinarily, after a long day of being truly thrashed the tyres were still in remarkably good shape. Something that bodes particularly well for more normal road use.

The Apollo did not miss a beat all day and, although everything was constantly checked, the only items added during the day was petrol and a constant stream of new passengers and drivers.

A great experience and a steep learning curve as the speeds that can be enjoyed on a circuit are way, way in excess of anything approaching sanity on the public roads — it would be a shame for someone to buy it for road use only because so much potential would go untapped. — John Steel