We’ve some of the most breath taking winding coastal roads in the world here in Northern Ireland, and I mean right up there with the likes of the Pacific Coast Highway 1 in California. The meandering asphalt of the A2 that runs the perimeter of North Antrim, separating hills and towns from the wild churn of the Irish Sea is a sight to behold on a crisp fresh winter’s morning, especially from the cockpit of a Caterham Supersport, its 1.6L Ford Sigma motor reverberating off the rocks.
This isn’t just a Sunday morning drive. It’s life affirming level stuff. The Seven is the perfect companion to a great B-road, or so think’s Chris Wilson from Sevens Car Hire who will rent you out this very example for your own trip.
You can take out this immaculate 2011 car for as short as a half day, for a weekend or much longer. If I was visiting Northern Ireland and had 98 RON pumping through my veins, a Fiesta from Europcar just won’t cut the mustard. Chris is on to something here.
The striking red with white stripe coachwork and roaring stainless exhaust certainly turned a few heads. In fact when I pulled in at Waterfoot harbour for a few photos, I was centre of attention. One chap informed me that the very customer for a rip around the Antrim Coast road was Peter Ustinov, who would as a way to relax fly into Belfast, spend a night in the Europa and then pin a hire car around the coastline. Post in the comments if there’s a shred of truth in that one!
Inside, and the cabin is snug having to lower yourself akin to lowering yourself into a bath, of course if that bath was a leather trimmed leather Tillet seat. Once in, surprisingly comfortable even with the four point harnesses keeping you snug. I was advised to wear my race boots; this was a good shout as the pedal box is Citroën Saxo snug. Look out through the (optioned) windscreen and that’s a long front end. You sit shy of the back axle and visibility out of a tight T-junction can be a leap of faith.
Fire up the Ford unit and its gruff but purposeful, and for the lack of anything remotely resembling insulation was actually quite civilised. Unassisted steering, no brake booster and of course no ABS, and it really just is you and car. Certainly no Apple Carplay, but there is allegedly a two stage heater. I opted for several layers of clothing, hat and gloves for this winter excursion.
On the road, and from very low speeds you are hit with high bandwidth information. You feel every rut and camber in the road; the steering rack is quick but the actual amount of lock you can apply is limited, so you are on your toes from the off. Thankfully in the ten minutes of dual carriageway from collection to joining the A2 coast road in Larne, you quickly become acclimatised to not only the lively and talkative Caterham chassis, but also the five speed gearbox which I quickly learned enjoys positive shifts to get the best ouf of it.
The coast road and Caterham are in perfect synchrony. As it hugs the North Antrim cliffs and coves there’s enough straight to exploit the Caterham’s performance. The 140bhp power figure sounds meagre on paper, but with just over 500kg plus driver to move, and with tightly spaced gear ratios progress is always entertaining without putting the licence at risk.
I must have driven this road hundreds of times, but on this day in this car, its quite a different experience. But don’t just take my word for it, this is a must do for any petrolhead.
Car as Tested
2011 Caterham Supersport
Ford 1.6L Sigma
5 Speed Manual with LSD
For more information and to hire: se7enscarhire.com