Now this hardcore Seven really starts to click. It’s hot, it’s noisy, it’s sparse and it’s stiff, but it’s also phenomenally enlivening. The flat upshifts, for which you yank the short lever backwards, are slammed home at the engine’s shouty redline, because without synchromesh it’s there that the actuation is smoothest.
This car has shift lights, but there’s no need take your eyes off the track. This is total immersion in the act of driving, and the balanced, cohesive 420R wants every bit of pace squeezed out of it with precise, assertive inputs into the unassisted but light steering (the rack is also quicker than on any road-going Seven) and similar for the pedals.
The Avons are also a revelation. Even when half-baked, they’re generating grip that doesn’t easily compute if you’re used to testing road cars. At close to proper operating temperature, allied to such a light car, their jowl-tugging ability is profound. You would need downforce for more. Yet they’re so much more progressive than you might expect. In fact, to go deep into the 420R Championship experience, you need to enjoy that sensation of the chassis floating a little loosely above the track surface because, as with old single-seaters, the 200-section rears need some slip angle to give their best, and the car is only too happy to oblige. Using power as a substitute for steering lock is the fastest way forward but also the most fun.
Where this Seven really separates itself from road cars is the manner in which you can rag the hell out of it yet it never feels as though it’s going to come around on itself, or punish you in a dangerous way. It’s an expressive machine, with plenty of bark and plenty of bite but also lots of enthusiastic face-licking.
In fact, so confidence-inspiring is this Caterham that I end up wanting more oversteer in the balance, even after relatively little time with the car. This could be achieved by either adding an anti-roll bar at the rear (this example has neither a front nor rear ARB fitted, to my surprise) or by increasing the rake of the car via the spring-mounts. However, doing both those things together would probably make the handing too edgy.