The Elan NP01 Is More Challenging, Faster Than You Think

By Tom Martin

May 25, 2016

Images by Mike DeCesaro
As you may be aware, Elan Motorsports has designed a new, relatively low cost prototype racer called the NP01 and they've partnered with NASA to create a class for the new car (whose name means NASA Prototype 01). For details on the car, check out our Racecar Profile
We ordered an NP01, in kit form, when the car was first introduced. This winter we had our mechanics begin the build, and we just recently finished it for its new customer. The Winding Road Racing build was done under the guidance of competition services manager Todd Therkildsen, who has recently joined WRR from Elan. Todd showed us a lot of tricks to getting the car right. 
We might be biased, but after building chassis #4, we'd suggest that the DIY route is somewhat risky. The car comes with no instructions, just exploded diagrams and there is a high probability that you'll route a line or install an aero piece in a sub-optimal way, simply because you don't know the exact details of how the car is supposed to be done. Elan is very helpful when you ask questions, but often you don't know to ask. Therk has walked us through several other builds and he has never failed to find something that should have been done differently. Sometimes this is easy to correct, sometimes it isn't. At a minimum, since this is not a paint-by-numbers exercise, you should think through whether a professional build by Elan or an experienced shop like WRR won't save you a lot of time and headaches. 
We continue to think the car is pretty cool. Elan has sold more than 25 cars, so we're getting to the point where car count is interesting. The emphasis on reliability and low run costs is also an attraction (of course, you have to compare the NP01 with cars of similar performance level to see this benefit). Aero cars are a different beast (more braking, less acceleration) than typical production-based cars, so the decision to go this route is a somewhat personal one. Check out this video of a Radical SR3 and a TA2 Camaro to see some of the differences (and know that the Radical has relatively primitive aero). If you want to develop your skills with aero cars, you kind of have to take the leap, though. 
The NP01 also showed some interesting performance at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. There, pretty much fresh from the shop with no testing, the NP01 did 1:52 laps and is probably capable of 1:50 or thereabouts with a little setup work. That isn't quite up to, say, Porsche GT3 Cup speeds (1:46 or so), but for context the GT3 Cup has 450 hp and costs $250,000 and is expensive to maintain (e.g. $2500 for a set of tires). For a comparison at similar price points, when WRR won the 25 Hours in E0 class, our Ford Racing Boss 302S ($95,000 or so) did a best time of 1:56. 
From a lot of perspectives, the NP01 is a really attractive car.
More information on Winding Road Racing's race car building services.