The idea of a track day car, something designed solely to go as fast as possible on a track with almost no restrictions placed on the designer, is something that entered the automotive world’s collective conscience some time in the late nineties. They’ve always been the province of the more money than sense crowd, but as track days or HPDEs (high performance driving events) have become more popular, so has the market for these purpose built racetrack weapons expanded. At the forefront of this market in the USA is Sector 111 and its founder, Shinoo Mapleton.
Sector 111 got its start selling parts for the Lotus Elise, another lightweight sweetheart of a track car, albeit one with doors and a roof. Shinoo purchased his first Elise shortly after they were made available in the US and was shocked that nobody was really making performance parts for them. Being a mechanical engineer by trade, Shinoo decided to do it himself. He started making new oil pans to reduce oil starvation in high g turns, made new racing-inspired clamshells to further cut weight, and the list goes on and on. In 2007, Shinoo purchased his first Ariel Atom. The Atom was a fairly extreme step past the Lotus in that it made no concessions to comfort or everyday drivability. Its lack of body panels, windshield, or anything even remotely resembling a creature comfort paid dividends on the race track though. After his Atom purchase, Shinoo decided to become the official California distributor for the Atom and has been selling them ever since.
In 2011, the industrious Brits at BAC introduced the world to their idea of what a track day car should be, the BAC Mono. This heartbreakingly gorgeous single-seater looked like something from a science fiction movie and, thanks to its 4-cylinder engine by Cosworth, it was ludicrously fast. The Mono differs from the Atom in that it’s a single seater and is only available with a Hewland pneumatic shift six-speed gearbox. The price for all of this beauty and excellence? Try over $200,000.
Between selling Lotus parts, the Atom, and the Mono; Sector 111 had become the go-to company for lightweight track machines everywhere. Despite this, Shinoo felt that there was room in the market for an American-designed, built, and powered vehicle that could not only compete with the Atom and the Mono, but be easier to drive and cheaper to run. This idea became the Drakan Spyder. The Drakan is the brainchild of Sector 111 and Palatov Motorsport. It represents a slightly different interpretation of the track day toy model.
Rather than eschewing body panels and using unobtanium all over the brakes, suspension, and drivetrain; the Drakan uses a custom chromoly chassis that was designed in conjunction with Dennis Palatov of Palatov Motorsport. The chassis is then mated to a fully emissions compliant GM E-Rod LS3 engine and a six-speed manual Getrag gearbox. This powertrain is good for 430hp and 424 lb-ft of torque. In a vehicle that weighs approximately 2000 lbs, the LS3 becomes a real weapon. Serviceability and reliability are also strong points of this particular powertrain and were key factors in it being selected for the Drakan. The standard exhaust is a combination of catalytic converters that come with the E-Rod package, ceramic coated tubing and MagnaFlow mufflers. It is surprisingly quiet given how little distance the gases have to travel between exhaust port and tailpipe. The standard exhaust will meet sound restrictions at notoriously restrictive tracks like Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park. An unmuffled “racing” exhaust is also in development and should available soon.
The Drakan rides on custom HRE Wheels that interestingly feature different spoke counts front and rear, but the casual observer would never notice. HRE’s forged wheels are known for being both incredibly strong and light and are made just 45 minutes from Sector 111. “When Shinoo came to us to see if we’d be interested in working with him on the Drakan project’s wheels, naturally we were excited,” said Alan Peltier, President of HRE. “He was concerned that the volume would be too low for us but because we make everything in house and to order, it was a total non-issue. His idea for the design was great and while we were initially a little skeptical of the mismatched spokes idea, it ended up being really cool.” Stopping power for this land-bound missile comes from the folks at Wilwood and Girodisc. One interesting thing about the brakes is that the front and rear calipers use the same pads which means there is one less thing an owner has to worry about on his or her track day. The brakes are fairly huge, definitely overkill on a vehicle of this size and weight, but much like other things on the Drakan, they were spec’ed to be absolutely trouble free.
The Drakan Spyder’s suspension is somewhat unique among not only cars of this type, but cars in general. The Drakan makes use of inboard shock absorbers, which isn’t all that unusual among cars of its ilk. What is unusual is the design of its bell crank, which when combined with a Fox Podium RC2 coil-overs, negates the need for sway bars. That’s right, the Drakan is completely without a sway bar. As a result the Spyder is blessed with a sublime ride, one that feels completely alien in a car this hardcore. The ride is soft but taut and has very little body roll, much less than one would expect given the car’s spring rates and lack of anti-roll bars.
What all of these attributes add up to is a seriously focused track car that is sharp and precise yet also easy to drive and comfortable. It’s not difficult to imagine taking a day long drive in the Drakan and climb out feeling refreshed. Another area where the Drakan excels is the fit and finish of its interior. Where the Ariel Atom feels like a carnival ride with its hard plastic seats and the BAC Mono feels like a full on race car with its recumbent driving position, the Drakan is snug but well appointed. The lack of actual seats isn’t an issue thanks to a sliding pedal box (not unlike the La Ferrari), and the variety of cushion shapes and sizes make it easy to fit drivers and passengers of all sizes in comfort (your author is 6’4” and was not uncomfortable driving the Drakan). Driver and passenger are both kept in their seat by quick release 6-point racing harnesses.
The Drakan’s steering wheel is a minimalist unit from Momo of the quick-release variety. To the left of the steering wheel on the dash is a brake bias adjuster from Tilton, to the right is your main switch panel which contains everything from the starter button and kill switch to the turn signal and horn. The panel also features a backlit Sector 111 logo and it looks awesome, somewhat surprisingly. The instrument panel is a custom configured AIM LCD unit and provides a number of different layouts depending on where the car is being used, be that road or track. “We envisioned the Drakan as being a really viable alternative to the British track day cars like the Atom, the Mono, or the Radicals. It’s almost completely composed of parts from US manufacturers like Palatov and HRE, the design and testing was done here, and the assembly is all done in America,” said Shinoo Mapleton, President of Sector 111. “We’ve had so much experience with all the other options that we thought we could do something, kind of a greatest hits if you will, that would be as fun as the other options and cost significantly less to buy, run and repair.”
The driving experience of the Drakan is almost unparalleled. Climbing (literally) behind the wheel of something that weighs so little but has so much effortless power and torque and an honest to goodness manual transmission is becoming a rare opportunity in today’s automotive climate. The heat coming off the motor as you run through the gears and the induction noise generated by that glorious pushrod V8 is intoxicating. The way the car changes direction is incredible, and despite not having power steering or power anything else, the controls aren’t overly heavy. The Drakan feels like it’s working with you, rather than against you. The clutch is relatively light and very forgiving, the shifts from its Porsche-derived gearbox are slick and predictable. The pedals are ideally spaced for heel/toe downshifts. It’s amazing.
Now, you’re probably sitting behind your laptop in your Cheetoh dust-streaked sweatpants wondering how you can get your hands on Mr. Mapleton’s wondrous machine, and the short answer is that you can’t, at least in 2015. All ten examples from the initial run have been sold. That said, Shinoo and the team at Sector 111 are planning on taking the data gleaned from their initial production run, making a few subtle tweaks, and going into producing slightly larger runs in the near future and are taking orders for 2016. The first batch of ten were offered for $100,000 for a fully assembled car, and $80,000 for a roller sans powertrain. We realize that probably sounds like a lot of money to most people, and it is; you could buy nearly 50 Miatas for that kind of cash. But if you’re the kind of person in the market for something like a dedicated track day car, $100k is peanuts. Couple that with the fact that it costs next to nothing to run and you get access to the brilliant guys at Sector 111, that number seems a little more reasonable. Now we just need to find someone who is looking to buy a slightly used kidney…
For more information on the Drakan Spyder, visit: www.drakancars.com
For more information on Sector 111, visit: www.sector111.com
Story by Kyle Hyatt
Photography provided by V3LLUM and Sector 111 (Manuel Carillo III and Art+Machines).