The most frequent question I get from members is, “What’s new in NASA?” I normally find it hard to reply since so many things are always happening, but in the last six months, my reply has been, “Have you seen the details on the NASA Prototype Élan NP01?” As can be expected, many have at least seen pictures of this beautiful machine and want to know more.
The NP01 is a single-seat, enclosed-cockpit, purpose-built racecar built by famed racecar builder Élan Technologies. This real-deal racecar weighs 1,450 pounds dry, and is powered by a sealed and dry-sumped Mazda 2.0-liter MZR engine. It puts the power to the ground through a Sadev sequential six-speed gearbox and Toyo Proxes RR tires.
Having a car built by one of the best firms in the business, specifically for NASA competition based on concepts we thought our members would want, is a privilege. The goal was to produce an affordable car that would be one of the fastest cars in our program, while maintaining reliability and lower operating costs than any other comparable vehicle in this speed segment. The price for the first 10 cars was $60,000 and five orders were placed within the first 48 hours of release. As of this writing, 25 cars have been sold and the car carries its retail price of $72,500. We just saw seven cars make the grid to compete in the latest race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the series is off to an encouraging start.
Personally, the best part of this program is that I had very little to do with bringing this amazing vehicle and series to life. Our Director of Business Development, Jeremy Croiset and I had several concept discussions in early 2014. But in reality, two car nuts talking about a clean-sheet-designed racecar tailored to NASA members wasn’t difficult. Truth be told, I was entertaining his youthful exuberance while my more cynical side was thinking that the chances of offering a prototype from a world-renowned builder, using top self components, for less than a hundred grand was more fantasy than anything else.
Belief, dedication and persistence tend to be common words to describe those who succeed. For more than a year, Jeremy spent hundreds of hours dealing with the nuances of this project. He believed he could bring this car to life and dedicated himself to working with the great people at Élan to make it happen. Jeremy did everything and more to remove any doubts I had that he was going to be the one responsible for this great moment in NASA history.
When he told me he sold eight cars when we introduced the car at PRI in 2014, my skepticism gave way to excitement. That being said, I knew the car wasn’t built yet. It was still a concept! All the real work necessary to satisfy that buyer was still ahead. Fast forward past the personal sacrifice that Jeremy invested in the next year, and the first production of the real car was on display at VIR during the 2015 Eastern States Championships and doing demonstration laps for the video you see at http://nasaprototype.com/
Standing next to that car is a quick way to become a fan of design. The NP01 is striking, mean as hell and beautiful all at the same time. It screams, “I am going to make you proud to own me and imprint a smile on your face for days. I am a real racecar, something that was out of reach in the past, but I am here for your pleasure, and the pleasure will be all yours.”
During our initial talks, I told Jeremy, “How cool would it be to see an entire group of these competing at the Championships?” Well, I have no doubt that day is just around the corner and when that happens, all the credit is his. Bravo, Mr. Croiset.