Top Gear pits BMW S1000RR vs Ariel Atom V8

Dailies -



The last time Top Gear pitted an Ariel Atom against a motorcycle they used a CBR600RR, Jeremy Clarkson had his face rearranged and the car won. This time, it’s a faster car versus a faster bike. The Ariel Atom V8 makes 500bhp and has a power-to-weight ratio “in excess of 900bhp per tonne.” The BMW S1000RR racing it in tonight’s episode makes 193bhp and weighs 183kg, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 1,055bhp per tonne. Which is faster around the Top Gear Test Track?

Update: how’d the S1000RR’s lap time compare to every other car Top Gear has ever tested, including the Bugatti Veyron?

Here’s that original Ariel v CBR600RR segment.

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According to MCN, the S1000RR was only 1 second slower than the Atom V8, making it the second fastest vehicle ever tested by Top Gear. It’s 1:16.1 lap time means it beat cars like the Bugatti Veyron SuperSport, the Gumpert Apollo, the Koenigsegg CCX and even the Ferrari Enzo. Wikipedia has a full list of Top Gear’s lap times.

Not bad for a bone stock superbike that, at $13,950, is many times cheaper than any car in the top 186 positions on the Top Gear Leader Board.

  • tony starr

    when does a car not win a top gear challenge? i’d like to see them on a track with a much bigger straight!

  • R.Sallee

    I know this is a place for motorcycles…but I want an Atom, bad.

  • Johndo

    Both are fast, cool video.

  • Ken D

    Very jolly, but there’s only one of those vehicles any of us will be able to afford. (Don’t mean to belittle HFL subscriptions Wes…)

    At least they gave the job to James May this time, an actual motorcyclist. Clarkson is funny but his bike phobia is as perplexing and tiresome as his Little England politics.


    • stephan

      i thought hamster was the rider?

      • markbvt

        Hammond and May are both motorcyclists.

    • Wes Siler

      Ha, somehow I think I’ll be OK if I can never afford a $160,000 car.

  • rohorn

    Just for fun, compare lap times for a 250 GP bike and a somewhat similarly powered superkart.

  • adrenalnjunky

    strangely enough, the 500hp atom isn’t any faster 0-60 than the 4cylinder version with the normally aspirated 200hp Honda motor in it.

    There’s only so much traction to be had with a car so finely tuned for performance, and the extra hp doesn’t help it in short distance sprints. Helps tons in other spots on a road course though.

  • Penguin

    Fair play to TG that they admitted that the Atom V8 is actually based on a motorcycle engine (2 busa heads on a custom block to be exact – 10,500 redline, from a V8!).

    My ‘Car’ mates ribbed me last night over how bikes are always slower than cars, 4 wheels over 2 blah blah blah. They failed to notice the fact that unless you have a £150,000 Atom or perhaps (and it’d be close) a £1,200,000 Veyron SS then don’t race a Superbike – You will loose.

    • Murat

      Atom Ariel is a great car, no doubt. But for crying out loud, is it really a car in the normal sense? No! It takes a car with no roof, no doors, no nothing and with a bike based engine (which is trick as hell!) to beat a bike by half a second. And the bike is bog standard. I am not trying to make the Ariel look bad, I love that car, and would love to have a go in one. By the way, the BM was probably around half a second slower than the Ariel, which means it was faster than all the other exotics, including the Veyron SS. Now they should really think about that!

  • Simon

    What is the main difference between the Atom and the BMW: Atom has 2 extra wheels and four less cylinders and it costs approx 140k more. In all practical ways it is provides the same experience; it has same weather protection, same creature comforts (none) and they are within a hare’s whisker of going around the track in the same lap time.

    On top of that the Atom screams mid life crisis where as the bike is just another bike until the time comes to have some fun. How could anyone justify spending the extra 140k on an Atom?

    • Barry

      I love the BMW(short of some iffy suspension component choices), but it screams mid-life crisis too. They sold the hell out of them last year, and I GUARANTEE that much like top-tier Ducati models, you’ll find them in DROVES on the used market in a year or two, farkled out with everything out of the BMW catalog. Good for young jerks like me that will buy them used and then track the nuts off of them.

  • damien

    Wow. The rider in that first pic looks like a giant on the BMW. I don’t remember the bike looking that small in person.

  • vic06

    I think it was Tiff Needell himself that said that a superbike can win a supercar in a balanced circuit, but to do it, you have to be a pro rider because the bike is much more skill demanding to overcome the traction difference. I guess that’s why we love them.

  • Brammofan

    I missed the beginning of the segment… did anyone see if that was one of the Atoms that Brammo built? I suppose the fact that the test took place in England would be one clue that it is not an USA-made car, but thought I’d ask.

  • BrammoBrian

    Definitely not a US made version. However, I DID design the wing package on that car.

    • dux

      That’s a pretty cool thing to put on your resume!

  • Todd

    Wes, you mention in the article that this shootout is in “tonight’s” episode. Does that mean this episode airs (or already aired) on Jan. 23 or 24? Just wondering, as looking at the schedule for BBCA on my DVR I’m not seeing any listings for new episodes at this time. Just wanna make sure I’m not missing new episodes (including this one!).

    • Wes Siler

      We originally published the article last night, a couple hours after it aired in England.

    • Nick

      BBC America cuts 20 minutes out of the show (it airs in the UK commercial-free) and broadcasts it several months late, so who knows if that race will ever make it to the BBCA broadcast. If you have the misfortune of being in the USA, there is a solution:

      I don’t believe in stealing, but if the BBC won’t give us the full version of Top Gear in a reasonable time and they won’t sell it to us either, I see no harm in getting a “sneak preview” before I pay to see it on BBC America a few months later…

      as you may know by now, I’m a rabid TG fan :)

      • Todd

        Thanks for the info and the tip about Big fan of the show myself, though the apparent delays in airing on BBCA (by several years sometimes) has always been a bit puzzling to me.

        • Nick

          no problem, happy to help!

  • Myles

    I wonder how a cbr1k would fare? It’s a pretty tight track in a few sections, I think the seebee might have enough to take the atom.

  • Murat

    I just noticed something. The Ariel Atom set its official lap time of 1:15.1 in a damp circuit. So it would be probably be somewhat faster in a dry circuit. So the BM would be faster than all the rest of the exotics by even a greater margin since the difference would possibly stay around under a second. Moot point probably, but still though I’d post it…

  • Kurt

    Regardless of the difference in lap times, which are pretty real-world irrelevant anyway, until cars start leaning in corners, I’ll always prefer bikes.

    • issabendeck1

      bikes need lovers , if not , then there woudnt be bussiness for the bike factories , but life is a bitch thats for sure, i like bikes they are fast and good bang for the buck but thats about it , cars do have more winning chances , more likely

      • issabendeck1

        and hre is an even a fastest super car with a inglish body and a american muscle engine , its a street car and its more like a kit home made car its call the ULTIMA GTR it made a lap time of 1min and 9 secs , but top gear track refuses to publish it , i think its envi cos they hate so much american engines specially this jeremy clownson guy , the engine is a small block chevy NA 720 hp 2200lbs car ,they put the silly excuse that the car cant clear a speed bump ,i relly find it stupid , the small block chevy , is just so great

  • jphphoto

    +1 kurt

  • Jason

    Steve Brogan (big respect) was the rider and not suggesting that it was rigged but he deff show boated a bit to let the Atom past at one point…