Norman Choi, the 45-year-old CEO of Apollo Automobil is an investor from Hong Kong whose daily driver is a V-Class van, and who hasn't missed more than three family dinners since his daughter was born five years ago. And while this may seem like a strange introduction to a $2.7 million V12 hypercar, it's important to understand the man whose desire "to establish something that we will never forget" resulted in a car built to surpass all expectations, by a mile, traveling at 208 miles per hour.
Norman's moment to pour a whole fleet of hypercars worth of money into his passion project came roughly three years ago, when Roland Gumpert's bankrupt car company was up for grabs. He felt the brand that kept its Nürburgring record for almost five years with the Apollo was worth a second shot, and so, he got to work.
By the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, Apollo was ready to show off its new direction with the Arrow concept. Yet, here we are 19 months later, and the company's first real product, the "Intensa Emozione" is nothing like that concept. That's because they've done a lot in order to be able to push the design well beyond what the original Apollo's chassis could take.
After turning the Gumpert-based Apollo N into a functional track car by completely re-engineering its guts, Norman came to the conclusion that the tubular chromoly space frame Gumpert has designed was not something they could work with in the long run. Then, it was decided that they would switch to a naturally-aspirated V12 instead of a twin-turbo V8 as well.
Once they were done looking at the new blank sheet, Apollo moved forward by teaming up with Paolo Garella, the engineer whose recent works include Scuderica Cameron Clickenhaus' race chassis for the SCG 003. Based on what they've learnt from Glickenhaus' Nürburgring program, Garella's Manifattura Automobili Torino built an even tighter carbon fiber chassis, happy to be free from the packaging issues associated with forced-induction engines, but still challenged by the design team to fit both a V12 and a 26.4 gallon fuel cell, all without compromising balance.
The result is an all carbon chassis with a carbon monocoque, as well as carbon fiber front and rear subframes, crash structures that are neatly integrated into the exterior design. The chassis weighs just 231 lbs., allowing the Apollo IE to claim a curb weight figure of 2755 lbs., with a distribution of 45/55 per cent front and rear.
The IE sits on a 106 inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 16.5 feet. It's also almost two meters wide at 6.5 feet, while its ride height can be hydraulically adjusted between 60 and 160mm. The standard road setting is 110mm. The adjustable dampers come from Bilstein, while the rest of the suspension is a double wishbone setup with full push-rod and rocker arm architecture at both ends, along with adjustable anti-roll bars.
For those hard days at the circuit, the IE also comes with a pneumatic quick-lift system with four air-jacks. Supporting the action are Apollo's carbon ceramic Brembo brakes with 6-piston calipers at the front and four-pistons at the rear, barely hidden behind forged aluminum BBS rims.
Tuned to produce 780 horsepower at 8500 rpm and 560 foot pounds of torque at 6000 rpm, Apollo's 6.3 V12 is a variety of the Ferrari F12's engine, with new software, a custom intake and exhaust system developed by Autotecnica Motori in Italy. It revs to 9000, while the tach goes to 11.
The V12 uses a paddle-shift operated Hewland 6-speed race gearbox. In the meantime, Apollo is also working on a dual-clutch automatic for its future cars, like the upcoming Arrow set for a 2019 debut.
There's a 12-level traction control system as well as three driving modes to keep things tidy, but the lack of turbos on the blue-blooded V12 promises old school thrills in a car packing 2976 lbs. of downforce at 186 mph.
Yet despite all the engineering, the Apollo IE's most fascinating feature remains its exterior design, which was the work of two guys in their late twenties, working from home. Yes. This car was created in a 27-year-old's living room.
After graduating from Huddersfield University in England, Head Designer Joe Wang spent a short time at McLaren, while Chief CAD Master Jakub Jodlowski went to Citroën DS to work on their interior designs.
Straight after that, the pair ended up with Apollo, teaming up with the Italians, as well as a few German experts responsible for the electronics, project management and prototype development.
While Apollo managed to recruit the German team responsible for building most of Audi's show cars and prototypes, in Italy, a carbon expert called Ennio was the crucial element turning Joe's ideas and Jakub's 3D images into the most complex and extreme exposed carbon fiber body I've ever seen.
It is clearly a work of a composite master, which shouldn't be surprising as apparently, Ennio's dad used to work on the Pininfarina Modulo, way back in 1970. That car, by the way, is also at Paolo Garella's workshop at the moment.
Once you manage to climb across the ultra wide sill, the feast for the eyes continues in the cabin, with milled metal knobs and switches, leather, acres of carbon fiber and a futuristic, removable steering wheel for your racing pleasure. The German arm of the Apollo operation also made sure that the car comes with a very cool digital instrument panel, providing not only a contemporary visual experience, but also easy access to important functions such as the electro-hydraulic lift, or the 10-way adjustable ABS system.
Apollo Automobil's first car is a limited edition of ten highly customizable hypercars, capable of accelerating to 60 in 2.7 seconds and hitting our bodies with more than 2 Gs of lateral force in the corners. They will start at $2.7 million dollars, being built in Italy with global regulations in mind. It was track tested by friend of R&T Marino Franchitti, and there are eight more to go.
Apollo will also throw in access to the Time Attack program, with the IEs hitting the most relevant European racing circuits for very fast customer laps as well as private testing. Apollo will use that track time to develop the IE's future siblings, staring with the Arrow.
Without driving the car, what I can tell you is that Norman Choi is the most open CEO you'll ever meet, who does this only because he believes “nobody can die with numbers happy, but creating something we will remember.” And as fragile as the niche car business is, with product quality like the IE's, Apollo is here to stay.