The newly-released Range Rover Sport, the fastest production Land Rover to date, was pitted against Britain's most famous fighter aircraft in a high-speed off-road race along the grass airstrip at the Goodwood Aerodrome in Sussex.
Land Rover was invited to take part in the challenge, formulated by Goodwood's FortyOneSix.com website as a curtain raiser for the annual Festival of Speed, where the new Range Rover Sport made its UK debut.
The race - the first of its kind at the airfield - involved a straight drag run down and back on the runway, punctuated by a U-turn. It was particularly challenging being conducted on the bumpy grass airfield, hence the 'off-road' tag for the race.
The Supermarine Spitfire lined up for the contest was a 1945-vintage model, piloted by Matt Jones from the Boultbee Flight Academy. Powered by a 1,750bhp V12 Merlin engine, it has a maximum airspeed of 640kph, and its typical acceleration on take-off is up to 128kph before the wheels leave the ground, making it a strong contender for victory against the Land Rover.
Mike Cross, Jaguar Land Rover's Chief Vehicle Integrity Engineer, was at the wheel of the Range Rover Sport, a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 model with 375kW (510hp) on tap. The Sport features an all-aluminium monocoque body, making it 420kgs lighter than the model it replaces. Cross added that the Sport will also do the 0 - 100kph sprint in 5.0 seconds - not bad for a 4x4!
Even though grass is one of the most challenging terrains on which to gain traction, for both acceleration and breaking, Cross still managed to clock a top speed of 210kph before braking for the mid-race turn.
The turn was helped by the Sport's new Torque Vectoring technology, which contributes to stable and secure cornering by applying appropriate braking to the inside wheels.
"It's always difficult to find traction from a standing start on grass, but the Range Rover Sport made a great launch off the line," Cross said. "I was surprised by how bumpy the course was as I accelerated up to 210kph, and of course the other extreme challenge is to brake in time for the turn-around, but the car felt composed throughout the whole run."
While Cross was doing that, the Spitfire was executing an 'Immelman Turn' for the return leg, then swooping down to fly at treetop height alongside the Range Rover.
So, who won? It was a close-run thing, but video of the race (viewable at www.fortyonesix.com) shows the Range Rover Sport edged out the Spitfire - just!
In addition to FortyOneSix (Goodwood's online magazine and social media website), the film will also be available on Land Rover's social media channels.
Australian release for the Range Rover Sport has yet to be confirmed.