“Passion makes our sport special” ”
Part of what has kept me in love with national motorsport for so long is the sheer variety of it.
I don’t even mean the vast number of racing championships we have to choose between – at 209 in the UK and Ireland there is a valid point there are perhaps too many already and a bit too much racing going on in that sense.
But what I enjoy mostly is more the variety of cars and how they got there. Last weekend’s Brands Hatch Mini Festival was a superb case.
There can only be one Mini, surely? But which ‘one’ that is largely depends on your outlook. From classics, to FIA Appendix K endurance racing versions, to Sevens and Miglias, Mighty and even more Mighty and then the turbocharged and naturally aspirated BMW variants of the Mini Challenge. They all have their appeal, but my favourite was the Fastest Mini in the World race.
These cars are totally bonkers, and it’s the most random shed-concocted machines that really caught my eye.
In this issue you can read about two superb home-build specials, Les Stanton’s brilliant Yamaha R1-powered Mini Estate and Roger Evans’ truly nuts Alfa Romeo Giulietta/8c hybrid (see page 9).
The best thing about these cars isn’t their performance or their sound, it’s the stories and passion behind them that brought them to the starting grid.
Stanton’s car has been six years of hard graft, then the seemingly endless hours of tuning and perfecting and the decision between the muchloved Suzuki Hayabusa or the Yamaha R1 engines.
Evans’ story is just great. A late-night trawl of ebay ending up in an impulse purchase of a fire damaged 8C chassis from a salvage company. Only when it arrived did he have a brainwave of what to actually do with it, and the most natural thing was plonk a Giulietta body on top, purely because “nobody had tried it before”.
Some of the best moments in motorsport come out of experimentation and a seemingly crazy idea. In an era of motorsport where so many series are single-make, operating only for homogenised off-the-shelf cars from a single supplier, it’s refreshing to see the spirit of the home-built ‘special’ lives on.
These cars have a personality all their own, and far more chance of building a fan base than a spec formula or tin-top racer.
While in the paddock I also grabbed a word with the evergreen Bill Richards, who won both the allcomers races in his mighty spaceframe Mini Metro, affectionately nicknamed ‘Bessie’. That car now runs a two-litre Ford Duratec engine, having had numerous powerplants over the years since it was built Richards’ workshop in the late 1970s.
“Considering she’s 40 years old she’s still got some poke,” said Richards with a grin. “I wouldn’t swap her for the world.”
Passion makes motorsport special, and it’s good to have cars that reflect that.