Mondello Park Museum
History And A Mystery
Sunday mornings for the
2004 British GT Championship are a relatively quiet time, so the
dsc team took the opportunity to mosey over to see what delights
the circuit museum had to offer.
For a nominal
sum of 2 Euros the public can get up close and personal to the eclectic
range of cars that form Mondello Park (and Lola) Boss Martin Birrane’s
With the walls
hung with period posters, an overhead shot of the original circuit
and with staff who simply could not have been more helpful, the
museum was the ideal way to kill an hour or so: interest levels
were helped immeasurably by the range of cars on offer.
From an extremely
rare example of the Gordon Murray designed Light Car company Rocket....
Group B rally cars, single seaters - including F1 cars from the
Pacific, Benetton and Lola (the very car that spelled the end of
Eric Broadley’s Lola dream) - and of course sportscars, the
collection was fascinating.
First up was
a highly unusual (and particularly scruffy) lightweight Lotus Esprit
based sports racer.
The car was apparently
built in 1978 and was gifted by Colin Chapman to prolific Lotus
racewinner Chris Meek, one of only four such cars built.
The still only
part-built car was acquired by Birrane in 1980, and he then completed
the project and entered the car in the last ever World Championship
Group 5 event at Silverstone. Still undeveloped, the car soon retired
and has not been used since (probably a wise decision, from the
look of it!).
Alongside the Lotus was
the unmistakeable shape of a Porsche 962, this example a 1989 Kremer
built car which ran at Le Mans in 1989 (in fact two of the dsc Mondello
reporting team professed to having seen it race there) in the hands
of Giovanni Lavaggi, Bruno Giacomelli and Kunimitsu Takahashi, the
car retiring from the race when Takahashi suffered a serious fire
just after midday, when lying tenth.
the Porsche were two C100s, one a Zakspeed C18 and the other an
original development version of the Ford C100.
car was one of a pair of C100s sold to the team when the factory
bailed out on the programme, on the condition that there were not
raced as Fords. Rebadged as Zakspeed C18s, the cars raced in the
World Sportscar championship in private hands up until the mid 1980s.
second C100 is the sole unmodified car (of three built), purchased
by Martin Birrane at the end of the 1982 season during which this
car had been raced by Manfred Winkelhock, Klaus Ludwig, Klaus Niedzwiedz,
and for the Brands Hatch last hurrah, Desiree Wilson and fellow
circuit owner Jonathan Palmer - who brought the car home in fourth
place (Martin Birrane finished the same race in 20th place in a
Chevron). The car was then campaigned by Birrane and long-time team
mate (and partner) David Kennedy in Thundersports for 1983, scoring
a win at Donington Park and a second slot (behind yet another circuit
owner, John Foulston) at Brands Hatch.
Last but very
much not least (of interest to us) was the BMW M1, this particular
car having had a glittering career, winning the 1979 Pro-Car championship
in the hands of Hans Stuck and then competing successfully at Le
Mans in 1984 and 1985, winning its class on both occasions - with
Birrane himself on the driving squad (alongside the late Edgar Doren
and Jean-Paul Libert) in 1985. The same car also won the 1985 German
GT Championship. The BMW was acquired by Birrane in 1993 and has
been fully restored to Pro-Car livery and specification.
a challenge for dsc readers – sitting atop a stack of (F1?)
packing crates at one end of the museum was this carbon fibre tub.
The first reader
to correctly identify it will receive some dsc goodies – email
your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org