ProTran At Brooklands (2) – The Detail
It was the perfect setting for the first look at the almost-all-new ProTran RS06/H – and blessed with almost perfect weather too: a bright, early-March day, although the air temperature wasn't much above freezing. The UK's snow was further north.

Paul Cope himself chose Brooklands, which is conveniently ‘just up the road’ from what has been the ProTran’s base for the last months ie. Lester Ray’s Ripley workshop. It was a chance for the press to come and see the car, but more important than that, it was an opportunity for the ACO’s M. Daniel Perdrix to examine the RS06/H – an important part of the homologation process, ahead of the car receiving its ACO stamp of approval in its logbook.

M. Perdrix has been in England for much of this week, checking out other new prototypes.

As the images suggest, the ProTran looks fabulous in its ‘Jaguar Racing Green’. The colour was Paul Cope’s choice, and what a good choice it was.

The car isn’t quite ready to go, “but we should be running at the end of next week,” says the car owner.

Why have you undertaken this project then, Paul Cope?

“Quite simply, it’s my passion. Brooklands sums up the spirit of British motor sport, and we’ve been looking to do something like this for a long time. The hybrid rules certainly helped us in making it possible to do it, and I’ve got some dedicated and committed people around me who have brought us this far.”

Lester Ray’s role has changed a little over the months, but he adds that “we couldn’t have taken on producing a whole new car, because so much of the work would have had to have been contracted out.”

“It would have been a mountain to climb,” adds Paul Cope.

Lester Ray was originally tasked with a development of the Reynard 2KQ chassis (#009) as an LMP2 hybrid, but that plan was changed because “an LMP2 needs to be very clean aerodynamically, because it has less power than an LMP1. Going the LMP1 route means that the roll hoop (of the Reynard) is less of a problem.”

If there’s a slight aerodynamic disadvantage with this chassis, compared to brand new LMP1 cars, that should be partially offset by the car’s state of the art AER 3.6 litre twin turbo V8. Dyson Racing is well into its testing programme with its AER-powered Lolas, and there will be advantages to other AER customers as the miles add up.

But Lester Ray’s role has changed a little as the project has evolved, for reasons that Daniel Perdrix was happy to explain.

“We have to be sure that cars are safe to race at Le Mans, where the speeds are so high, so we insist that the manufacturer is represented in any development of one of their chassis. Kieron (Salter) was part of the Reynard team that was responsible for this car, so we needed him to be involved with this project.”

And Paul Cope has been delighted to have the former Reynard man involved.

While we had M. Perdrix’s attention, it was a good chance to ask him about another aspect of the current hybrid phase of the LM prototypes.

Can manufacturers build new tubs and convert them into hybrids, or does the wording of the regulations indicate that only existing tubs can be converted into hybrids?

“No, there is nothing in the regulations to stop a manufacturer from building a new tub and making that into a hybrid (this year). After all, what would a team do if they had a crash and destroyed their chassis? They would need a new one so that they could carry on racing.”

Back to the ProTran then, and Kieron Salter’s involvement.

Lester Ray: “There are certain areas on the strictly engineering side that Kieron isn’t involved with. I’ve been responsible for the engine installation, from a practical and technical point of view, while Kieron has had more of an overall view of the project.”

Bluntly, that seems to mean that Lester gets his hands dirty, while Kieron doesn’t!

“Once we go racing, my role will be part of a joint operation between my workshop and Paul’s new base at Byfleet,” adds Lester Ray.

So with a few details to be finished over the next few days, the ProTran RS06/H should be hitting the ground under its own power “by the end of next week”.

Paul Cope – a lawyer by profession – can’t wait to get behind the wheel of his “passion”. He’s brought former GT racing partner Glenn Dudley in as team manager, and by the end of March, this spirited team will be testing at Paul Ricard, and preparing to head off to Istanbul, for the first round of the 2006 Le Mans Series.

There are more details to be sorted out in the next few weeks, not least being Cope’s partners behind the wheel.

March 2 became an even more enjoyable day for dsc’s Editor, with a quick glance at Concorde G-BBDG, a chance to look at the famous old banking at Brooklands – plus the opportunity to capture the image you’ve already seen, of Paul Cope and Lester Ray with the RS06/H, with a Harrier behind, and the nose of the Concorde poking into the viewfinder.

G-BBDG is pre-production Concorde #202, which last flew in 1981. It was stored at Filton as a supply of spares for the BA fleet, and was brought to Brooklands last year in component form, by road. The talented Brooklands engineers, all volunteers, are gradually putting it back together, and it will be housed in a new building, along with other examples of flying machines that were built (or in the case of Concorde, components were built) here: a VC10, a BAC 1-11, a Vanguard and a Viscount.

The spirit of aviation and motor sport live on in this part of Surrey, and we look forward to seeing the ProTran go racing, and the Concorde fully restored. There's a lot of the Brooklands spirit tied up in both projects - and both have a French connection, of course.

 

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