Bahrain GT Festival - The Unusual Cars
With 15 makes represented on the entry list for the Festival there
were bound to be a few that are somewhat less obvious choices from
the GT racing norm.
The Vertigo will be familiar to dailysportscar readers as the Spa
24 Hours regular that brings some homegrown interest to the Belgian
crowd. Tony Gillet’s cars are Alfa Romeo engined nowadays,
with the chassis present in the middle east having contested the
Proximus 24, with a 3.6 litre unit punching out around 480 bhp.
For Bahrain it used a
3 litre V6, some 80 bhp down on the larger unit, to trade reliability
for the two day format, over top speed down the long straights.
Regular driver Renaud Kuppens had a fine meeting with the Belgian
“This is a very
fresh car, it has competed in only four events before this week
and we had a secret weapon!”
The weapon to which Kuppens
referred was one Bas Leinders, the 2004 Minardi F1 test driver and,
as such, one of the very, very few drivers present this weekend
who had seen the circuit, let alone driven it, as the Belgian did
on the Friday before the inaugural Gulf Air Grand Prix.
results were a fine reward for a well prepared team.
Again a familiar car, but in very unfamiliar surroundings.
This is the type of Esperante
used in both the one make championship in the USA and in the Panoz
Racing School at Road Atlanta and Sebring.
This example is the only
car which has made it to Europe (and now the Middle East.)
Owner Bert Moritz is
justifiably proud of his charge, but is fully aware of the difficulties
he faced in competition with some of the sophisticated machinery
“It has a solid
rear axle and a carburetted Ford V8 engine. It still pushes out
around 420 bhp though, so we’re hardly underpowered.
a lot of work since we got the car and have made big strides forward.
The car now has bigger front brakes, we’ve lowered the rear
end and have adjusted the shocks and suspension. After a poor start
to the year (in the Dutch Supercar Challenge) we have been getting
better, the car took a fourth place overall at the Lausitzring and
then a seventh, second in our class.
“For 2005 we are
looking to move forward again, in particular we need to fit independent
suspension to the rear end.
“We are quick enough
on the straights here but the slow corners were more of a problem
The Panoz had
another problem in the unplanned ‘night’ race on Thursday
– the Esperante has no headlamps. Despite that massive handicap
the car finished the race!
This again is a car familiar to US readers, through its efforts
in the Speed World Challenge, but the Dutch based US Carworld team
is the only European outfit to campaign the car on this side of
The team ran a similar
car with creditable results in the 2004 Spa 24 hours, the car giving
a highly impressive account of itself, until a terminal engine failure
for the 8 litre V10 cut short the run late on.
at BIC was a previously unraced example, finished in bare carbon
fibre, with a front end which is probably best described as ‘purposeful’.
The V10 is pumping out a monstrous 580 bhp, more than ample to outpace
the GT3 opposition in the early stages of the week’s racing
but sadly difficult to reign in, leading to tyre problems later
in each of the races.
The Bintec Prosport 3000 was a surprise early season entrant in
the 2004 dailysportscar.com Cup class of the British
GT Championship, the car qualifying on the basis that a single road
car version was built in the car’s heyday.
Its 2004 season was cut
short by an accident at Mondello Park, which saw the car leave the
circuit backwards and destroy an armco barrier and debris gate,
the impact firing the padlock, which had secured the gate, through
a circuit portaloo (thankfully unoccupied at the time)! The damage
caused to the Prosport was beyond the team’s immediate budget.
The car was designed
as a derivative of the Ultima road car and was used initially as
the basis for a one-make entry level series into prototype sportscar
racing. This particular car is chassis 001, from a production run
of around 50 cars.
Sadly a terminal failure
of the 250bhp Ford Cosworth V6 engine in the very first qualifying
session ended the Bintec team’s week almost before it began.
Murphy is still proud of his low slung baby prototype and is disappointed
that a rule change for 2005 will see the car excluded from the British
GT Championship. Perhaps as a result the car is now for sale.
This is the third B6 to have been campaigned by Terry Pudwell: the
UK businessman had originally planned to campaign a pair of the
cars in the abortive Interactive Sportscar Championship, those cars
eventually finding sporadic usage by him in the British GT Championship,
where Nigel Greensall set pole position against stiff opposition
in the final PowerTour meeting at Silverstone in 2001.
The Bahrain car was previously
raced in both Canada (Canadian GT Challenge) and the USA (Grand
Am) and is now fitted with a 6.7 litre Chevrolet V8 - with plenty
enough power to propel the 980kg machine to considerable speed.
The planet now
plays host to seven Stealth B6s - three road cars and four race
versions (the original still campaigned in the UK’s Castle
Combe Special GT Series, Pudwell’s original pair of long tail
versions now owned by customers in France and Belgium, and the Bahrain
This one had
strong runs in the final two races of the weekend, with Pudwell
and Greensall winning the GTS class in the one hour final race,
a fine recovery after problems in qualifying led to a mercy dash
parts run from the UK.
C is for Cosworth (engine) the GT car – this example hailing
from 1995 – sporting the ubiquitous turbocharged 4 pot engine.
450 bhp in this instance is the result.
The LR9 (LR is for designer
Lester Ray – the man himself was in Bahrain overseeing the
two Harriers present) has a proud competition history, which even
includes an appearance in the Le Mans 24 hours, a spider version
competing (but posting a DNF) in 1994 before being reroofed for
further action in the British GT Championship.
example has been extensively reworked, with a longer wheelbase.
The second Harrier in Bahrain was a GTS classed 1998 car, originally
raced in GT1 (the original GT1) by the factory team, with drivers
including Jamie Campbell-Walter (just before he joined Lister),
Alex Portman and Nigel Greensall.
Again powered by the
2 litre Ford Cosworth turbo engine, this version has 550 bhp, mated
to a sequential box. Owner Ian Stinton has been trying to have the
car accepted back into the British GT Championship for the past
couple of seasons and hasn’t given up yet.
in qualifying meant that the more powerful Harrier never got the
opportunity to race in Bahrain.
This pair of cars are recreations of the monstrously powerful Porsches
which dominated Group 5 racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s,
an example of the breed even scoring an overall win at the Le Mans
24 Hours in 1979.
The cars racing in Bahrain
were more usually seen in Porsche Open or AMOC Intermarque racing
in the UK, where their searing pace is often enough to humble Aston
Martins, AC Cobras and other exotic machinery
Both cars were built
up from standard Porsche 911 road cars (911Es of late 1970s vintage)
and have been converted using only Porsche parts, the Black John
Griffiths owned car even featuring an original 935 turbo installation.
600 bhp meant
the cars were rocketships on the straights, but a catalogue of problems
left them unable to show their true pace throughout the week.
The Team Signorret Supra is more usually found in the GT class of
the FFSA French GT Championship (it was classified as a GT2 for
a powerful beast, the biturbo three litre straight six pumping out
550 bhp, good enough to mix it with the fastest of the GT2 runners
at the GT Festival. A series of mechanical woes meant that the car
was never able to capitalise on its searing pace, impressive runs
from the back of the grid seemingly inevitably followed by the interjection
of a problem, which left it at the back of the grid for the next
race (and so it went on!).