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.

Gillet Vertigo
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 coupe.

“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.

Some strong results were a fine reward for a well prepared team.

Panoz Esperante
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 in Bahrain:

“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.

“We’ve done 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 for us.”

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!

Viper Competition Coupe
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 pond.

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.

This chassis 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.

Prosport 3000
The Bintec Prosport 3000 was a surprise early season entrant in the 2004 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.

Owner Barry 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.

Stealth B6
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 car).

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.

Harrier LR9C
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.

This particular example has been extensively reworked, with a longer wheelbase.

Harrier GT1-98
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.

Engine failure in qualifying meant that the more powerful Harrier never got the opportunity to race in Bahrain.

Porsche 935 Clones
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.

Toyota Supra
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 Bahrain).

It’s 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!).


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