Richmond Racing – Doing It Differently
© Mark Howson

One of the many joys of GT racing is the variety of cars that this branch of motorsport attracts, and while that variety has arguably been lacking in British GT in recent times, one new arrival is undeniably a very distinctive character. This small, nimble, front-engined and British newcomer is starting to get noticed, after a season of very good reliability and continual improvement.

The story of the Ginetta G20 GT goes all the way back to 2001, when Richard Hollebon found himself being approached by the Ginetta factory to build a G27R 200, essentially a development of the G27 that formed the basis for the Ginetta Championship at the time. The intention was to build 20 of these 200bhp versions for racing, but the cars turned out to be too expensive and in the end just two cars (for Hollebon and Mike Gardiner) were built. Despite this, Hollebon continued to develop the car and eventually increased the power output to 250bhp. The consensus at the time was that it would have made a very good (Ginetta) Cup car.

At the same time as the G27R 200 was being developed, Richmond Racing was formed to support and run two drivers in Ginetta G20s, which had by then taken over from the G27 in the championship. One of those drivers was Nick Marsh and he and Hollebon would be the driving force behind the G20 GT project; although it was a conversation over a pint that got it all going.

“It started as a laugh,” recalls Hollebon (right). “Nick and I had gone down the pub and we started talking about fitting a V6 into the G20. Nick then came down to the Richmond Racing Christmas party and saw the three litre block in the G27R. After a chat, we thought ‘let’s do it!’ - Nick with half of the money and me with the other half.”

“I’d actually been at Le Mans with a few mates that year and we’d been dreaming about doing the race,” added Marsh. “The conversation came round to ‘what car?’ and how it couldn’t be a Porsche because that’s too boring. So we went through the alternatives; TVR? Lotus? And then it occurred to me, ‘Ginetta?’, and the mind started whirring.”

For Richard Hollebon, the challenge lay in building and developing a competitive car; simply buying a ready-developed racer like a 996 held no appeal; “There’s no fun in that,” he said. “Besides, I was great friends with Martin at Ginetta and was hoping to get the factory involved.”

At the time Ginetta Cars was owned by a consortium of businessmen who were also Ginetta enthusiasts, but in 2005 the company changed hands and the new owner was well known to dailysportscar readers.

“We actually gave Lawrence (Tomlinson) his first race in a Ginetta,” said Hollebon (and actually that was his first race ever), “so we’ve known him a long time.” It was clearly a classic case of ‘I liked it so much I bought the company’, but the G20 GT project was not on the new owner’s horizons at the time of the purchase. “Lawrence is very interested in how we are doing, but we are totally independent of the factory.”

And so the build of the G20 GT began in 2005 and it was a far from easy job dropping the Jaguar V6 into the tight confines of the G20 chassis. “We had to shave bits off the block to get the engine in,” explained Hollebon, “and had to hand-build many parts. There’s no way we could attempt an engine change at a race meeting.”

After a successful pre-season test at Pembrey, the team announced a full-season entry to the 2006 British GT Championship, racing in the Cup class.

The story of the season for Richmond Racing has been one of impressive reliability, with the car recording classified finishes in every race so far (with only the Pau meeting being missed) and only once failing to take the flag - when the gear stick snapped off in Nick Marsh’s hands at Snetterton with half a lap to go. The car has not yet been amongst the front runners, but has perceptibly improved as the season has gone on. So how satisfied is the team with its progress so far this season?

“We’ve hit every one of our targets so far, so we’re happy,” asserted Richard Hollebon. “The first challenge was to get the car ready to race at the start of the season; the second was not to finish last; and the third was to get up into the midfield and particularly amongst the Porsches.”

The season has not been without its frustrations, with almost as many problems as advances being experienced. Nevertheless, Hollebon disputes the suggestion in the Brands Hatch official programme that the team are ‘doing their development in public’; “In real terms, most of the development has been in the tyres; we haven’t fundamentally changed the car all season and have even gone back to a road ‘box.

“The biggest problem is that it took half a season to get the right Avons for the car,” continued Hollebon. “We got the right compound at Mondello and we got the right size at Snetterton, but by then the season was two thirds over and the car was past its best. Having said that, we’re realistic enough to know that we are one car amongst many and I have to say that Avon has been fantastic in its efforts to get us the best tyre.

“The other thing we wanted to do was to serve an apprenticeship in GTs, and we’ve shown that we can run professionally.”

Hollebon and Marsh (above, right) decided mid-season that there was little point in spending a great deal of money on the car for the remainder of 2006 and switched their sights towards 2007. “Subject to funding, the intention is to build a new car from the chassis up and take it from there,” said Hollebon.

Richmond Racing has demonstrated an admirable determination to stick to the task in hand and has never once opted to take the easy way out of a problem. The team has produced a well-engineered and very individual car on the tightest of budgets and has undoubtedly achieved more than many had expected. But as well as this, the team has enjoyed itself along the way and contributed immensely to the BGT paddock atmosphere.

Who knows, with the right backing, could we be talking about a GT3 Ginetta in the not-too-distant future?

 

Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.