- Sunday, 14 September 2014

I need a different car - but what?

Much as I love the Westfield there was no way I could actually enter it in an FFSA championship (French equivalent of the MSA). In France there is a list of production cars homologated for competition in class GT de Série, which is where it would fit in -  FFSA GT de Série list the only thing resembling my car is a Caterham R300, and as my car is faster than an R400 there was no point in trading it for something slower, especially now that it was running so well.

A 911 GT3 was nowhere even near my budget, so I weighed up whether a supercharged Exige would be fun (no more getting wet when it rained?) but they're still not cheap and I don't think it would feel any faster as I know I'm quicker than Elise/Exiges in UK. No if I was going to the trouble of selling up I wanted something really racey & a bit bonkers.

Now for me there is one car that immediately springs to mind and stands head & shoulders above the rest - an Osella PA20S. They look gorgeous and make the most amazing noise (watch the link below!), a 3ltr BMW straight six and pseudo 80's Le Mans looks but it would be impossible to run a prototype single handedly and technically it would be a leap too far. One day though...

I started looking at the times from St-Gouéno, especially the French cars that had competed as the English contingent of 64 drivers had effectively ran in the their own class structure under MSA regs. This is the beauty of St-Gouéno for anyone looking to dip their toe in the water, as you can enter in pretty much anything you'd hillclimb in the UK and they will slot you in somewhere. If you want to do a full on championship its not so simple - there you run to French regs. With a PB of 1:37.6 as a benchmark I started scanning through the results of the final 3rd run of the weekend... St. Gouéno times I quickly ruled out all the hot hatches and saloons, and then spotted a cluster of cars called Tatuus FR2000 that were doing 1:29's and seemed very closely packed in terms of times (only 2 secs between them).

A quick search on Google and I discovered they were Formula Renault 2000 cars, built by Tatuus in Italy with a carbon chassis and running dry sumped 2ltr Clio engines with a Sadev sequential box. Pretty much every major country in Europe has its own race series, with a few halo championships that move country to country. The cars are all identical with sealed engines, three fixed sets of gear ratios and that's about it. Compare this to hillclimbing in England where you have scope to modify pretty much anything on the car to some extent and for me it's very appealing. I'm not an engineer and cannot therefore dream up, design & fit my own mods - sure I did manage to do quite a lot of the work on the Westy myself in the end like making a flat floor from scratch or installing a new fuel tank but tinkering with engines and gearboxes is not my bag - I have to pay someone to do it. So the idea of a one make single seater class, fairly unstressed production engines and limited tinkering & faffing about sounds like music to my ears :D

I quickly emailed my friend Jerry who'd been at St-Gouéno to say "LOOK AT THIS!! Let's buy one each and go do St. Ursanne Les Rangiers!" We'd spoken about France a lot since coming back (I'm sure I'd pretty much driven everyone up the wall by now) and I felt like one of these cars was the answer to the question. They seemed affordable, quick (490kg and 195Bhp, 0-100mph 4.8secs) and look really, really cool. 

Realising that I needed to do some research I looked up the list of UK teams that run in the domestic championship on Renault Sport's website, and as luck would have it there were at least three or four within an hour of where I live. Fast forward a month and I'd managed to look round a few cars and get a good idea about running one - it was all good news as they sounded reliable, strong and would need relatively little work between meetings for the type of miles I'd be doing.

So this was it then, time to sell the Westfield and buy a FR? But there was still the fundamental question of how I go racing in France when I live in Leicestershire - much as I'd love to move to France it's not really an option. Could this really work...?

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