Followers of the Ecurie’s fortunes will know that 2005 was a year of mixed fortunes. This ranged from the highlights of the Australian trip where both the Surtees and the Elva performed wonderfully well, to the depression of the Gold Cup meeting at Oulton where one car broke and another got damaged. Of course the final insult was the Silverstone finals event where the Elva broke down for the first time in our ownership and the Crossle simply didn’t perform due to engine woes. The winter months were therefore going to involve some work and changes. Recent weeks have proved this to be true in a very big way.

First up was the Elva with a plan to send the spare engine to Lester Owen for a re-build. This went ahead with no problems and somewhat surprisingly the reports were good and the job completed without crazy money being spent – a false dawn if ever there was one!

Next up was the Crossle engine. Remember that we really know nothing about that engine because it was already done when we bought it albeit by John Fyda who is a good man in this area. Nonetheless we determined to do two things – put the car back on carbs and revert to the wingless mode so we could enter the car in the CRC HSCC events. So if that was required then clearly a look inside by Geoff Richardson would be sensible. While we were at it I thought we should sell the injection system and placed an ad on the web. The fact that it sold within a day after more than 20 phone calls told me that the price was too cheap but I guess we live and learn and I was happy enough with the deal.

Then disaster struck – Geoff called Don Haldenby to say he had crack tested things and found three cracks in the crankshaft!!! The minor re-fresh had turned into a major re-build at huge cost. There is no choice though and we just hope the engine will be a demon machine when finished.

On the Junior front I decided not to enter the Lotus for Monaco in 2006. I think it is just too expensive really and I would hope to return with the Huffaker in 2008. I also hope that the Huffaker will make it into Goodwood in September – it certainly should, based on eligibility and rarity. Indeed this car is probably one of the few that is ready to go right now and will probably represent the team at the start of the season.

The Elden is progressing slowly. Don has been quietly taking things apart and making a list of what he wants to do and what he thinks we should replace. For example he thinks we should go for a new alloy radiator and of course we need new belts and such like. I think we should be not far off at the start of the season but this is not really crucial.

Now to the other piece of big news – another new car!! Towards the end of last year I began to think that the level of interest in F5000 racing was increasing dramatically as folk realised that this was such good value racing – certainly compared to the tearfully expensive TGP stuff for DFV-engined F1 cars. The F5000 cars are basically just as fast – year for year – and perform at a fraction of the cost either to buy or run. It seems to me that these cars are going to become more and more popular and therefore more races will appear and their values will rise. So the search was on for a car to join the Surtees in the Ecurie Scalpel ranks!

I wanted a later car that would be more competitive in overall race terms. The TS8 is a good car but will never beat a late Lola 330 or 332 for outright pace. In addition I suspect there will soon be a class system introduced for F5000 because of the gap between the early and late cars – I would think 1971 or 1972 would be the cut off years or perhaps the change from carbs to injection would be simpler.

So what was out there and available that would fit the bill? Well the Lola world is an interesting one to consider. By far the most successful make in terms of overall number of wins they are cracking machines – especially the 330 and 332 versions. Lots of them were made and there are still quite a few around. History is always an issue with old racing cars and never more so with the Lola where many cars were crashed and entered the “magic garage” for repair. In these garages one damaged car would enter the front door and a few months later two new cars would leave the back door – Hey Presto its magic! So any Lola for sale as to be considered very carefully indeed and sensible folk will start by looking at the excellent website of Allen Brown –

Another thing about the Lola is that it is the only car that has had a disease named after it! The “Lola limp” is a well known club with quite a few members and seems to have been due to the design of the tub and the suspension pick up points. The Lola tub is shallow and the driver tends to sit on rather than sit in the car – it is almost flat to look at. Other makes have deeper tubs that seem to offer much more side protection. In the Lola the driver sits quite far forward again placing the legs at risk. Finally the front top wishbones attach to the tub at a point which seems to make it quite prone to fold in on the legs if there is a big frontal impact. Just ask guys such as Kevin Bartlett and Warwick Brown why they limp to this day.

I looked at several interesting cars including the very car that gave Kevin Bartlett the limp. It is in New Zealand and in terrific condition and I suspect an excellent car. But NZ is a long way away to do such a deal and just south of Grantham lived the answer!

In 1981 Keith Norris bought an old and obsolete racing car for very little money. It had interesting history having been driven by a famous driver for a famous team and it had won quite a few races. However the most important thing was that it was quite cheap and offered good racing for sensible costs. Keith has owned and raced the car ever since – and crashed it a few times as well. So, the history is all true and unusual and the mountain of spares is huge including an entire spare tub.

The car in question is the ex-Peter Gethin Team VDS Chevron B28 from 1974. Count Rudi Van der Stratten was Belgian, rich and a racing nut. He took a liking to Derek Bennett of Chevron fame and for 1974 placed an order for two F5000 cars to take over from the previous year’s cars – the B24. The B24 had won the Championship in 1973 with Teddy Pilette driving and the B28 very nearly repeated the feat. Gethin was a two time European F5000 Champion himself and narrowly missed out on a third title in 1974. He needed to win the last event of the year and came third instead finishing second to eventual champions - Bob Evans and his Lola.

The car last raced during the summer of 2995 and needs a little refreshing. Simon Hadfield had seen the car and feels the first step is two days tidying and then a test at Mallory. Then we will work out a plan of action over the next 12 months and see what we have!!

Here’s looking forward to 2006.


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