If Brodie Brittain Racing (BBR) is known at all, it is because of its involvement with motor racing over the years. Dave Brodie has been racing saloons longer than he would care to remember, but while his on-track exploits have entertained the spectators and sometimes puzzled his rivals, they have only been a sideline to what is his true business — tuning cars.
Our involvement with BBR came about when they offered us to test the new four-wheel drive Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth, the model which superceded the unpopular two-wheel drive version, but one they had ‘breathed’ on.
In its transition from two-wheel to four-wheel drive, the four-door Sapphire Cosworth had gained an extra 70kg weight. In order to keep the ball in the performance park, the model had been the subject of some development work by both Special Vehicle Engineering and Cosworth.
The 1993cc engine underwent a complete development programme which saw over 80 per cent of its parts modified or replaced. For instance the cast-iron block was stiffened to resist higher combustion pressures and to increase refinement as was the 16-valve twin-cam light alloy cylinder head to reduce the level of thermal distortion under extreme conditions. A new cylinder head gasket, improved tappet sealing, revised Mahle pistons, a modified oil pump, reprofiled flywheel and a redesigned turbo installation were just some of the major improvements made. While all this helped increase the maximum horsepower figures, needed to cope with the new four-wheel drive layout, the other aim was to improve the torque figure which leapt from 203 lb ft at 4500 rpm to 214 lb ft at 3500 rpm. Ford, and more specifically Special Vehicle Engineering, thus achieved their ambition of producing a car whose power band was within easier reach for everyday traffic conditions.
Based as it was on a compromise between being a sporting and executive saloon it was a car ripe for further development and BBR couldn’t wait to get their hands on one to see what could be done. And what they did find astounded them.
Firstly they found that the claimed 220 bhp was 10 bhp off target. Running it on the dyno, all they could find was 210 bhp. Under the careful guidance of Keith Ramsey, an electronics engineer, which says a lot about the current state-of-the-art of engine tuning, another 71 bhp were found by the simple expedient of remapping the engine. In BBR’s history of tuning engines, they had never found so much horsepower so easily, and this was before they had even removed the head.
255 bhp, 281 bhp and 308 bhp were the three stages which BBR settled upon as suitable figures to offer its customers and are defined by BBR as Phase 1, SuperPhase 1 and Phase 2. The key to the first two phases is that both are available “off the shelf” which means that they are same day deliveries. You take them the car in the morning and collect it later that day.
Whilst Phase 1 is simply a matter of engine mapping, the SuperPhase conversion includes suspension modifications and the addition of a twin pipe exhaust system to accommodate the extra horsepower, but this extra work is acknowledged in the price. While the 45 extra horsepower of Phase 1 work out at £7.33 each, the 71 horses found on the SuperPhase 1 are priced at £28.66 each, but that greater amount includes all the extra suspension and the exhaust work as well.
The price for the Phase 2 has yet to be decided, but to be able to extract the 308 bhp, which is about as much as the transmission will take, the head is suitably modified and special head bolts, collars and a race gasket are utilised in addition to the suspension and exhaust mods.
The car we were able to have on test was the SuperPhase model. From its low stance it was immediately apparent that this car was different from the standard. The front spoiler almost scraped the deck, being just 6cm from the ground. Once on the move, it became even more obvious.
Now fitted with adjustable Koni shock absorbers, BBR’s own springs and a geometry change, the car had a much harder ride, even felt through the leather covered seat when driving on tarmac. While not uncomfortable the car picked up most of the bumps in the road and transmitted them to the driver and passengers. Over the occasional pothole the whole car would shake like a wild stallion trying to toss its rider. But what you lose in the town you gain in the country. On fast sweeping bends in particular, the car was superb, hugging the road, responding to every driver input and never complaining about sudden throttle changes, changes in direction, and all the other stupid things that one does when testing a car. While the standard car had felt ice cool on the hairpins in the Pyrenees, it could not have stood up to the treatment dealt the BBR car at the Millbrook proving ground.
What about the performance? This, after all, is costing an extra £2035 on top of the price of the car and is the real reason for forking out that amount. It may have superb handling but does it go?
Firstly it must be said that first impressions have to be dismissed, but this is not the fault of BBR. When travelling at an indicated 30 mph, the speed was actually 27 mph, an indicated 40 mph was 36 mph, an indicated 70 mph was 60 mph and an indicated 100 mph was, in fact, only 83 mph. No wonder cars were crawling all over my back when travelling up the motorway!
The acceleration from standstill was staggering. Put the car into gear, raise the revs to 4000 and take your foot off the clutch. All four Bridgestones (ER90 205/50 ZR 15s) dig in and the car flies off the start line. Less than a blink of the eye and you are exceeding 30 mph, 40 mph is reached in just about 3 seconds, 50 mph in 4.2 and 60 mph in a superb 5.3 seconds. Few cars can exceed this projectile to this speed. But the acceleration does not fade away. 100 mph is reached in 13.9 seconds and not until you are travelling in excess of 130 mph does the acceleration begin to flatten out.
In fact, although the speedometer bragged a speed in excess of 160 mph, the true read-out was 143.2 mph on the banked oval on a warm and dry day. Not bad for a comfortable, four-door saloon. The other strength of the car was the sheer usable grunt of the motor all the way through the power band. Unfortunately time was against us to take any meaningful figures at Millbrook, but the 30-50 mph of 5.9 seconds in fourth gear is a full second quicker than the standard car’s.
While this BBR-prepared car is as docile as the next Sapphire under normal conditions, it would not be worthwhile investing another £2000 in the machine for the occasional burst of speed. If, however, you have a Sapphire Cosworth, or are thinking of getting one, and do a lot of open road mileage that extra power and the way it is delivered has got to make that £2000 a good investment. WPK