Sprinting Dolomites

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A week after trying the Camaro, British Leyland let myself and other journalists try Andy Rouse’s Broadspeed-prepared and John Hine’s Bill Shaw-prepared Dolomite Sprints at Goodwood. They were just like fascinating, enjoyable little toys compared with the Camaro, which brought home to me the size of Graham’s task.

Both cars have their 2-litre 16-valve engines developed to give 165 to 170 b.h.p. instead of 124 b.h.p. on standard twin 1-3/4 in. SU carburation, progressive rate coil-springs are fitted all round, Bilstein dampers are used at the front on the Broadspeed car, Armstrongs on the Shaw car, and Armstrongs on the back on both. Different anti-roll bars suit different circuits, specially hard rubber bushes are used throughout and limited slip differentials are fitted. The latest Ferodo 2444 pads sorted out a lack of brakes early in the season, but overdrive problems hit both cars again on this test day, caused merely by a broken wire on the Broadspeed car. Overdrive is an essential, worth two seconds a lap on most circuits: Rouse’s Team Castrol car has it on 3rd gear only, an inhibitor switch preventing it engaging on 4th, which is high enough gearing in spite of a 4.1-to-1 final drive ratio with the latest fat Dunlop slicks; the Hine car has it on 3rd and top because skinnier Dunlops give lower overall gearing, so that more thought is required to operate it efficiently. Both use the right-hand flasher switch to operate the Laycock overdrives, which are matched by the homologated wide ratio gearboxes, 3rd overdrive ratio slotting between low 2nd and high 3rd to give superb close ratios.

Set up softly for Brands Hatch, the battered yellow Hine car was :a twitchy oversteering. wheel-lifting bundle of exciting, controllable fun round Goodwood. The stiffly sprung, big-tyred, black and silver Broadspeed car (all £4,000 of it on the second-hand market) was much more neutral with the power on, was less twitchy, didn’t lift its wheels, yet was remarkably responsive and forgiving. Engine performance was amazing, with tremendously smooth power all the way from mid range to 7,500 rpm.. Top speed is about 135 mph, and if you wonder whether your Dolomite Sprint feels anything like these, think again— these even have traction and brakesl—C.R.