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Allard reborn

A famous old name aims to make an impact on the 1992 Sportscar World Championship

The Allard name will return to sportscar racing next year, but tight security surrounds the innovative design. There is a Japanese Sportscar Championship version, there could be an IMSA version, but the unveiling of the World Championship Group C car by Jean-Louis Ricci and Costas Los is likely to send a tremor around the design centres of the world. The Allard has a radical shape which breaks away totally from concepts of the last 20 years, and will hit the establishment like an alien craft from outer space.

Even now it can’t be illustrated, but it certainly exists and was due to be tested for the first time in November, with a first public appearance scheduled for January. The Allard is more nearly a centre-seater than anything devised so far, by Peugeot, Jaguar or Mercedes, and would certainly be widely copied if it demonstrates the advantages the designers believe it has.

Who are the designers? Good question. They are not well known in the racing car industry, nor is there a leader. Chris Humberstone, co-ordinator of Walter Brun’s sportscar design team, is the man behind the Allard project and he’s a great believer in “the team being more important than the superstar.”

From the Allard Motorsport headquarters in Basingstoke, Humberstone explains the philosophy.

“We have six or seven key people here, and I’m just the umpire really. None of them are well known, and they are from various disciplines, such as marine and aeronautics, as well as motor sports.

We started from scratch, without any pre-conceived ideas. Where most designers take their models to the wind tunnel to find improvements, we went to the wind tunnel to see what we could learn. We have come up with something quite revolutionary, and it will work.”

For instance, suggests Humberstone, the downforce is “amazing” even at relatively low speeds, forcing the designers to strengthen the suspension pushrods massively, yet this is done without significantly increasing the drag.

The biggest drawback, at first, is likely to be the fairly uncompetitive status of the Ford Cosworth DFR engine compared with the ‘big three’ manufacturers, but a direct comparison would be difficult to make if the Allard customer team tackles the recently launched FIA Cup class. “Le Mans will be the great leveller,” says Humberstone. “There we’ll see just how good the Allard is.”

Racing and rally enthusiasts would have to stretch their memories back to the 1950s to recall the original Allards, especially the Cadillac-engined J2 which gave Jaguars and Talbots a run for their money. The last car was built shortly before Sydney Allard died in 1966, but his son Alan kept the business going as an engineering concern, specialising in supercharging and turbocharging.

Alan Allard is a director of the related Allard Motor Company and, a longtime friend of Humberstone’s, is actively involved in the racing car project. The intention is to produce a road car version of the Allard, not an ‘exotic’ in the style of the McLaren supercar, but a sensible, more affordable model in the Porsche 911 mould.

Humberstone proposed the embryonic road car project originally to Walter Brun, towards the end of 1990 when the Group C car design was almost finalised, but found that “his mind was on other things.” The notorious Montreal accident had caused an immense amount of damage to Brun’s Porsche team, and not surprisingly the Swiss didn’t want to embark on a diverse road car project.

So Humberstone parted company amicably and set up on his own. “We had enough finance to get everything started, but clearly we needed partners. At the time, we knew that Jean-Louis Ricci and Costas Los had considered buying Spice but decided against it, so circumstances brought us together.”

Little can be said about the new Allard, although even without its dramatic bodywork it looks quite unusual. The cockpit appears too small to be accepted as a two-seater, but it complies with the regulations, and unusually the monocoque undertray is extended back to carry the engine.

The slave engine is a Cosworth DFR, but for the States it could just as easily be a Porsche 962 turbo. The engine is lightly stressed, and an additional monocoque structure behind it carries the transmission. This is a March Formula 1 transaxle, with six speeds, and unusually it can be pulled back from the engine and swivelled through 90-degrees, around the driveshafts, to make life easy for mechanics swapping ratios.

Allard’s principals intend to have at least one car racing in Japan — the first firm order came from a Japanese company, Terai Engineering — another in the SWC series and a third in IMSA, so as to have plenty of feedback. Recognising that racing cars are extremely expensive, they are also geared up to enter leasing arrangements for the new machine with team owners, an unusual approach that has interested some potential customers.

“As a follow-up to the racing car, we want a road car development,” Humberstone explains. “It will have a pedigree, if the racing car is successful. I’d like to think of it as the Jaguar E-type, which succeeded the D-type. We have the ambition to bring aerodynamics to a road car as a safety feature, because I don’t think anyone has really tackled this yet.” — MLC

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