The Capri competition specialists
So far, this season’s British Saloon Car Championship has been dominated by two red Ford Capri Mk. Ills. Driven by the experienced Gordon Spice and Chris Craft, the two cars between them have taken eight outright victories out of a possible ten in the Tricentrol series. Along with that, Spice, partnered by Belgian Teddy Pilette, recently won the prestigious Spa 24-hour race in Belgium, becoming the first Briton to win the race since it changed from a sports prototype to a saloon car series.
The two cars are prepared at Kirkbymoorside in the wilds of North Yorkshire by a preparation firm that was started, barely two years ago by racing driver Pete Clark and a mechanic friend of his, Dave Cook. Under the name of CC Racing Developments, the firm are beginning to develop an enviable reputation in the racing saloon world for meticulous preparation, organisation and planning. As a company they are young, ambitious and, judging by their recent results, they look to be going places.
Pete Clark, not to be confused with rally car preparation man Peter Clarke, has been racing cars for the past ten years. Starting with an 850c.c. Mini, in which he won his class in the Northern Saloon Car Championship, he quickly progressed to a Chevron-BMW B8 which enabled him to carry off the Northern Sports GT title. After a couple of successful years in a Crossle in Formula Ford — he won the Tate Trophy Northern FF Championship in 1974 he moved up into the world of Formula Three in 1975 with an ex-Tony Brise Modus M1. Here, however, he never really had the adequate finance to stay competitive with the works teams and the following season saw him switch to Group One saloon cars, where he raced for Stanley Robinson’s Wisharts Garages team in a Ford Capri alongside Gordon Spice.
The 1976 season was Spice’s second with the Wisharts team. He and Clark, who by now had been persuaded by Robinson to turn professional, achieved two resounding successes on foreign soil. At the Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium they finished fifth overall and won the Group One class in both the Coupes de Spa and, later, in the rather more prestigious Spa 24-hour race.
It was at this time that Clark became involved with Dave Cook, chief mechanic for the Wisharts team, and at the end of the season when Wisharts fell victim to financial problems, the two Yorkshiremen formulated the idea of setting up their own car preparation business. Cook, who had previously rallied various Minis, and Clark rented the West End workshops in Kirkbymoorside which had housed a crane workshop belonging to one of Clark’s early racing sponsors.
The project which got the company off the ground that first year was the preparation of Gordon Spice’s Capri, which wound up winning the big class in the British Saloon Car Championship. This achievement by Spice who, to begin with, was financing CC out of his own pocket, helped enormously to bring in further business and enabled Clark and Cook to stand on their own feet financially, even to the extent of being able to buy their premises.
For this season, apart from the two Autocar-backed Capris of Spice and Craft and the team spare, they have built six further Capris, including two for Ford of Belgium and the car which Jeff Allam races under the Allam Motor Services banner. This last car was built up from a I 600 shell modified to 3-litre specification in terms of strengthening and re-positioning of the transmission tunnel. Each car costs £12-14,000, normally built from a new, trimmed shell, and takes a staggering 540-550 hours to prepare. To run a car for a full British season and the Spa 24-hour race costs £25-30,000 each, so Group 1 can hardly be classed as an inexpensive class of racing.
The team used to rely upon engines from Racing Services, but now they use engines built up by Lincolnshire engine builder Nell Brown, who had previously supplied the power units for Clark’s Formula Three Modus. The engines cost £2,200 each and the team have eight on hand for Spice and Craft to use, each unit being rebuilt every four races, although for long-distance races they wisely rebuild before and after. The success of his engines in CC cars has brought Brown a queue of customers from other Capri racers.
After one or two gearbox problems early last Year, CC turned to Jeff Welsby of the Ford Motor Company for their transmission systems and since the switch, very few problems have been encountered with the boxes that Welsby builds up from Hewland bits in his spare time.
Modifications to the racing Capri engines allowed by the regulations include ported and polished cylinder heads, a modified inlet manifold, large inlet and exhaust valves, a camshaft ground from a raw casting, which has to conform to specified lift and timing, and Mahle pistons. Thus modified the V6 Essex unit produces somewhere in the region of 220 b.h.p. at 6,500-7,000 revolutions per minute. The gearbox, with Hewland parts, is close-ratio, all synchromesh.
A limited slip differential, an adjustable rear anti-roll bar, anti-dive front suspension and a choice of alternative axles for differing circuits, are all necessities, as of course is the fire extinguisher system.
The suspension is solid ball jointed at the front, the subject of a recent legality controversy Which the RAC has been slow to clarify. The big problem is the cross references with the rules that apply to the Trans-European series at the moment, and Clark is one of many actively involved with the British Group i series who would like to see the same rules apply for both the Championships. At the time of going to press it seems that ball-joints are to be accepted (they are already fitted to most of the front-running ears) in line with European regulations. Clark Sees them more as an essential for safety in view of the forces generated by the slick tyres and high cornering speeds than as a necessary aid to Performance, although they are worth a good second per lap.
The six-into-two-into-one exhaust systems are built up by the locally based Brian Martin, remembered as the builder and racer of some very attractive sports cars bearing his name in the sixties and early seventies, while most of the machining required is done by two local engineering firms.
In reply to cynics who query the advisability of CC’s remote location in Kirkbymoorside, Clark and Cook retort that although travelling costs are higher, overheads are low in relation to the space and facilities available, that Croft racing circuit is handy for testing and that the pace of life in their native region is much preferable to at farther south, where the majority of preparation specialists are based.
A rolling road has brought in good business on the road car tuning front to help cash flow: the CC team intend to expand this side of things and to utilise the experience gained at Wisharts on the high-performance road cars such as Porsches, by giving over the present workshops entirely to it. A new building is being constructed for race and rally car preparation.
Rally involvement would seem natural to this team based in the heart of some of Britain’s best forest stages, surrounded by evocative forest names such as Cropton, Dalby and Pickering. Clark and Cook intend to expand further into the rally preparation field. They have built a Group 1 and Group 4 Opel Kadett for local driver Mike Rawson and are in demand for fine tuning of locally based rally cars.
This season the team’s record has been almost totally impeccable. Counting Allam’s run-away victory at the British Grand Prix meeting, they have won nine out of the ten rounds of the RAC British Saloon Car Championship to date. The two best meetings for the CC cars themselves have been at Silverstone at the end of May, when Craft followed Spice home to earn a one-two, and at the Formula Two Donington Park meeting, where the positions were reversed and where the two cars won even more convincingly. The Spa triumph, where Teddy Pilette co-drove with Spice, was the icing on top of the cake, so to speak, and Pete Clark’s fourth place was an additional bonus.
Watching the Clark Cook team in action during practice for a Group 1 race is quite startling. The organisation is tight, with Clark and Cook. overseeing a team of half a dozen mechanics headed by the experienced Dave Thwaites. Nothing is left to chance, everything is double checked and even the engine builder Neil Brown is present at sonic of the races to offer advice and help. Their tyre changing is done with the minimum of fuss and unbeatable speed and efficiency.
So far this season, they have relied almost entirely on Goodyear rubber. Previously they always used Dunlop tyres, but the G57 that Goodyear have produced has always done the job required most effectively. At Spa, however, the Goodyears fell apart very quickly indeed during practice, and Dunlops had to be substituted in order to attain the grid starting positions, but they reverted back to suitably modified G57s for the race. At Donington recently the two red cars were fitted with Michelin tyres, but that was only because the Michelin intermediate tyre has so far proved to be supreme in damp, as opposed to wet, conditions.
Next season, CC Racing Developments will continue to build Group 1 Capris, which have every chance of remaining the most competitive cars in the British Saloon Car Championship. Clark himself has the urge to return to more active racing, in either Sports 2000 or the to-be-revived Formula Atlantic series. He sees it as an ideal way for his mechanics to learn about formula cars, another field into which he would like to extend the business. The pressing problem is always time and with the success Clark and Cook have made of 1978, they can anticipate having little of that precious facility next season. Success breeds success. and I think we shall be hearing a lot more about CC Racing Developments in the future. — M.C.S.
Motor sport is not opening its columns to charity appeals or ecclesiastical donations. But it has come to our notice that a particularly historic church, with motor-racing associations, is in need of restoration. We refer to St. Andrew’s Church, Shelsley Walsh, in the village where about the oldest motor-racing event in the World still continues to happen, and where the villagers are so tolerant of the noise and the traffic. From the 13th century this church has been linked with the Walsh family, who gave the Shelsleys their name (as High Sheriff Sir Richard Walsh was involved in the capture of the Gunpowder Plotters) and its nave dates back to the 12th century, the chancery to the early 13th century, the magnificent carved screen to the 15th century, etc. You can see the timber bellcote from the Shelsley Paddock, The Midland AC hopes to help save this church and show goodwill to the local Shelsley Walsh community. So donations please to F. J. Somers, Camp Farm, Gt. Willey, Worcs., or to the Vice-President of the MAC, G. Garman, Brinkhill Cottage, Shelsley Beauchamp, Worcs., crossing cheques “Shelsley Money Raisers” and mentioning Motor Sport. — W.B.