Unipart’s Metro Challenge
One-make racing has become tremendously popular in recent years with international Grand Prix meetings graced by the “Procar” series for 3.5-litre BMW M1s, attracting a healthy contingent of Grand Prix stars, which gave way to the European series for Renault 5 turbos. Italian national racing has its Alfasud challenge, inevitably providing a 25-car nose-to-tail convoy of battered and tattered FWD ‘Suds, while the Germans used to have their “Opel Polkas” for Opel coupes and Britain’s club racing scene has been graced by hectic Ford Fiesta and Renault 5 contests over the past few seasons. And now Unipart has introduced the Metro challenge, a 15 event series of club events for Leyland’s much-talked about FWD baby. Thanks to the generosity of Unipart, AH was recently not only educated to the ways of the Metro challenge, but invited to participate in one of the races in a car provided by the series’ sponsor for this purpose.
The basic Metro package consists of the 1.3-litre saloon conforming with normal and straightforward RAC regulations as far as safety requirements are concerned; that includes a roll cage and fire extinguisher. The exterior profile has to remain unaltered although a Unipart front spoiler can be fitted and the seats and other interior trim can he removed. Power comes from the normal 1293 cc engine with a big valve cylinder head, fitted with a special racing camshaft specially developed for the series and a twin choke downdraught Weber carburetter. Lightening and balancing of rotating parts is permitted and power outputs of around 100 bhp are being produced, a surplus of almost 40 bhp over the standard specification car. A four speed gearbox with close ratio straight-cut gears and a limited slip differential transmit the power through 12 x 5 aluminium alloy wheels shod with Dunlop slicks which have been specially evolved for the Unipart Metro Challenge.
Unipart have gone to great lengths to make certain that competitors in their Metro Challenge can obtain spares and components, not surprisingly perhaps when one considers the advertising claims propounded by this particular sponsor in the course of its normal advertising programme! After a number of competitors expressed some concern regarding the delay in obtaining some parts for their Metros, Unipart initiated a system of emergency parts supply which should enable competitors to obtain replacement components within 24 hours of ordering them through a BL Parts Wholesaler.
The other interesting thing is the way in which the challenge organisers have liaised closely with the competitors to “fine tune” the regulations as minor problems are encountered racing these Metros during their first season. For example, it was decided to permit the installation of an engine steadying bar between the engine and bodyshell since many competitors complained of considerable engine judder during racing starts. New ducting to keep the front brakes cool is being developed and it was heartening to read the uncomplicated words in the official Unipart Metro Challenge bulletin, “As the majority of competitors wish ducting of the brakes to be allowed, the regulations will be amended accordingly … ” Seems to us that the people who influenced the Concorde Agreement for Formula One would have been well advised to follow similar philosophies!
On the track “our” Metro proved enormous fun. During practice an incorrectly fitted fuel filler cap resulted in petrol sloshing out over the right rear wheel which made the left hand approach to Snetterton’s Esses a pretty fraught affair, to say the least. Even allowing for AH’s indifferent driving the Metro understeered rather too much for his taste, so alterations to the rear camber angles between practice and the race were carried out. This made it feel much better in the race from a handling point of view, but since the engine spluttered ignominiously at the start, AH viewed the entire event from the back of the field. The race itself was a fraught and pretty spectacular affair with plenty of the old Mini racing exponents displaying their lurid style at the front of the pack. That didn’t concern Motor Sport’s man, however, who finished last, rather more impressed with the general camaraderie of the Unipart Metro challenge than the onlookers were with his driving!
The Ford Motor Company has spent some £50 million over the last year or so in improving the Granada range, and improve it they certainly have. Most marked changes are in the suspension settings, which have been completely revised to give the car an improved ride and considerably better handling. A new power steering assembly has been used, the braking system has been revised throughout, the clutch operation is different on manual cars to provide belter feel for less effort, the gear ratios on the smaller engined cars have been spaced wider and the controls and instruments have been updated and are now much more ergonomically satisfactory. The basic body shape remains the same, but one or two exterior trim details, such as new front grille, new tail-lamp clusters and wide section bumpers distinguish the new generation Granadas from those which first appeared in 1977. Deep spoilers are fitted to the “sporting” Granada, the 2.8 injection version, and the example of this model which we drove recently had a superbly comfortable, multi-adjustable seat – this new feature is available on all models as an option. An already good large saloon car has been made even belter.
The end of BRM
We called in at Bourne in Lincolnshire recently, to visit the old BRM works, and found a lot of activity in progress. Not preparing for a forthcoming season of Grand Prix racing, but the final clear-up preparatory to the disposal of all the remaining factory racing cars and all the paperwork, drawings, race records etc. The remains of BRM and all the buildings are owned by Rubery Owen Ltd of Darlaston, and they have instructed Christie’s Auctions to dispose of everything movable, while the buildings and factory site are to be sold later on.
Christie’s will be holding an auction sale of all the BRM assets in conjunction with the Motorfair to be held at Earls Court in October. There are eleven BRM racing cars coming up for sale, together with numerous exhibition stands of engines, superchargers, gearboxes and so on, and they will all be on view on a special stand at the Motorfair. During the Earls Court exhibition the auction sale will be held, presided over by the Hon Patrick Lindsay. The eleven cars will make a remarkable exhibition on their own, for they comprise one Mk 1 BRM V-16, the original supercharged 1½-litre that started the BRM saga; two of the Mark 2 short-wheelbase “sprint” versions of the V-16; a 2½-litre front-engined 4 cylinder P25; a rear-engined 21/2-litre P48; a rear-engined 1½-litre V8; an H-16 Formula 1 car of 1966, and four versions of the 3-litre V-12 cars, a P139, a P153, a P160 and a P180. Of this remarkable list of historic racing cars all but four will be in full working order, the four non-runners will be in “exhibition trim” which is to say that they will be complete but probably will not have any internals in the engines. These will be one of the Mark 2 supercharged V-16s, the P48 rear-engined 4 cylinder, the 3-litre H-16 and the monocoque PI60.
While the supercharged V-16 cars are the most exotic and probably the most “collectable” the really interesting one is the front-engined 21/2-litre P25, for this is the car that won the Dutch GP in 1959.and it has never left the factory. It will be in 1966-7 full working order, literally like new, and ready to take part in Historic racing immediately. If ever a car is unique this one is, for it is the only genuine P25 in the world. All the other P25 cars were chopped up and used as the basis for the rear-engined P48 cars, and in recent years various people have made new versions using various BRM components. The car in the auction still has the original magnesium body panels and the original chassis made of special high-grade tubing, whereas the four copies that exist are not to the same specifications, even though they look rght, but none were built in the BRM factory.
This collectton of BRM racing cars covers Grand Prix racing from 1949 to 1972 and embraces four different Formulae for F1. It would be nice to think that the nation might buy the lot and put them on display in the Science Museum or in the National Motor Museum, but it seems that they are more likely to be scattered to the winds as far away as California and Japan.