Despite the UK’s plethora of one-make championships, David Finlay finds that the Ginetta G27 series has strong arguments to justify its launch
One-make race series can be a bit hit-or-miss. Having fluttered around the outskirts of several which either didn’t work very well, ‘or perished in awful agonies well before the first round, I’m always a bit wary when yet another of the blighters is announced. But there’s no doubt that they can be very successful.
Ford, for example, has been running one-make series since the early days of the Roman Occupation, and Rover has quite an impressive background, too, From the fact that two such big players in the industry are involved it’s clear that there is a major commercial thing going on here manufacturer draws attention to new model by building race championship around it, punters see new model on track and promptly buy vast numbers thereof.’
It might be imagined that this would work only for the mass market, but then you come across the likes of TVR. A very large part of TVR’s current success must surely be attributable to the publicity created by the Tuscan championship. Even though the present day Tuscan (as opposed to the 1960s version) has never been available as a road car, the enormous amount of coverage it has generated for the parent company can only have helped sales of Griffiths, Chimeras and what not. Likewise Caterham, which seems to have nearly as many one-make series as it has versions of the road car.
So the principle seems to work for small-scale British manufacturers as well as for large-scale international ones. The latest of the former to become involved is Ginetta, which has created a series around its G27 sports car for the usual reason, namely that it wants to become better known.
Following normal one-make policy, the cars are supplied with identical engines (1800cc Ford Zetec in roughly Fiesta RS1800 trim, and therefore producing about 130bhp), gearboxes (five-speed Ford with Tran-X gear clusters) and tyres, which come from series sponsor Bridgestone. A certain amount of chassis adjustment is available, but nothing which would ever convince you that these were anything other than modified road cars.
The whole package costs £15,000 plus VAT and that includes the entry fees for all nine of this year’s events. Plus the cars are road legal, which is very rarely the case with one-make racers in this price range.
Another fairly standard aspect of the championship is the existence of a factory-prepared car available for the use of the motoring press. After factory engineer Duncan Campbell had taken the reins in the non-championship curtain raiser at Snetterton, the car was allocated to me for the inaugural points-scoring contest, at Castle Combe.
At this point I should really launch into a description of how the car handled, but on this occasion it would perhaps be fairer not to. The ‘guest’ G27 is in one sense the least important car in the championship, since it is the only one that nobody has bought from the factory. All the others have been paid for, and it is naturally important for Ginetta to keep its customers. Apart from tyre testing, therefore, not a lot of development has gone into it, and at Combe it was also the one that received the least attention from Ginetta’s mechanics, who were quite understandably spending a lot of time fettling the other cars.
All this represents one possible explanation for why I spent the whole race floundering around in ninth. Another is that I just can’t drive, but since I won my class at another event a fortnight later I submit that this is not the case. Or at least, God help me, I hope it isn’t.
Although I didn’t have much of a day as far as competition was concerned (I’m afraid I got into a bit of a cream puff about it all, but the Ginetta people were terribly nice about it), I did at least get a chance to see whether or not the series is working. At that early stage it seemed to be going fine. It’s pitched quite firmly at the amateur racer rather than the would-be Le Mans contender, and that’s exactly the sort of person that has tended to be drawn into the fold.
The Castle Combe entry ranged from the serious-but-not-obsessed, through the going-for-a-good-day-out, to the not-sure-if -this-was-sucha-good-idea. Even the members of this last group are likely to find more help and encouragement than they would in the more professional one make classes. The amateur spirit (and by amateur I mean ‘doing it for fun rather than the sadly more common ‘incompetent’) of the series creates a good-humoured atmosphere which can be shown most effectively by citing the example of Graham Morris, a former Caterham driver who led the field home both at Combe and in the nonchampionship race at Snetterton.
According to the series regulations Morris earned himself £200 for each victory, but he has requested that all the prize money he wins this year which, if he continues on current form, will be prodigious be sent straight to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital instead. When this was announced at the Combe prize giving it prompted a hearty burst of applause, in which you may feel you now wish to join.
Thank you. Numbers in the G27 series appear to be rising fast, with 11 cars in evidence at Snetterton, 15 at Combe and, last time I asked, more than twenty subsequently. In fact, by the time you read this, everybody will probably have one, including you.
On the evidence so far, I can only hope that the thing continues to succeed. It is by no means a deeply earnest way of going motor racing you wouldn’t use it as part of your career path into Touring Cars, for instance but there is definitely a place for it in what occasionally seems to be an increasingly sombre and stuffy sport.