Chevron's answer to Ferrari's 458

Opinions

“He just won’t stop fiddling with things,” says Chevron Cars Ltd. owner David Witt. He’s talking about ex-BTCC and Le Mans driver Anthony Reid who’s putting the Chevron GT3 car through its paces at Donington.

Today is a day for Reid to get a taste of the new Chevron-built V8 engine, not to be playing with the setup, which has been optimised for ham-fisted journalists. Reid can’t help himself, though; he’s a racing driver and always looking for lap time.

The ham-fisted journalists include myself, here to see the Chevron GT3 in the flesh for the first time and to get an idea of what it’s like on track. Donington Park is as cold as it’s been all year and the biting wind pushes us into the Chevron truck. The team is busy changing over fuel pumps – this is the test and development machine – and we need no more excuse to get into the warmth.

“The whole objective with getting this car to customers is to follow along the same lines as [late Chevron founder] Derek Bennett,” says Witt. “OK, we don’t want to live in the past, but we want to reflect on the heritage, reflect on the DNA. He made cars to take on Ferrari and Porsche at a price that made racing more affordable. Chevrons were always terrific value and very competitive. We want to do exactly the same, we want to develop a car that can take on the Ferrari 458s.”

That’s what this arm of Chevron has been doing for the past two years – in 2012 the car blitzed various rounds of the GT Cup and then won the Goodwood Festival of Speed. This year hasn’t been so easy – after a switch from a V8 to a V6 – but the team is optimistic for next year. It’s looking at the GT Cup again, possibly some VLN rounds, Goodwood and also British GT.

The latter is proving difficult, though. “The only series we can’t compete in, although we can enter, is British GT,” says Witt. “Which I find amazing with a British car… Where we’ve got the problem is the British homologation. We’re working towards it for next year, though and we’re confident we’ll get it.”

To start with the authorities complained Chevron didn’t have a road car – now it does and one example is doing its first laps on a circuit today in the hands of Reid. However, it uses a 2-litre engine rather than a V8 like its racing cousin – this was also picked up on so Witt is sorting that as well. “We’ll play that game and we’ll get there.”

The Chevron GT3 machine is a potent package now that it has a V8 behind the driver. The plan is to sell the customer cars for £175,000 (rather than the £300,000 plus you’ll need to pay for a McLaren) and once homologation has been issued; it’ll no doubt be a popular package.

By the time Reid and regular driver Jordan Witt have done a few laps in the car it’s time for lunch. No one complains too much as the icy wind is still picking up and lunch means another stint in the warm confines of the truck. Lunch over and we emerge to find a wet track and light rain – it’s not great news, especially for me as, being 6’ 7”, I can hardly operate the Chevron’s pedals…

It’s not a particularly small racer, but my two slow laps to get a feel for it have now become two laps trying not to crash. It’s not a position journalists particularly like finding themselves in. Especially when their motor racing peak came in a round of the Piaggio Ape World Championship.

Soon enough I’m strapped in and my racing slippers are on the garage floor (giving my feet a bit more movement around the pedal box) and I’m peeling out of the pitlane with the car juddering under low revs.

It turns out that being able to fit into a car properly is quite important. A matter which is compounded when I try and accelerate out of Old Hairpin only to find myself spinning gracefully down the straight. What I thought was a light touch of the throttle turned out to be more of a Mike Tyson punch. Tail between my legs, I returned to the pits after one lap.

It’s an unfair test of a clearly competitive car and I hope you’ll forgive me for not commenting on how it drives here. Reid is hugely excited about the project, as are father and son David and Jordan Witt, and that’s enough for us to hope that it gets the British homologation. A British garagiste competing with the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and Mercedes in British GT would be a great thing to see. What is it about us Brits and underdogs?

You can see all of Chevron’s cars at this year’s Autosport International on January 9-12, 2014.
For more information on Chevron Cars you can visit www.chevrongtcars.com

More on GT racing
Bentley GT3 shows potential
FIA GTs in Azerbaijan
Johnny Mowlem: RAM Racing
Oliver Gavin: the end of an era

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