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National novelties: Ex-F1 engineer's Esprit and Fastest Mini in the World

From a mighty Lotus Esprit to some highly modified Minis and even a test run for the Nasamax LMP1 machine, there have been some unusual cars taking to the UK tracks recently

auto esprit for box 2

Esprit emerges: Howard-Chappell's return

Johnny Herbert’s 1992-93 Formula 1 Lotus engineer George Howard-Chappell raced his Esprit Turbo for the first time since 750 Motor Club Roadsports in 1994 in the Modern Classics contest at Donington Park last weekend.

Bought back from Nick Olson, it was rebuilt during COVID lockdowns. “The rain didn’t help us [he spun out after touching a McLeans kerb] but we’d give anybody a run for their money in the dry,” he said.

George’s stellar CV lists Lotus Engineering - developing Esprit GT2, Esprit V8 and Elise GT1 V8 - British Touring Cars with Honda, and 14 years at Prodrive spanning BTCC Ford Mondeo, Ferrari 550 Maranello and Aston Martin’s DBR9 V12 to prototypes. He now works for Multimatic Racing Europe.

Rare Alfa: Edmond's Junior Zagato

Edmond's Alfa is one of just a handful of examples in the world

Edmond's Alfa is one of just a handful of examples in the world

Photo by: Steve Jones

Homologated in 1969, Nick Edmond’s Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato 1300 is one of four known competizione JZs in the world and unique to the UK.

Based on a shortened Spider chassis with Zagato-designed body, the model was twice the price of a Jaguar E-type when launched!

It was found as a shell in Germany, and Edmond rebuilt it into a racer over 10 years at N-Sport Racing. He finished second in class, and 23rd overall, in the Group 1 Swinging Sixties race at Donington.

A national rally champion in the 1980s, driving a Rover Vitesse, Edmond also contested world championship events, retiring after the 1991 Swedish Rally. He took up racing aged 60 in the BMW Compact Cup before switching to the Alfa.

New Fastest Mini in the World: Billingham's Clubman

There was no stopping Billingham at the Mini Festival as he won both races

There was no stopping Billingham at the Mini Festival as he won both races

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

With Harvey Death's Rollcentre V8 Mini absent this year, there was a chance for a different machine to be crowned Fastest Mini in the World in the two races at Brands Hatch's Mini Festival last weekend.

That honour fell to Richard Billingham, whose two-litre Vauxhall VXR turbo-powered Austin Mini Clubman dominated both contests.

INSIGHT: Driving the Fastest Minis in the World with a Le Mans winner

In addition to showcasing some of the most powerful and highly modified Minis, the Fastest Mini in the World race also attracts drivers from around the world. Making his first appearance at Brands Hatch on Sunday was Sri Lankan Ashan Silva at the wheel of his two-litre Mini Spaceframe.

After qualifying on the front row for the first race, Silva claimed a podium finish in race one with third behind race regular Bill Richards (Maguire Mini Duratec Traveller).

Nasamax in action: An original LMP1

Hancock had a run in the car that first raced two decades ago as a Reynard

Hancock had a run in the car that first raced two decades ago as a Reynard

Photo by: Peter Scherer

Last raced at Spa in 2004, the Nasamax LMP1 car, which originally competed as a Reynard 01Q, had a test run at Donington Park at the end of last month in Sam Hancock’s hands.

The car tackled the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours with Robbie Stirling, Romain Dumas and Werner Lupberger using bioethanol, and set the fastest time of the weekend through the Mulsanne speed trap. The car was the first ever to be homologated for LMP1 in 2004 and now sports a 5.5-litre, 650bhp, Judd V10.

Stirling still owns the car, which was also driven by his son Dean later in the test.

Hancock also had a run out in the ex-DAMS Lola B98/10 that took four wins in the 1999 Sports Racing World Cup, and has been in a museum since 2002.

Pics of the week:

Andrew Jordan (l) and Nick Padmore get a little too close at Brands Hatch in their Mini Miglia battle

Andrew Jordan (l) and Nick Padmore get a little too close at Brands Hatch in their Mini Miglia battle

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Geoff Beale gets sideways in his Talbot Sunbeam Lotus at Donington Park

Geoff Beale gets sideways in his Talbot Sunbeam Lotus at Donington Park

Photo by: Steve Jones

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