The first instalment of a new series following Alasdair Stables and his Retropower built Chevette HSR as they compete in the Motorsport News Circuit Championship. First up, an eventful visit to Cadwell Park
Motorsport, as the old adage goes, is a risky business, and while the threat to life and limb has (mercifully) been drastically reduced thanks to advances in roll-cages, infrastructure and other, essential developments, going flat-out in a car – your car – still comes with some pretty hefty potential implications for your wallet.
Alasdair Stables, the owner of the Retropower built Chevette HSR probably knows this better than most, he and the wide-arched Vauxhall having endured an eventful weekend at Cadwell Park.
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty (grit being the operative word) of the incident which lead to the somewhat second-hand looking tarmac icon you now see before you, it’s probably worth scrolling back to both the build of the car itself, and how it came to be at Cadwell Park on a gold, windswept November morning.
Alasdair’s Chevette grew from a long held obsession with Group 4 Chevettes, specifically those HSRs campaigned in wide-arch tarmac trim in the early ‘80s, when the DTV cars were fighting tooth and nail against an ever rising tide of newer, more sophisticated and better funded rivals. The younger Alasdair vowed that he’d own a similarly wide Chevette of his own in time, even going so far as to source and secure the extra wide kit and wheels such a car would inevitably demand.
Fast forward several decades, a number of garages and a hefty financial investment, and Alasdair finally had his dream, Retropower built Chevette. You likely already know the core of its towering spec, though highlights include the Exxon Race Engines built 2.3 Redtop, Sadev sequential transmission, four-linked rear end and Life Racing electronic control suite. It’s a Chevette HSR right enough, but not one the likes of Russell Brookes and Tony Pond would have recognised.
Perhaps the best aspect of this particular Chevette is the fact that its owner has never made any secret of his intention of using it in the manner in which it was intended, and as such this year car signed up to partake in the MSN Circuit Championship, with Alasdair’s friend Neil Jones ‘on the notes.’
The first round was at Oulton Park, whereupon the Chevette drew admiring glances from all corners of the paddock, both through the committed (read sideways) style of its driver, and because it stood out amongst the massed ranks of Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts. Alasdair and Neil drove a steady event to come home in 37th overall and 11th in class, albeit still ahead of more experienced crews in more powerful cars.
The second and also latest round of the MSN Circuit Championship saw the two Scots line-up at the UK’s ‘mini Nurburgring,’ Cadwell Park. It’s a circuit not to be trifled with, with a reputation to match…and so it proved.
Disaster struck on the Stage 1, with the Chevette only managing one complete loop beforehand. Flat out and thundering down the reverse running of Park Straight in thick fog, the pairing encountered car 43, Renault Clio of Mike Smith and Richard Glew, bouncing back onto the track after a nasty impact with the Armco under braking, and bringing a selection of lorry tyres with it.
Left with precious little time in which to take avoiding action and with sodden, ultra slippy grass on either side of him, Alasdair kept to the middle of the track. Doing so prevented the Chevette from coming anywhere near the stricken Clio now pirouetting its way to the outside of the circuit, but left him with no recourse other than to hit one, massive truck tyre. The impact shattered the front bodykit and broke the steering and suspension, but both Alasdair and Neil emerged unscathed.
While clearly no blame can be attributed to the Chevette crew whatsoever, the incident doubtless left a sour taste, largely as it brought the pair’s outing to an unsatisfactory, premature conclusion.
“The impact smashed the front bodywork and damaged the left-front suspension – we were flat out in 5th, remember,” explained Alasdair. “Hopefully we won’t be out of action and will be back for the remainder of the championship. It’s also worth remembering that this is our first DNF in seven events, and the disappointment is tempered by the incident having been completely unavoidable.”
We’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the strip-down and recommissioning of the Chevette, as well as details of how it, Alasdair and Neil get on in the remaining rounds of the MSN Championship.