Question 8: Hi Phil! Whatever happened to that SR3 turbo project you guys had going on in early 2000’s? I know one of these cars was used the first time a Radical broke the Nürburgring track record, but there is very little information currently available about these cars. Thanks, Robert L. (@lunatic)
Wow! Those were crazy days, we did not know enough, but, we made up with commitment, determination, focus and sheer obstinacy.
There is a lovely paragraph in one of the Bruce McLaren books, pure basic reality and honesty – when Bruce was asked by a journalist, what changed, from early days of their Can-Am journey when they could not qualify for a race, to the point they were 1 & 2 in every race for 18 months. He Was quoted as saying, “When we first came here, we did not know enough to make a proper race car – and, now we do “! It’s very true, and we were 100 steps down from there!
We made 6 – 10 Turbo cars? Barry Smith at Ultra Smith in NY and then Florida had 2-3 , John Morris from Spring Mountain had more probably.
The image below, at NBR in Germany, under the easy-up awning, sitting in the black turbo car Is the immortal Verge (Michael Vergers), to the left of the car is Vincent Rassat , a young French engineering masters graduate who worked with me for 10+ years on and off, we did the turbo together and then the SR9 LMP2. Vinnie later went to McLaren as production engineer on the 570 line. To the rear of the car Is Gavin Nightingale, our lead car engineer at the time again 10 years on and off, having done Le Mans many times Gavin now runs his own carbon production and repair shop. Yours truly is in the Always understated red shirt… Beside me the journalist who covered the story of Phil Bennet (then touring car driver) driving the Nord Schleif.
I remember the return trip in my motor home (behind in the picture), laughing So hard as Verge drove at 85mph whilst I cooked and served chicken Korma and rice. Verge wanted to inspect the softness otherwise of the rice before I stopped cooking. We stopped to eat, and started laughing (I have an outrageously weird giggly laugh) the other two fell out of the door onto the grass, our sides were hurting, no idea what we were laughing at – probably me!
The black car was a real prototype. Like a lot of the projects, we consulted ‘experts ‘- this time in turbo charging, when it didn’t work how it was intended, we just cracked on learned some more and made it work. We could not control the boost through the whole Rev range, we could not cool intake charge temperature enough (familiar story) but at least we were measuring it! You see in the photos just the edge of a yellow Sr3 road car, we tested a lot on the road (I mean a crazy amount). Thinking of Nürburgring record performance, Vinnie and I would blast up and down the Queens highway, in that black and gold car, late at night to find deserted carriageway if possible, Vinnie, in passenger seat, with a lap top plugged into ECU, I would continually go to 5-6th gear then roll onto full throttle hold it as long as was safe, to try to nail it down to 1 bar, load on road was much different to dyno, what we didn’t know we made up with effort and trial and error (I have to say, when it constantly went over boost , 15-18lbs , 350 hp, 1200lbs, 60-160 mph came up very Very quickly, wheel spin was wild)
Vinnie spoke 3 languages, and a 4th used to appear over 150 mph, or in one instance in the cold rain, (I used to wear my motorcycle gear) we got full sideways trying boost control, whilst overtaking an innocent shopper, and as I was thinking “I have run out of talent here“ the car snapped straight again! Definitely protected from above by a higher power and ability. Vinnie’s 4th language kicked in, “we had a big tail fish! Did we? “- we were ready! (or so we believed)
When we arrived at NBR, they wanted shot photos in the town driving through, the record attempt was 4-5pm, so I talked Bennet through the controls, pointed out all the cooling pumps, switches, flaps, controls, resets, and safeties (he wasn’t listening). So, Phil Bennet and the journalist went to drive round local town and take photos. On the return journey, – late – he forgot to switch electric cooling pumps on! After several miles as it was getting hot, so just before arriving back, and fearing my wrath, he found the pump switches, when he switched it on the boiling water and steam in the block and head arrived in the large thin radiator and instantly turned it the shape of a melon! No worries, only 25 min to go before the most important lap we had done, and someone sent us a muppet!?
After initial shock, it actually was not leaking (more lozenging). Phil B. said – what do we do?
So I explained, he now has only one lap, and about halfway round that, it’s highly likely head gasket may be on it’s way south, it’s going to be getting hot, probably trying it’s best to detonate piston crowns clean off, I want you to do best touring car driver impression and completely ignore all warnings and keep your foot planted because you won’t get a second lap. I can do that, he said! Verge chased him in a standard road Sr3 for first part of lap, just wearing beach shorts a deck shoes! In case the turbo failed, so that we get some time indicated, but let him go when it looked that the engine would hold together!
And so it was, one lap, lap record, no wonder we laughed till we cried on way back.
That subsequent production 6-10 replicas, mostly went to states
If you need a turbo busa today, for a car installation, best by far is Rich Webb at RLM in UK, Rich had 10+ years in Powertec before starting RLM, very powerful, reliable, adjustable and drivable, another world from what we had, quite remarkable what rich has done