With some quiet time I acquired a R8 for myself and started my own racing car. I could not do it with my Gordini because that is the only one in NZ. We have heard of another one somewhere but nobody has seen it. So the next best thing was to do a Gordini replica. I got the car for $80.00 and it was still in a running condition although not registered. The process began and it was slow. About 4 years in total before I had it on a track.
First it was stripped to a bare shell without doors, fenders, engine or suspension. Then I scraped every little bit of underseal off with a putty knife and hot air gun. That was made easier by turning the car on its side and lying on old tyres.
The suspension was prepared with new “Nylatrol” bushes handmade by myself for the wishbones. I drilled the holes with an offset from center and now the front camber can be adjusted in minutes. The diff was locked by adding 2 extra planetary gears inside the casing and then the car was turned back onto its wheels.
I now started with the roll cage. In NZ a roll cage needs to comply with International rules and all roll cages has to pass an inspection and then it is supplied by a certification number that has to be displayed on the cage itself. With the help of Ross we built it and got it certified for just over $200.00. Compare that to a minimum charge of $1500.00 at engineering shops NZ wide.
The engine build was next and I prepared a Gordini race motor with all the spares brought in from SA. Eventually it was complete with 12.5:1 Compression Ratio, RA5 cam with variable valve timing (manually). A tailor made exhaust manifold to calculated specs and I ventured into the computer world by building a computerized ignition system for it. This allows me to jump into the car and program and download different ignition advance curves as well as rev limiter and shift light options with my laptop.
Painting began and I sprayed it Gordini blue of course! After that the final touches such as racing seats and a new steering wheel etc began to take shape and finally I got it roadworthy. This car is now street legal.
The 1st event (a hill climb) ended in a disaster when I spun and ended in a sandbank bending chassis, suspension and body. It took me about a month for the repairs and I then decided to do track events only. At least you have run off areas if your head loses you and you exceed your abilities!
After 2 years of fun and the last year racing in a series called ERC (European Racing Cars), I had one bad race where a blocked silencer and eventually a valve seat that came out caused me a DNF. Recently I modified the brakes and the fronts are now upgraded to 16TS brakes. What a difference that made! I improved my best lap times instantaneously with a whole second. There are a few pictures of the building process in the picture gallery.
At the same time I decided to start this project, Johan said that he would like to join me and we can have two identical cars on the track. What a pleasure! So he started work on his but with a difference. He already had a R8 that was road registered and it was basically an everyday driver. So his development started of as a road going car and gradually turning it into a race car.
His first change was a hotter engine and he managed to get hold of an old R12 motor. This was a 1300cc engine. We did a few calculations and increased the very low 8.5:1 compression ratio to a more respectable 10.5:1 and we used one of the RA5 cams we had brought with to NZ. He took the flywheel to work and cut it down to the bare minimum and found a single side draught Weber with an Alconi branch. This was a magic little car and for a few events he enjoyed it thoroughly. Then some more upgrading was needed as you would expect because man can never be quick enough. I gave him an old set of racing tyres I had and maybe not thinking it through well enough, he set of to the track again but this time with catastrophic engine failure. The sump wasn't baffled yet and with the increased grip the oil ran away from the pickup and oil surge cost him the engine.
In the meantime he had the makings of a Gordini engine lying in the garage that was a present from Harry. So the time arrived for him to build a Gordini engine for his car. In between all this we built a roll cage as well because it was going to be a full-on race car from now on.
This had some teething trouble but all was sorted in the end and we are now enjoying the cars with all the woes of racing thrown in as well. It is so much fun!
With my car completed we started doing the same events and although we do not always stay together in the races it is a nice sight to see the two cars on the track. Renault has always been much smaller in NZ and it is the first time in many years a Renault is seen on the track, never mind two of them.
My cars Reg no: FB 7210 and Johan's EN 7086