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Wednesday 18th August 2010

Driven: Chevron GR8 Racer

Caterham Academy boy Riggers gets a go in a 'serious' racing car


The GR8 in action at Thruxton (Riggers not included)
The GR8 in action at Thruxton (Riggers not included)

'It's as fast as an F430 Challenge racer, if you push it.' That's not necessarily the sort of thing you want to hear as you get into a brand-new car on an entirely unfamiliar circuit, but that's what the chap who straps me into a red and very racy-looking Chevron GR8 - the new one-make racer from the company famed for its 1960s sports car club racers - tells me. Just before he shuts the door and sends me out onto the new Silverstone south circuit in thick track day traffic.


The GR8 might be as quick as far more expensive GT racers, but its ethos is to provide pukka sports car racing enjoyment at a fraction of the price. As a result, The GR8 might have Ferrari pace, but it has a most un-Ferrari cost - initial cars were offered at £49,500 plus VAT, although this has now been raised 'slightly'.

There's no slick GT car glamour about the construction of the GR8, however. True to its club racing aspirations, the GR8 is all about function over form. Underneath its workmanlike GRP body (think of a two-thirds-scale McLaren F1 GTR crossed with a 60s sports car and you'll get a sense of how it looks) is an aluminium 'semi-monocoque' sill and platform mated to a full roll cage, with steel spaceframe box sections front and rear. In other words a classic racing car construction.


The authentic racing feel continues when you actually get strapped into the GR8. Fit and finish were - quite rightly for a racing car - clearly quite a long way down the priority list for Chevron. You can see daylight in places between the door and body, the seat is mostly finished in duct-tape (with a couple of foam cushions for a short a*se like me), and bare metal and GRP abound. But far from being a bad thing this actually adds to the atmosphere. The message is clear: you are in this thing to drive fast, not to pose. Quite right, too.

I twist the ignition cut-off switch and thumb the starter button (unlike on road cars, starter buttons are no gimmick; if you spin mid-race and stall, you don't want to be mucking around looking for keys and ignition barrels). The 2.0-litre Cosworth BYD coughs into life and settle into a buzzy, business-like idle.


Pushing the stubby sequential gear lever forward to make sure it's in first I give the stiff throttle pedal a good prod to make sure I get plenty of revs (better to over-rev a little than to stall a racing car in the middle of a busy paddock) and trundle out towards the circuit.

In truth the drivetrain is tight but not too tricky, and the GR8 proves quite docile as we queue up to join the circuit. Eventually I'm waved out onto Silverstone's Tarmac and get a chance to open up the 255bhp mid-mounted engine.

I've been told not to worry about revving it hard as there's a limiter at around 8000rpm to stop me doing bad things to the Cosworth motor - and that the engine doesn't really get going until 5000rpm. So I do what I've been told and hold on to the revs before knocking the Hewland straight-cut gearbox up another gear. There's a lot of noise and vibration - and the four-pot won't win any prizes for its singing voice, but boy can it chuck plastic and metal along the road once it's going.


It's a good thing, therefore, that you can really stamp on the brakes - especially since it takes me at least four laps to have any clear idea of which way the corners go. The firm middle pedal is also ideal for a spot of (inept) heel-and-toeing, and banging down through a couple of gears has a very satisfying braking-for-the-Mulsanne-corner sort of a feel to it.

Once you're in a corner, the GR8 proves tenaciously grippy - even with road-going but track-oriented Toyos on the car. A test at Anglesey circuit subsequent to our test has had the GR8 lapping six seconds quicker with slicks, too, so the grip levels of a slick-shod car must be truly astounding.


There's none of the edginess that you would expect to get in a mid-engined racing car, however - the GR8 feels planted and neutral, with a whiff of understeer (though presumably this is largely so numpties like myself don't bend Chevron's test car). The low-geared steering is a bit of a surprise, though; tight corners get you flailing at the steering wheel far more than I had expected.

After a few laps I begin to learn where the circuit goes, and begin to feel just how heavily you can lean on the little Chevron. Once you trust that the car isn't going to throw you off the track, that claim about being as fast as a Ferrari 430 Challenge is perfectly believable. There's certainly not much on this track day that could keep up with the little GR8.

At the moment the Chevron is being raced in its own one-make series, but a pair of cars have been entered for the Britcar 24-hour endurance race in October, and tweaks are being made to the car to allow it to go GT4-spec racing. In the medium term, Helen and Vin Malkie - the couple behind the GR8 - have plans to create a track-day spec car, and there's even the possibility of a limited series of road cars, although that's a long way off yet.

In the meantime there's only one question: can we have one?

Thruxton photos: Derek John Binsted



   
   
   


Riggers
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Author Discussion

A Scotsman

Original Poster:

969 posts

86 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
So is this Chevron's answer to the Ginetta G50? It's a very pretty car and sounds as if its about the same price as a G50. Be very interesting to do a head to head between the two!

xr287

850 posts

67 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
A Scotsman said:
So is this Chevron's answer to the Ginetta G50? It's a very pretty car and sounds as if its about the same price as a G50. Be very interesting to do a head to head between the two!
This is exactly what I was going to ask. Is there any head to head info on them?

I take it the G50 might be faster as it is GT4 spec straight from factory but this isn't?

rhinochopig

17,102 posts

85 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
I'm quite smitten with this car - I think the stylist has done a lovely job. Visually it works well from all angles, and I'm sure the road car will be a success.

255bhp for blown 2.0 is one very low-stressed engine. I suspect if you don't hit anyone, it could prove a very cheap way to go racing.

dinkel

22,629 posts

145 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
Cracking car, cracking price tag, cracking opportunity to deliver road legal boy racers.

Can't wait to see the first batch and the mags roadtests.

The 2 litre could be poked for 400 brake I'm sure. Imagine . . .

'Ring lap anyone?

MrTappets

813 posts

78 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
Scrolling down the pics, I was quite prepared for it to be really ugly from the back, but lo and behold it looks fantastic, and original. I really like the tail lamp treatment. Overall, very clean; strikes me as a sort of mini F40.
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A Scotsman

Original Poster:

969 posts

86 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all

Chris71

20,749 posts

129 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
The really impressive thing is that Chevron turned up at Autosport, said they were going to have it on the grid by May (IIRC) and a lot of people secretly went "course you are..." But it happened. The race series is up and running and the car is a real quality product too.

jackbarclay

24 posts

65 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
"...braking-for-the-Mulsanne-corner sort of a feel..."

I wonder how many other websites would give us such a perfect description.

Mark Benson

3,149 posts

156 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
Saw them when we were racing at Croft a couple of months ago, they had Mark Hales guest driving and lap times were OK, but not spectacular. The race series wasn't particularly well supported (I think there were 8 cars out, not sure how many were factory cars) but it's early days and I do hope they attract entrants.

However, they're pitched (as some have mentioned) right into Ginetta G50's territory and the G50s have the advantage of excellent TV coverage (important when sponsors are so hard to come by), feeder series and a fantastic factory support. On questioning, the Chevron guy we spoke to seemed to confirm similar costs for a season's racing, so they may struggle to get numbers.

Having said that, they look fantastic and as an alternative to the Evora, could make an interesting road car, I suppose it depends how they balance road car fit and finish and weight saving as to whether the power to weight will be enough to tempt away Porsche buyers.

I do hope it works for them, the car looks superb and up close the attention to detail is excellent, you can see it was designed from the ground up with quality components and construction.

GTRene

9,049 posts

111 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
lovely car, hope to see the road version soon...but as I read it could take another year or 2?

anyway best of luck with the lovely car and brand.
oh, and make some LHD please biggrin
GTRene

slikrs

113 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
I don't believe it's blown, it's Cosworths Duratec YD mid range lump according to Cosworth and other press releases. They do a ~300bhp 2 litre version but from memory that's 11K ish. But there's a nice 250bhp 2.3 which is a nice option...

I like that engine and being a mass produced lump it's going to be better value to maintain and there are other tuning options (Mountune etc) should you stray from Cosworth.

dinkel

22,629 posts

145 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
A Scotsman said:
"The GR8 also has an element of practicality – something that Lotus ignored for a long time, at some cost to its sales. Crucially, the GR8 is easy even for tall, older and anything but slim drivers to enter and exit. Since many potential owners able to afford the car would fall into those categories, accessibility was a vital part of the design brief, according to Martin O’Connell, Chevron’s chief engineer and test driver."

Right! The Evora is a totally different car BTW . . . IMO.

soad

20,000 posts

63 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
Good write up, feeling that. thumbup

Car looks damn good to me, always maintained that too.

SleeperCell

5,591 posts

129 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
article said:
(think of a two-thirds-scale McLaren F1 GTR crossed with a 60s sports car and you'll get a sense of how it looks)
or just look at the pictures hehe

bencollins

1,730 posts

92 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
MrTappets said:
Scrolling down the pics, I was quite prepared for it to be really ugly from the back, but lo and behold it looks fantastic, and original. I really like the tail lamp treatment. Overall, very clean; strikes me as a sort of mini F40.
+1
neat

The Crack Fox

10,078 posts

79 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
Looks good, but the 'GR8' name is cringeworthy, was it intentional I wonder ?

soad

20,000 posts

63 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
The Crack Fox said:
the 'GR8' name is cringeworthy, was it intentional I wonder ?
Food for thought scratchchin

I'm sure it stands for something - more than just text speak.

Riggers

1,851 posts

65 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
SleeperCell said:
article said:
(think of a two-thirds-scale McLaren F1 GTR crossed with a 60s sports car and you'll get a sense of how it looks)
or just look at the pictures hehe
getmecoat

smurfer

6 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
That looks like a dangerous (possibly expensive) drive to me Riggers... wink That Caterham academy car is going to be feeling a little lacking after ripping around the track in that.

Maybe you need to convince those that control the purse stings that it's a good idea to sponsor the Chevron single make series for next year! smile

Riggers

1,851 posts

65 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th August 2010 quote quote all
smurfer said:
That looks like a dangerous (possibly expensive) drive to me Riggers... wink That Caterham academy car is going to be feeling a little lacking after ripping around the track in that.

Maybe you need to convince those that control the purse stings that it's a good idea to sponsor the Chevron single make series for next year! smile
biglaugh Fine idea - i'll put it to the team... (crosses fingers, hopes)
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