It started with a call from a lucky new owner of a Shelsley T2, ringing me out of the blue to chat about my own build. In passing he mentioned that Pete was testing his new creation later that week. A phone call later and I was on my way down to Llandow test circuit (situated between Cardiff & Swansea) to finally see the TT in action!
The TT was ready for the Kit-Car show last September at Donnington Park, but despite Jabba-Sports best efforts it just wouldn’t start, (a new engine management system had just been installed and cold start was proving to be a problem). But now it was ready.
11am Llandow Circuit - it’s drizzling, overcast, but not too cold, I drove into the pit area, past a few Lotus Exiges and a rally prepped Evo VII. There it was - a new Shelsley TT, sitting on the asphalt warming up with five people wrapped up, milling around waiting for the bike session to finish.
After a cup of coffee and a bacon sarnie, Pete declared amongst the surrounding noise from the other busy pit teams, air tools & generators, “I suppose I best check the tyre pressures! ” but knowing Pete he had double & treble checked everything the day before.
The announcement over the tannoy came notifying of the next session starting, Pete grabbed his helmet and jumped into the drivers seat and tentatively drove to the start area of the circuit. After a couple of laps he came in to check everything was ok, but when he took his helmet off his smile spoke a thousand words, but said only “yeah, it’s ok ”. After a thorough check through the car, Russ (the paint man) had the next bash (after telling me he was quite scared about driving it as he had just been round with Pete and didn’t want to take it over 6500rpm), again, 8 laps later and a big smile, Russ came back.
After an hour or so, Pete handed me a helmet and suggested I should jump into the passenger seat (so obligingly I did!) and his last comment being, “Oh and keep an eye on the temp gauge! ”. We went gently out onto the track and built up speed onto the straight, at the chicane, brakes on, we slowed down but not as much as I probably wanted, (I thought we would go though the inside bollard) the engine was at 6000rpm in third, and Andy (the fibreglasser) was still pushing on. The TT flicked though it like it was on rails (afterwards Alan let on that he had also thought that through the bollard was a viable option!).
Ten minutes white knuckle ride later and I was back on terra firma, slightly shaking, not because of wreakless driving, but because I had also been watching the speedo as well as the temp. gauge, and over 140mph down on the straights was quite an eye opener! (the track is only 0.9miles). During my outing the charge light had come on, so back in the pits, lots of towels, WD40 and a cunningly prepared water barrier (made from duct-tape and a plastic bag) was secured over the electrics.
Back out we went, this time with myself at the wheel . Green light and I was on the track, the dump-valve giving a satisfying whoosh on queue, followed very shortly by a massive shove in the back as the 280lb/ft of torque made it’s self apparent, I am no stranger to acceleration as my father has a 450bhp Nissan Skyline and I drive a Hybrid Land Rover with a 3.9V8 but this was something else.
Into 3rd gear, everything seems to be firmly planted on the black stuff, down the straight to the chicane - as I put the brakes on nothing seemed to happen! as I pressed harder, the speed eventually began to fall off, 3500rpm in 3rd through the chicane, as I pressed the gas again I realised that I had been pressing both the brakes and the accelerator at the same time! I had forgotten Pete “heel & toes” so the pedals are very close together, (everything is adjustable to suit personal preference.)
Accelerating around a long sweeping corner even though it was wet, everything felt under control, there was a small hint of oversteer, but nothing to get worried about and it was probably more to do with me not knowing the track and picking the wrong line.
As I passed the pit lane a looked down to see the rpm approaching 7.5k (132mph), I backed off slightly as I was still getting used to the TT, braking hard (and not pressing the gas pedal) into bus-stop I eased my way round some very tight corners almost as fast as I could move the steering wheel, when back on the straight again I let a couple of Exiges pass (more so I could have someone to follow to keep the line!) so up their tailpipes I stayed, backing off during some of the corners so I could feel the full force of the turbo on the straights, catching the lotus again.
After 7 or so laps I had really got the feel of the car and had found you could quite easily go though the chicane at 6000rpm (~90-100mph and Pete reckons he went through in 4th after hitting the limiter in 3rd, so that’s about 140mph!!) and I could brake almost right up to the apex on a corner (thus being able to brake later into the corner).
Once back in the pits, a cup of tea and a really BIG smile on my face I got the full specification on the TT. It weighs just under 600kg (it was 550kg before the charge cooler was added), the power plant is the Audi 1.8 20v Turbo, (same as the Audi TT, hence the name), which is firmly planted amidships, at the time of my drive it was running at around 315bhp due to the boost-controller being turned down, but when turned up outputs around 350bhp (Jabba sport believe 450bhp is possible!) with 330lb/ft of torque.
It has the same wheelbase and track as the T2, but to quote Pete “There’s some very interesting geometry under there now! ” (which has now found its way onto all the road car chassis) it has double wish-bone suspension all round, with rocker top arms & inboard dampers on the front, it abuses MG Maestro / Rover 25 front brakes all round, but after the test day, a set of larger racing rotors & callipers are being installed. Currently the TT is geared to 132mph/3rd, 160mph/4th and 186mph/5th @ 7750prm and although not officially tested, the figure of 0-60 close to 2-2.5s had been mentioned (and after driving it I wasn’t going to dispute it!).
A couple of days later I spoke to Pete, who by then had stripped the TT down for inspection; declared the test day a success but “I’ve made it too heavy because we didn’t break anything! ” which is pretty impressive for any car after three hours of testing and 80-90 laps.
Looking back on the day now, I have concluded that when my T2 is finished, I shall sell it and build another, but with the Audi engine, and as little soundproofing as possible.
Pete Needham at Shelsley Cars can be contacted on 01299 896619 / 07977 049002
Chris Ranner © 2004