CAR's Jesse Crosse rallying in a Gp4 Ford Escort Mk2

Meet The Beast

So here it is (cars are always ‘it’ to me, never ‘she’) and since it’s a bit of a weapon which I treat with the utmost respect, we call it The Beast.
This rally car is non-historic ‘hybrid,’ which means the spec isn’t confined only to bits and pieces used in the day. Rather than a Ford engine, it uses one of the favourite rally engines around today, a 260bhp, 2.0-litre Vauxhall red top racing engine from John Read Racing Engines of Cornwall (JRE).
The bodyshell is full Gp4 which means it’s substantially modified and strengthened and has a welded and bolt-in full roll cage attaching to the front suspension mounts for extra strength. The doors are lightweight with all the guts taken out and boot and bonnet lid are Kevlar, saving several kilos compared to steel. The transmission tunnel is widened to take a larger gearbox at the front and limited slip ZF motorsport differential at the rear. There’s also an exhaust tunnel to allow the massive 3.5-inch exhaust system to be tucked up tight under the body and not left behind at the first jump.
The engine is rev-limited at 9,000rpm and is the single most valuable component on the car costing as much as an entire Ford Focus when it was brand new. I can’t afford for anything bad to happen to it and although it’s been protected by Millers 10W 60 synthetic competition oil in the past, I’ve upgraded that to the last word in race engine protection which is Millers new Nanodrive synthetic. It contains even more robust additives and should reduce friction enough to increase the power by a percentage point or two.
The engine drives through a Drenth, six-speed sequential ‘dog’ gearbox so I’ll only use the clutch when pulling away and on downchanges, upshifts just need a split second lift on the throttle and a firm tug on the stick. The rest of the driveltrain is old school, power getting on to the road through the traditional Ford, ‘Atlas’ live rear axle located to the body by five links. AP Racing tarmac spec brakes are specially designed for Gp4 Escorts like this one, four-pot calipers at the front and ventilated discs all round giving massive stopping power.
Conventional brake pads would fade to smoke because of the heat generated, so I’m using Ferodo DS3000 racing pads all round. The suspension comprises Bilstein coil-over struts all round, with steel rose-joints replacing rubber bushes and a front anti-roll bar. There’s a high ratio ‘quick’ steering rack and electric power steering developed from the Vauxhall Corsa system especially for cars like this. Without it, tarmac rally cars on eight-inch slicks can be a hefty to steer and with it, steering while shifting becomes smooth and easy.
As for those slicks, I’m using 200/530R13 Kumho Ecsta tarmac rally tyres. In the dry, we’ll run C03 slicks, using a softer compound for the front to give crisp turn-in and a medium hard on the rear to cope with the power. Even so, the likelihood is that a pair of rears will only last one event, or 40-60 stage miles. For the damp and wet, we’ll fit TW02s. They can be cut if necessary for extremely wet conditions but Kumho’s tech guru, Mark Hamnett, reckons conditions would need to be pretty grim before we needed to resort to that so I’ll leave well alone for now.
The last two months since I got the car have been spent preparing it and bringing it up to scratch and I have to make sure it meets the MSA technical regulations for rally cars. The Escort has to meet MOT ‘construction and use’ regulations which despite appearances, means road legal. It has to have a current MOT and for some events, be taxed as well. For 2012, tyre and wheel assemblies cannot exceed 8-inches in width so I’ve had to replace the 10-inch wide rims that were on the back and that means giving away a fair amount of grip.
A lot of Mk 2 drivers now opt for 15-inch wheels to get a bigger contact patch and this shell is ‘tubbed’ to take the extra diameter within the arches. But I know this car has already been successful with the existing setup and 15-inch wheels don’t have a great effect on the handling. The tyres alone weight an additional 1.6 kilos each more than 13-inch, the suspension would have required a complete new setup up, so I decided to stick with what works on this particular car.
There’s lots of detail to check under the MSA technical regulations. A few examples are that the seats have to be FIA approved, so must the six-point harnesses which also have to fall inside the expiry date marked on them. The car must have mud flaps fitted, carry a warning triangle and a first aid kit and pass a noise check. Default on any of the above or turn up with a blown bulb or dodgy wiper, and we won’t get a scrutineer’s ticket and if unable to fix it, wouldn’t be able to compete.
Safety equipment includes a Lifeline 360 liquid gas hand held fire extinguisher and a plumbed-in Lifeline Zero 2000 foam extinguisher which can be operated by the crew as well as by a cable pull from outside of the car. These are specialised motorsport extinguishers designed to meet the usual stringent regulations and having fresh ones inside the car makes me feel a whole lot better.
I think The Beast is ready now and ready to be let loose. I’ve done enough fettling. Next time you hear from me it’ll be after the event. Wish us luck and keep an eye on my Twitter feed at, I’ll be chirping from the event on the 27th.

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