Beetle V8 60s Saloons

UK Special Saloon + Modsports Historical Database

Robin Hooker Spaceframe Escort

back from the brink...

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Social media and forums connected with modified saloon racing fequently have the question of what happened to this race car or that race car raised after those cars have long since slipped off the radar. So an invitation to a discrete lock-up at a location somewhere in Nottinghamshire revealed a car once the fastest Silhouette car round Brands Hatch with plans to bring it back to life. The car in question is the spaceframe Escort RS2000 which had a relatively short circuit racing life with Robin Hooker and then Matthew Mortlock. It was a 600 bhp flame-belching Silhouette racer that caused some attention at the time before more spectacular action in a career in Hillclimbing with Bernard Armitage at the wheel.

Then more recently it was retired from competition , sold on and work began to convert the car into a road car. That would have sounded the end for the car to ever return to where it was intended ,the race tracks. That was until its new owners , a father and son team with a passion for Escorts and the dream of taking the car back to its roots sourced the car in London and brought it back to their workshop in April 2016.

the Spaceframe stripped bare....

In its skeletal form the car clearly shows what a true spaceframe chassis looks like when its skin is removed

birth and circuit career...

When Robin Hooker , the boss of Performance Unlimited wanted to move from Sprints to circuit racing at the end of the 1980`s he fancied an all new car for the venture. He commissioned renown Race,Custom and Drag car builder Jon Webster to build a spaceframe Escort RS racer for Robin Hooker which duely arrived in 1990. The choice of car was the Escort mark 2 RS2000 with its distinctive wedge nose. Whilst a design from 1976 the car was comparable to the succesful John Robinson-built version raced in supersaloons by Nick Whiting in 1978. The Webster-built RS was an impressive package with its fat tires and an aero-package that included an enourmous rear wing. Intended for the Brands Hatch Silhouette Special championship design had favourable downforce in mind for the tight kent track. The brakes were serious too with 4-pot at the front and Sierra Cosworth brakes at the back. Hooker provided the engine and indeed sponsorship from his own Performance Unlimited company using a 1993cc Cosworth YBF turbo which could produce up to 625 bhp on 2.1 bar. Quaife provided both the rear axle and 5-speed box. This level of performance in a car weighing around 750kgs made it one of the fastest saloons ever seen on UK circuits at the time.

Not to be confused with Thundersaloons which by 1991 were probably at their peak of popularity Silhouettes saloons were slightly more extreme. The spaceframe design allowing for the entire one-piece front section to be lifted off for access to the engine and fewer consessions towards any road-going base model , such as the need for working headlamps etc.

www.webster-race-engineering.co.uk/index.html

 

1991 - Robin Hooker

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Robin Hooker had a short time with the car but a busy 1991 season focused mostly on Silhouette races in the south-east. Hooker took a class runner-up to Richard Harris in class A of the Brands Hatch-based BHL Silhouette Specials championship. Also competing in the BARC Silhouette Special GTs and the Lydden Silhouette GT Special Saloon+Sports. When he won at Lydden in July he set fastest lap at 43 seconds dead

( 83.7 mph ) see photo ,car with more of a transparent front grill .

 

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photo by Robert Storey

1992 - Matthew Mortlock

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Robin Hooker`s Escort belches flames from its side exhaust.

Mortlock

MATTHEW MORTLOCK

B. May 19th 1957 from Coton , Cambridge. At the time was a qualified Parachute instructor and 2nd hand Aircraft dealer who had moved from Oval racing to circuits in 1990 , racing a Fiesta BDX and FFirst. The Escort was a brief stepping stone as Matthew founded F1 Sales around this time to supply F1/F3000 parts. He stepped up to racing F1 cars in the Boss  series from 1996 , winning the title in 1999 and by 2003 the series was known as EuroBoss he was racing the ex-Alboreto `92 Footwork Arrows car.

Mortlock bought the Escort and broke the Brands Silhouette lap record on his first outing in November 1991 ( see above ).

SHP ( Sonny Howard Performance ) changed the car to wishbone suspension though it`s debatable if this actually improved lap times. Matthew competed in the 1992 BARC/BRSCC Silhouette specials , winning on April 20th at Brands with a fastest lap of 47.6 Ironically he was beaten twice by Robin Hooker`s new car at Mallory and Oulton , the latter race by just 4/100th.

The car was moved on as Matthew got into sports cars and then nearly-new F1 cars.

The car was featured in Fast Car Magazine ( June 1992 )

1992 Results - Matthew Mortlock Escort

to the hills...

The next phase of the Escort`s life was in the mysterious world of Hillclimbing and Sprints . A form of motorsport that traditionally get hardly any media coverage but dates bck toi the birth of motorrsport.

The Escort proved a formidable car and took Bernard Armitage to the Midland Speed Championship`s Sports Libre class title in 2004 , 2005 and 2007.

The car had been altered by then , the engine had been replaced by a 2.6 litre 300 bhp Millington Diamond and the gearbox for a 4-speed. It was also now a bright yellow colour but that huge wing no doubt gave Armitage plenty of downforce to keep the car stuck to the tarmac.

In 2008 Armitage advertised the car for sale for 15k with the intension of retiring from motorsport. This wasnt immediate but the car was eventually sold on.

 

 

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After its competition years were over the Escort became a project car for its next owner. It was road readed and some nice touches added such as the black plastic RS nose grill which works well against the white bodywork. The plastic doors were replaced with steel ones and the car even gained a V5 . Burt this is a race car from birth and the new owners intend to keep the new features but take the car back to the tracks in the near future. There`s alot of work to get it there but it`s in very capable hands.

 

back on track...

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1991 Results - Matthew Mortlock Escort

Robin Hooker winning at Lydden . Note original grill was more clear plexi