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[1-Jun_24_Mansour_Gorge.jpg] June 2024

The familiar Cotes Elan at the Ait Mansour gorge in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes

Atlas Elan

by Peter Cotes

April, and our fourth visit to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains in the Elan. The first three had seen varying degrees of damage. How would we fare this time?

Preparation was not easy. We had water in the oil so a major engine rebuild was required, complete with welding and sealing for a cracked water jacket. I re-installed the engine a couple of weeks before the rally’s start — and discovered an oil leak between the engine and gearbox. I had resealed the bolt that secures the bellhousing to the gearbox, so assumed the seal had failed.

Engine out, bolt resealed — still leaking oil. Engine out again. Dripping oil on the engine side of the flywheel indicated a failed, though brand-new, rear crank oil seal. Engine back to the engine shop, new uprated seal, and engine reinstalled again. No time for any test runs or set-up. Not an ideal start!

The cars were transported to southern Spain (we flew) and ours arrived with a boot full of water after being driven through heavy rain. The contents were displayed on the posh hotel forecourt as we dried out!

There were eight cars — seven classics and one modern. Two required work even before the start, replacing alternators. We crossed to Tangier and immediately noticed a modernised and sanitised port with smart concrete buildings replacing the shacks we had seen before.

After lunch we continued with a run down the motorway to Rabat and our first night’s stop. It was Ramadan, so caution was required for any eating or drinking in the daytime. After dark however all public spaces came alive as eating and socialising replaced the daytime fast and the souks, normally so active until late in the evening, were deserted.

[2-Jun_24_Bentley_Sand.jpg] No place for a Bentley!
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes

A long run, some down the coast but mainly over rutted tracks inland, saw the second casualty of the trip. (A Volvo Amazon had pulled out as the navigator was sick and never left Spain.) Now the 1934 Bentley overheated, blew a hole in the radiator and had to be towed to nearby workshops. The rad was blocked, and it was a couple of days before they rejoined the rally.

The tracks were hardened mud so our sumpguard got a good battering whilst an MGA lost his exhaust — twice, so he became quite adept at fixing it! Our ocean-facing hotel that night was in the middle of an isolated coastline with no alcohol, no WiFi, plenty of sea mist and no views. We were not sorry to move on!

Next day it was on to the pretty fishing village of Essouria, where the car park attendant was concerned to know if we planned on sleeping in the car overnight as there was an overnight parking ticket option. No thanks! Our organiser had set up a WhatsApp group that was full of warnings of police speed checks ahead. Somehow we were spared but the modern car got a couple of €30 fines.

A mixture of hilly inland roads and flat coastal highways took us to our lunch stop, which we had last visited in 2018, and as before, lunch was excellent and plentiful. But beware of falling asleep in the afternoon sun! Little chance of that as we had our only on-the-road stop whilst climbing towards a pass. The throttle return spring had slipped off its mount and the engine was revving happily. Just as well it happened on the climb and not the descent! Charlie, the sweep, happened to be behind us, so with a quick fix with a cable tie off we went — back the way we had come, as the leading cars had encountered a landslide and the road ahead was blocked.

Our overnight stop was near the seaside resort of Taghazout, where the Bentley rejoined us after having its radiator repaired and flushed out. The car had been stored for the last few years and without much preparation suffered continual niggles but stayed with us for the rest of the trip.

Next day saw us crawl round the urban sprawl of Agadir, where the traffic and lorries were a contrast from our normal route of empty hill roads with flocks of sheep and goats for company. Last night had been in a modern Hilton and tonight was family-run, in the middle of nowhere, approached on a single-track road with raised manhole covers camouflaged by drifting sand, where WiFi stopped at Reception and we were in a converted stable block.

[3-Jun_24_Painted Boulders_AMX.jpg] Elan and other cars on the rally, pausing in front of the Painted Boulders.
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes

We had come here for the Painted Boulders, where a Frenchman had used 18 tons of paint on a random selection of boulders as a tribute to his late wife. Plans for evening drinks and nibbles were thwarted by a chill wind, whilst the sun was again hidden by haze. During the day we had come across the fleet of Italian camper vans. Still touring from 2018? And still travelling line astern and hogging the centre of the tarmac strip? No change there!

We visited the 800-year-old Kasbah Tizorgane, sitting on a mound in the middle of a brown, arid plain, and an old Berber village where newer houses jostled with older ruins on the slopes and a maison traditionelle showed the old domestic design of animals below, family in the middle, and visitor accommodations on the top floor.

A day of contrasts with the lush Ait Mansour gorge followed by the Grand Canyon, where just a few trees eke out a living. The gorge made for difficult driving as the road was narrow and the light alternated between shade and bright sun — slow, but pleasant. The Canyon was unrelentingly hot but as we drove to our hotel (again in the middle of nowhere) the haze set in and the wind gathered and whipped up the dust. The entire landscape was uniform light brown.

The wind continued overnight and into the next day, where the cross wind and sand blasted the car and the steering wheel was at a crazy angle to maintain a straight line. Normal sunshine resumed after mid-morning, and we enjoyed a coffee break under palm trees beside a trickling brook.

We had not originally planned to climb the Tizi n Test on this rally but things evolve, and because the end of Ramadan led to some museums being closed we were routed to Morocco’s most famous mountain pass in the High Atlas at just over 2,000 metres, which we had done three times already! The southern approach was good tarmac and with a clean engine, new radiator and twin fans, we had no problems with engine temperature on this or any other pass.

The descent was a different matter, as this was the scene of an earthquake six months earlier in September. Tented villages, wrecked houses and broken roads showed the effect. We went down much more slowly than we came up, with plenty of sump guard action.

That took us to Marrakesh and our very expensive hotel (beer was twice the normal price). Arriving there our iPad navigation told us to drive through the Royal Palace but men with guns suggested it was not a good idea! We had an experience last time packing one large carpet, so Allison decided that she should buy two this time!

[4-Jun_24_Inside_a_Riad.jpg] Inside a riad.
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes

After a day of leisure and an evening meal in a small traditional riad in the Old Town we headed south towards Skoura. Lunch had been arranged in a small guesthouse, unmarked and well off any beaten track. Here we suffered the only vandalism when village kids took advantage of us not being with the cars to walk over them and remove some of the flags from our bonnet.

The organiser suggested we visit a Berber village along steep rough tracks. We made it most of the way before deciding it was not a good idea. A Mercedes followed us — and after getting back to the main road had to be towed to our hotel with a failed clutch slave cylinder. He didn’t have a spare or a kit (we carry two spares!), but amazingly a phone call from our hotel and 10 minutes later someone arrived with one. That’s Mercedes for you — can’t see it happening for a Lotus!

We continued south to Zagora and the edge of the real desert and another “rest” day to allow those who wished to try their luck in the sand — along with all the Overlanders. We travelled with the organiser, accompanied by the Merc and Bentley. The driver and navigator rapidly realising that this was no place for a Bentley, it was parked up and the Merc, going ahead, was soon bogged down.

We happened to have an airjack (running off the exhaust). I had tested it at home, but when using it to lift the rear of the Merc it exploded whilst I was holding it onto the exhaust pipe. I got a face full of sand, it killed my camera, and fortunately a rapid reaction by the Merc crew gave me an eye bath and water before the sand stuck in my eyes.

We didn’t get very far that day but it was every bit as exhausting as the organiser had promised. On the way back to our hotel we stopped at an off-licence, so that improved things!

From now on it was pretty much due north towards Tangiers over five days. I felt a need to jack up the suspension further, which turned out to be a good idea as one day included a steep, rough track up to a mountain pass where the car really struggled with its rich fuel mix.

At this point our hotels ranged from the smart in the old colonial hill town of Ifrane to one particularly run-down Eco-Lodge, where Allison fused the entire place whilst making tea with her single-coil water heater — the third hotel where the electrics couldn’t cope!

One car problem was for the AMX when a steering control arm snapped, but $50 got them a mobile welder from a nearby village and they were back on the road albeit with one seriously scrubbed tyre.

Then to Spain by way of Tarifa before meeting the car transporter close to Gibraltar, from where we flew home. Damage to the Elan? The front suspension top bushes had disintegrated, my new-style “fast road” engine mountings collapsed, and the passenger floor needs re-fibreglassing, but aside from that, not much.

The next planned trip is to Japan in 2025.

[1-May_24_Mezardjian.jpg] May 2024

Take a drive on your own, or do it with your club!

Photo by Steve Mezardjian

Coming May 25: British Car Week 2024!

by Scott Helms

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! This year we are celebrating the 28th Annual British Car Week during the extended driving week of May 25th to June 2th, 2024.

According to the many messages received, British car owners are working diligently to dust off the cobwebs and prepare their favorite cars to be driven on the roads of their communities during this epic driving week. Chances are they will continue to drive their cars throughout the local driving season for all to see and appreciate.

How are you going to celebrate British Car Week?

Many enthusiasts enjoy their cars by taking them for a pleasure drive along their favorite twisty roads. Others drive them to work to share their experiences with co-workers who are unlikely to have had much of an opportunity to get a glimpse of these truly unique vehicles from the motoring past.

From my own personal experience, when I’m out and about with my British classic I meet people who have never laid eyes on a sporty car like mine. A common question I hear is, “What kind of car is this?” Of course, it’s always in my best interest to share the information with them and tell them stories about it.

That is what British Car Week is all about. After all, what are now “truly unique vehicles” used to be a common sight on the roads throughout the USA, and they deserve to be recognized and remembered for years to come for the important influences they’ve made on automotive history, and even on the cars of today.

Fans of classic British cars know now more than ever how important it is to share the fun these examples of exhilarating, seat-of-your-pants transportation represent with those who rarely are able to see or hear them, or appreciate that throughout history they have influenced countless driving enthusiasts and will never be recreated.

Peter Egan, in his famous column in Road & Track magazine, once reminisced about what he called “Seldom Seen Cars” — the popular sports cars from Europe and Great Britain he used to see every day on the roads of his community but were now seldom seen.

British Car Week is a remedy for that. It is our opportunity to help revive those exciting motoring days of the past with our own classic cars.

And, while we are out driving and enjoying our cars, proudly motoring down the road with the unmistakable sound of our engines, we may also spark the interest of many people we pass by to investigate our classics further. As a result, maybe some of them will become British car owners, too!

So grab your goggles and driving gloves, and top off your dashpots! It’s time to have some driving fun!

See you on the road!

For more information: For British car events: And for the original “Seldom Seen Cars” article that inspired BCW:

[Scott is the founder and Curator of British Car Week.]

[1-Apr_24_Era_Colin.jpg] April 2024

Era Motorsport (#18) now has two solid LMP2 wins behind it.

Photo by Colin Sword

‘Respect the Bumps’
Mixed but Promising Results for British Machinery at Sebring

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

SEBRING, Fla., Mar. 14-16 — The 36 Hours of Florida (the Rolex 24 at Daytona plus the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring) are now behind us, and British marques and British drivers were well represented in both the entry lists and the race results.

First of all, the success of Era Motorsports was superb, as the team won the LMP2 class at both Daytona and Sebring in their ORECA 07-Gibson. Taking part in the effort was Scotsman Ryan Dalziel, who put in a fine performance to take the victory on the bumpy runways at Sebring International Raceway.

It was an exciting and eventful race in LMP2, with the winning car scoring a 1.127-second victory. A record nine LMP2 cars finished on the lead lap, and less than 25 seconds separating 1st and 9th.

A total of 13 LMP2 cars took the green flag at Sebring, and all but one finished under very warm and sunny Florida skies. It was quite an accomplishment for both the drivers and their British-designed-and-built Gibson V8 engines.

But that’s not to say it was easy. As Dalziel later commented, “Felt like every time we kind of got to the front, we ended up in the back. [When] I got in the car, we were in the lead. I think one of the GTPs went off and threw out some carbon, and in the space of one lap, we got overheating, then we got a puncture!

“I knew we were going to be struggling to make time back. We still had pace in the car. We definitely didn’t give up.”

[2-Apr_24_Inception_Jack.jpg] McLaren stands 2nd among GT Daytona (GTD) manufacturers vying for the Michelin Endurance Cup, thanks to Inception Racing.
Photo by Jack Webster

Dalziel had nothing but praise for his team, particularly co-driver Connor Zilisch.

“Once we got the lead, you look at the list of drivers that were behind Connor on the restart — the talent and the guys with experience. Kid just kept his head cool and brought it home.”

In GT Daytona (GTD) and GTD Pro, results were mixed but promising for British cars, with a near-podium finish (4th place) for the Heart of Racing Team’s #27 GTD Aston Martin and strong-enough performance by Inception Racing’s #70 GTD McLaren to hold 2nd place among manufacturers for the Michelin Endurance Cup.

However, you might say the outcome at Sebring was outstanding for British drivers, as Brits Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barncoat combined with American pilot Kyle Kirkwood to take the win in GTD Pro in their Lexus RC FGT3. It was the first Sebring win for all three drivers, and well deserved.

Said Hawksworth, “We knew it was going to be a battle. These long races, you have to do everything perfectly. Everyone has to do their job absolutely perfectly just to be there to even have a chance at the end. Then you just hope that the cards fall your way...

“The guys on pit lane were unbelievable all day. Ben and Kyle were absolutely monsters out there. I couldn’t be prouder of everybody. Yeah, the last four hours out there were absolutely nuts.”

Among the other entries in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s #23 Aston Martin finished 5th in class — out of 12 entries — after a tough race, perhaps a disappointment after driver Mario Farnbacher qualified 2nd.

[3-Apr_24_Magnus_HOR_Jack.jpg] Two of the new Aston Evos — #44 in GTD (Magnus Racing) and #23 in GTD Pro (Heart of Racing).
Photo by Jack Webster

Farnbacher’s teammate Ross Gunn was philosophical after the race. “You know,” he said, “this is only the second race for the car. To be fighting some of the best teams, drivers and cars in the world, its early stages are very encouraging. We’ve got a few things to analyze and a few things to work on.”

(The two Heart of Racing Astons are new “Evo” models, which explains his comment. Another team, Magnus Racing in the GTD class, is also fielding an Aston Evo, car #44.)

For the other GTD Pro British entry, Pfaff Motorsport’s McLaren 720S EVO, the race was essentially over on the first lap. They got caught up in an accident that damaged their car and sent it behind the wall. Although they were able to make the repair and continue without further incident, they were out of the running for a good finish. They ended up 12th in class.

In GTD, 4th place for the #27 Heart of Racing Aston was a good result considering they qualified 17th and had to battle their way up the field. The #70 Inception Racing McLaren finished 7th, and the #44 Magnus Racing Aston 10th.

Inception driver Frederik Schandorff led the class for 18 laps, which contributed to McLaren’s current 2nd-place standing among manufacturers competing for the Michelin Endurance Cup — one of the “races within a race” in this IMSA series.

After the two longest races of the year in Florida, the IMSA WeatherTech Series will now make the cross-country trip to Long Beach, Calif., for the first of the sprint races of the season on April 19th.

Stay tuned.

[1-Mar_24_Pre-dawn pit stop.jpg] March 2024

A pre-dawn tire change on the Heart of Racing Team’s #23 GTD Pro entry.
Photo by Jack Webster

Rolex ’24
New Cars and Mixed Results at IMSA’s Season Opener

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

DAYTONA, Fla., Jan. 27-28 — The opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportCar Championship for 2024 (IWSC) took place at Daytona International Speedway in January, with the previous season’s finale, Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, barely a recent memory.

But all the crews, teams, drivers, and journalists (ourselves included) were back for the Rolex 24, the longest endurance race on the IWSC schedule — a full 24 hours.

After the short off-season, several new cars were to make their debut at Daytona — including a new McLaren 720S EVO for Pfaff Motorsports, an updated McLaren 720S EVO for Inception Racing, and Aston Martin EVOs for the Heart of Racing Team and Magnus Racing.

Great weather, incredible participation

For once, the weather was outstanding all race week. After very cold temperatures the week prior to the Rolex, when qualifying was held at the “pre-game” Roar Before the 24, it was just about perfect, with lows in the 60s at night and highs in the upper 70s to low 80s — under sunny to partly-cloudy skies with no rain.

A 24-hour race is grueling enough, without throwing in bad weather to make things even more uncomfortable and exhausting.

Maybe it was a combination of terrific weather, an outstanding field of 59 quality entries and more than 200 drivers (including former Formula One pilots and current IndyCar stars joining the IMSA regulars), but the crowd at this year’s race was easily the largest we have ever seen at the Rolex 24 — even remembering the large crowds that showed up at the height of the last GTP era in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

[3-Mar_24_LMP_2_Winner.jpg] Driver Christian Rasmussen brought home the LMP2 win for Era Motorsport in the #18 ORECA LMP2 07. Like all entries in its class, the car was powered by a U.K.-designed-and-built Gibson V8.
Photo by Colin Sword

There are four classes in the IWSC this year, two prototype (GTP and LMP2) and two GT (GTD Pro and GTD). Since the introduction of the GTP class last year and the expanded manufacturer interest in GTD and GTD Pro — particularly the latter, which fielded 13 cars at Daytona from ten manufacturers — IMSA has gone from success to success. 2024 looks huge for the sport.

Fast cars, teething pains?

Results at this year’s Rolex 24 were mixed for British drivers, cars and teams, but that certainly did not take away from the spectacle of the race or the joy of emerging from our winter slumber to see the likes of McLaren, Aston Martin and Gibson-powered LMP2 cars fight for class wins.

We shall have to wait until next year to see Aston Martin battling for overall wins, as 2025 is when the new Aston Martin prototype is scheduled to debut. With a 6.5-liter Cosworth engine, the LMDH/GTP machine is expected to be campaigned in both the IWSC and the FIA World Endurance Championship (including Le Mans) next year and beyond. Exciting things are certainly afoot for British fans!

Speaking of prototypes, the #31 Whelen Cadillac GTP started on pole, with Brits Jack Aitken and defending race winner Tom Blomqvist sharing the driving duties with Brazil’s very quick Pipo Derani. The car was in contention for the entire 24 hours — taking the lead at several points during the race — only to have to settle for a 2nd-place overall finish behind the winning Porsche Penske.

The second prototype class, LMP2 — all entries running the British-built Gibson V8 engine — was won by Era Motorsport, a team founded, managed and owned by expat Brit Kyle R. Tilley, who now calls Carmel, Ind., home. A native of Bath, Somerset, Tilley is a former driver himself, both in the U.K. and the USA. The #18 Era ORECA bested a very-high-quality field of 13 cars, with five cars in the class finishing on the same lap.

Among the Era drivers was veteran Scottish pilot Ryan Dalziel, winning in IMSA for the 14th time and the third time at the Rolex 24. (He is amassing quite a collection of Rolex Daytona watches!) Also taking turns at #18’s helm were Dwight Merriman, Christian Rasmussen and 17-year-old phenom Connor Zilisch.

[2-Mar_24_Pfaff_McLaren_Side.jpg] GTD Pro contender Pfaff Motorsports switched to McLaren this year and carried over their distinctive plaid livery.
Photo by Colin Sword

As Dalziel commented after the race, “You can’t afford to have mistakes at this level. Of the 13 cars this year I’d say ten of them were contenders from the green flag, [though] it narrowed down to a four-car race at the end.”

In GTD Pro, the new-look Pfaff Motorsports team, which switched to McLaren from Porsche last season, had an eventful debut race, sadly failing to finish the contest. Their new #9 McLaren was beautiful with its orange-and-traditional-Pfaff-plaid livery, and the team battled back from early setbacks to be in contention for a repeat of their 2022 Rolex victory. A powertrain failure at 8:40 a.m. on Sunday morning ended their race with just five hours remaining.

Brit and Pfaff McLaren driver Oliver Jarvis described what happened. “From the start of the race, the car felt good,” he said. “It’s impressively quick, so we were optimistic from the start that we could be fighting for the win. Unfortunately, there were just too many issues to overcome.

“But,” he added, “the team did an amazing job keeping us in for as long as they did — so we look forward to Sebring and getting back into it there.”

Also in GTD Pro, fan favorite Heart of Racing did well enough in their #23 Aston to take 4th in a class of 13 cars, five of which did not finish. The Aston came in six laps back from the class-winning Ferrari.

Said one of the #23 pilots, Brit Ross Gunn, “It’s amazing to get through a really tough race. The team never gave up and really kept pushing even with a few setbacks. Fourth is probably the best that we could have hoped for. We now head to Sebring and look to build on it.”

In GTD, only one of the British cars managed to finish the grueling race — Inception Racing, which took 13th in class at the finish. The #70 McLaren led at different times for a total of 38 laps, including the stretch when driver Ollie Millroy pitted for fuel and tires, but then stalled and couldn’t restart the car. A half-hour behind the wall dashed the team’s chances for a win.

[4-Mar_24_Ross_Gunn.jpg] Heart of Racing’s Ross Gunn, already looking forward to Sebring.
Photo by Jack Webster

In GTD, only one of the British cars managed to finish the grueling race — Inception Racing, which took 13th in class at the finish. The #70 McLaren led at different times for a total of 38 laps, including the stretch when driver Ollie Millroy pitted for fuel and tires, but then stalled and couldn’t restart the car. A half-hour behind the wall dashed the team’s chances for a win.

Both the #27 Heart of Racing Aston and the #44 Magnus Racing Aston retired in the early morning, at about the race’s midpoint.

Last year Heart of Racing took the GTD win with Magnus in 2nd and Inception’s McLaren in 3rd. This year HOR driver Marco Sørensen stopped on course, then continued slowly to the pits where the crew changed some wiring and the car’s ECU, but to no avail. The car went behind the wall shortly after midnight and less than two hours later called it quits.

Rolex in review

Attrition was high across the board. By the end of the 24 hours, from 59 entries, 19 were not running — one for every three entered — with each class affected.

On a more positive note, a total of 20 drivers from Britain took part in this year’s Rolex, including five Scotsmen. A pretty good representation of talent from the U.K., in our opinion.

The IMSA series now moves on to the other endurance race to be held in Florida — the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which will take place on March 16th.

If the Rolex 24 was any indication, the 2024 edition of the IWSC will be one for the record books. See you at Sebring.

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