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Unipower GT at the Brighton Speed Trails - 1978

Updated: May 19, 2020

Two years after purchasing the ex-Works race car, I was persuaded by Viv West who was racing MG Midgets in Modsports at the time and my having been only circuit racing until then, to do my first ever Sprint at the World famous Brighton Speed Trials. This event originated back in 1905 when Sir Harry Preston persuaded Brighton town council in England to tarmac the surface of the road adjacent to the beach and has been held there every year since July 1905 with the exception of the Wars and various other unavoidable interruptions. Maderia Drive on this occasion was marked out as a 1 kilometre course and in those days competitors were released from the Start line in two's side-by-side, which made for some interesting high speed excitement both for the crowds watching from the overlooking terraces and for the competitors. Some of this caused by the very pronounced 'crown' in the centre of the road and that shortly before the Finish line, the road narrowed considerably !. The road was lined on the land-side by cast iron Victorian pillars supporting the terraces above and on the beach-side, by the famous Volk's electric railway, so any excursion off the road was going to be painful. The fastest cars and bikes at the time were reaching over 180mph at the Finish line, so it was pretty spectacular.

It was at this time that I was experimenting with using the Formula One Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler front tyres on the car, which had a softer compound than the Dunlop's commonly used on 10" wheels. So it was with some trepidation that I entered the car, without any special preparation or changes to the car, but knowing that it was always good off the start due to the tyres and engine positioned more towards the rear wheels than some of the other competitors.

The day was dry and sunny, ideal conditions and a packed entry. As the story goes, my Unipower GT performed really well and despite having to do a run a second time as the timing equipment used at the time could not reset itself fast enough if two cars passed the finish close together. Very close together it has to be said and both of us hanging on for dear life as the road was not that smooth!.

To my surprise and delight I took the Class win and picked up the truly magnificent Forrest Lycett Trophy. A tall, very ornate solid silver Trophy donated to the Brighton & Hove Motor Club by Forrest Lycett who had started racing cars back in 1901 and was well known for his exploits in 8-Litre Bentley's.

Of course I had to go back the following year to defend my win and it is with some pride that I took the Class win for the next 4-years and the Forrest Lycett Trophy. I think this is maybe unique in the Brighton & Hove Motor Club's history and testimony to the Unipower as often the wins were by fractions of a second.

1978 Class win with #85 (Local newspaper picture)

1979 Class win with #77 with my first child and 'Radar' the family dog

Only when the Class engine size was increased to 1600cc from 1300cc, did the car loose out by just over a second from much more powerful cars, the Unipower's chassis still giving them a run for their money for a few years after.

On one occasion I ran another of my other Unipower's with a very special 1400cc engine having slipper pistons from a motorcycle, the internals chosen with guidance from the infamous Unipower agent, Geoff Monty.

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