History of SuperSports

History of SuperSports1983 Nationals Grid Line-up at Lakeside

By David Williamson

THIS STORY REALLY BEGAN WHEN A LOTUS CUSTOMER CAR – the “Edward Lewis Special” – was re-hatched at the Earls Court Motor Show in London in October 1957, when Colin Chapman released his 7th design: the Lotus “Seven”. Originally built as a one-off special for a customer named Edward Lewis, the car was so quick at local race tracks that Chapman soon realised he could sell lots of them to the general public! The lightweight 1272cc Ford 100E powered car was well priced at £526.00 (approx. $1200 Australian). Production began in September 1957 and continued right through to 1973, when Caterham Cars took over the job.

In Australia it soon became one of the quickest, affordable cars to own. Race meetings saw Lotus 7s winning their class regularly. Time moved on and owners began doing their own magic on the chassis and engines, becoming quicker with each modification. Around Australia, clubs were formed to serve the drivers of this new low cost class. The concept of driving to the local track to go racing on Sunday – then driving home again – was certainly tempting for many young “wannabe” race drivers.

In the late ’60s into the early ’70s, each state in Australia had its own constructors who copied the “Seven”. Engine builders were busily modifying standard production engines, BMC and Ford being the most common, secretly crammed with “trick bits” resulting in seriously quick cars. Normal road tyres were still being used at this time, slicks not coming until much later, bringing their own set of problems. The exciting transition from road tyres to racing slicks occurred in the early ’70s, bringing a startling increase in “g”-forces in corners. Smooth running engines suddenly began to go ‘fluffy’ when coming out of corners: this was finally traced to the higher g-forces tilting the fuel right up inside the bowl …and swishing it over the top of the air jets!

As if this wasn’t enough, some of the lightweight chassis were starting to crack – chassis strengthening then became a necessity. Grip was so high that the commonly used Morris Minor differentials were deforming under the torque – the spindly BMC axles snapping like glass at the start line. Much stronger axles were machined up locally and tougher diff-centres also locally sourced, minimising the problem… for the lucky few that knew where to buy them!

Due to a dramatic increase in the number of bearing failures, owners were now spending big money on engine rebuilds. Such high lateral “g” forces meant standard “wet” sumps were suddenly useless. Oil was being tilted up from the oil pump pick-up area in the sump, leaving the oil pump dry – causing an expensive pressure loss from the pump. A big re-think was required and as a result, a different breed of locally built cars and engines began to evolve to better suit the new slick tyres. The building of “race-only” (non-road) Clubman cars soon began in earnest…by necessity.

Australian Versions:

Battle at Amaroo

Kerrigan driving ‘Welsor’

CAMS specs said: “A non-aerodynamic’ body shape” …and this was just vague enough to tempt many builders. The 1970′s saw constructors building very macho, mature versions of Chapman’s original design No. 7. Elfin produced their “Clubman Catalina”, a car that soon became the one to beat. Melbourne constructor Tony Farrell then created a kit car that was sleeker, smoother and quicker than CAMS really liked! He started a new trend in styling and speed. The name “Clubman” soon became redundant as any connection with the docile Chapman predecessor was soon lost. Schazm, Carroll, Welsor, Argus, Saidor, and Centaur were just some of the quirky names racing in those days. An example of good design during this time was the lightweight 380 kg “Argus”, built by Canberra’s AllenHenry and Geoff Turner in 1975…

both so intent on weight reduction that most bolts were drilled through to minimise weight! ACT driver Gordon Hardy built the second Argus – this well built copy survives today. Around 1976-77, the “Allison”, a Victorian car began racing on 10″ slicks, these being sourced from a U.K batch of tyres madeespecially for the 6-wheel F1 Tyrrell.

Henry Galloway designed serious racecars. He had worked for Ralt in the UK prior to returning to build his own cars. His “Hargal” was well engineered and he applied sensible geometry into the chassis and suspension. Later re-vitalised and renamed “The Galloway”, the car won many races during its double career. Dave Mawer was another clever constructor, who also made cast aluminium wheel centres. The brilliant Robbie Medcalf also built a series of quick cars; each named “Robin”. Thoughtfully designed, they finished at the pointy end of most races. The brilliant driving ability of Keith McClelland perfectly matched Robbie’s second last car; the VW Golf powered Robin – Keith taking out State Championships with ease.

Growing Up:

McClintock driving
the ‘Harrigal’

In 1972, following a three year period, 1300cc, 1500cc and even 1600cc cars were running together in various events , CAMS finally restricted engines for “Clubmans” to 1300cc. The resultant effect was that modern 1300 cc Japanese engines were chosen, most producing even greater power than the earlier English 1500c motors.

BHP figures of over 100hp per litre were being achieved from the Datsun and Corolla 1300cc motors commonly used. The Corolla “K” motors – 3K, 4K, (and later-sleeved down 5K’s) being the most common. Of the many engine builders during the ’80s, perhaps the busiest were Phil Ryall in Sydney and Brian Sampson and Peter Jones in Melbourne.

During this period, Peter Jones worked with Brian Sampson at Motor Improvements. One of their projects was with Toyota Australia’s assistance. This entailed modifying 1300cc Toyota “K” engines for the Formula 3 cars of the day. When the F3 cars evolved into a 1600cc Formula 2 class, the engine modifications were timely for the engines for the (now re-named ) “Sports 1300″ class.

“Power full” Ideas:

To reduce costly bearing failures, Brian Sampson designed a special dry-sump plumbing system for the 1300 Corolla engines. Using a Falcon 500 oil pump as a cam-driven researched and ground a new Corolla camshaft profile, called “F3-2.5″ giving excellent results. Another practical idea at this time was to offset the position of the inlet valves in the cylinder head, allowing for larger diameter valves to be used. More power was also found by having the pistons protrude proud of the cylinder -by 3mm – into a recess in the combustion chamber. This raised compression, but without the need to shaveslabs of metal off the rather thin domestic Corolla cylinder heads.

Conrod bolts were often upgraded to V8 Chev bolts, but conrod failures still plagued many. Serious owners upgraded to Carillo, Cunningham, then later Australian Argo competition rods. In my own quest for power I began using the stronger Corolla 5K block sleeved back to 1300cc. It required removal of some metal from the top of the block when using a Toyota 3K crank with short compression height pistons. I ran 6mm valves to drastically reducing valve weight – enabling much lower valve spring pressures, running off lightened rockers.

Using longer conrods improved the engine’s rod/stroke ratio to better match the higher RPM. Running a “DW96″ rally cam with less lift and more duration really helped improve the torque out of corners and off the line. To enable precision valve timing in his Corolla 1300 motors, Phil Ryall had built a unique gear-driven camshaft drive, neatly eliminating the vagaries of a timing chain. Offset inlet valves, special cams and numerous other clever ideas were applied to each one of Phil’s powerful engines, although nobody ever discovered what these tricks really were. At a meeting at Amaroo, one inquisitive person was about to look into the engine bay when a cover was quickly draped over the engine!


downforce at last
Downforce at last!
Mallock Mk31

Many of Australia’s name drivers began their racing careers in these early “Clubman” race cars: Colin Bond, Allan Grice, Derek Fry, along with brothers Keith and Wes McClelland to name just a few. Melbourne engine builder Peter Jones, a newcomer at racing these cars, soon became one of the “winningest” drivers around.

After driving a Farrell in 1973, Peter began a career that saw him win 132 races, including seven NSW titles and three Victorian titles. His car, a 1975 “Cheetah”, was built by Brian Shead. It almost holds the record for the most wins by one car. Twice NSW champion Graeme McLintock drove one of Dave Mawer’s cars, which he soldin 1980.

He then bought and re-vitalised the Galloway and with Phil Ryall continued theirchampionship winning duo.

Known as one of the most innovative engine designer/builders around town, Phil’s engines helped put the Sports 1300 Champion Cup back into Graeme’s hands again in 1983 and 1985. In the late 1980′s and early ’90′s, John Keirath, John Burton, Keith Mclelland were the NSW drivers to watch. There really are far too many drivers to list.

Up a Notch:

Rebodied Galloway

Sports 1300 cars were starting to become seriously fast. Soon lap times were falling at every circuit where they raced. The use of the “Amaroo” tail, as it was known, gave a crude “blunt” type of downforce, the cost being a fair amount of drag.

The use of aerodynamic devices “per-se” was banned at the time – true wings only being allowed in the early 1990s. A car with a low drag slippery body on fresh tyres , running a half decent motor, would usually put in one of the fastest laps at many race meetings. It was common for stunned spectators to walk into the pit garage saying, “Jeez, these things are quick!” (and from such a small motor!).

“The Fastest Lap Per Dollar in Motorsport”

Grant Watson’s
Prosport Mulsanne

Bike engine, light weight

and Formula 3 speeds!

This became a very realistic slogan simply because very few cars could catch a decent Sports 1300 under identical race conditions – except maybe big grunty V8s – but then only on longer tracks. The early 1990s saw the competition getting more serious. Owners were stretching every CAMS rule to get speed. By the mid ’90s however, the number of Sports 1300 cars “on the grid” began to shrink a little, the NSW club soon realising that something had to change to get new members into the group. CAMS had almost by-passed sports car racing as a viable and marketable class of racing.

We weren’t Group “A” V-8s. We soon sensed that we would have to pull ourselves up “by our own bootstraps” to prevent the demise of our own class. This wedid well. A very close and detailed examination of our class was instigated.

We looked at many ideas and submissions and came up with a scheme to update the “look” of our cars – by allowing aerodynamic aids to be used, such as wings and splitters etc. This brought forward many different designs and the resultant improvement in handling was the reward; as well as improving the looks! We also looked closely at the engines being used. Most cars were using engines of now-ageing technology; an engine upgrade pathway was also sorely needed. We found an engine that was perfect: the Suzuki Twin Cam 1300. Sydney driver/engineer Kevin Leggott did comprehensive benchmarktesting of the Suzuki, resulting in a suitable new engine to use.

Soon new cars started to appear. In 1996 Sydney driver Neil Kenny purchased a Mallock Mk 31 from Mike Vink, who had previously imported it from the UK. Re-fitted with the Suzuki motor, it was a breakthrough with its great looks and fresh technology. Built for the smooth tracks in the UK, it required some changes in suspension to adapt it to the rougher Australian circuits. Recently re-bodied with a later shell, it has since proven a real winner – Neil taking out the Club and State Championships in on several occasions. It is currently being upgraded to run a 1600cc motor. Grant Watson in Queensland built a Mallock MK31 chassis under license, for Sydney driver Phil Shaw. Queensland engineer Ron Pommerel finished building the car – now owned by NSW SuperSports club president Richard Crawshay. Watson also built a car similar to the Mallock called the “Pentium”. It is being run today by George Davis. Sydney driver Neil Caswell imported the “Radical”: a neat 1100cc rear-engined car built in the UK. It quickly drew a lot of attention, with similar cars subsequently being built in Queensland. Interest in “SuperSport”racing in the U.K had Australian club members intrigued.

A new pathway was discovered and chosen as the new way to go. CAMS was approached and in 2003 approval was granted for 1100cc Motorbike (rear) engined cars and 1300 and 1600cc front engined cars. The name “SuperSports” was adopted and things simply leaped into action from there. Rear engined “Mulsanne” cars are now being built in Brisbane by Grant Watson’s Prosport Developments. The “Minetti”, another rear engined car, is being produced by Mark Williams on the Gold Coast. Rules have now been relaxed about using specific engine types. Engines that conform to the current 2C rules may be used. Cars using 1600cc engines will be racing in the November “Nationals” meeting being held at Willowbank in Queensland on November 19th and 20th this year.

“Money Can’t Always Buy Speed”

Lapping faster than Porsches at most circuits – at a quarter of the price ! This really shocks people, especially Porsche owners. As a result, interest in SuperSports is now increasing. The speed of SuperSports cars today is such that they compete in six NSW State Championship races each year alongside Formula 2 cars…and beat some of them. Looking at the lap times: Eastern Creek -1:35, Wakefield Park -1:02, Oran Park GP-1:11 etc. still makes me believe this could be the fastest lap per dollar in motor sport.

Another look at the Pentium

Mallock MK31
Mallock MK31