TR8 at Le Mans in 1980

I am no real expert on the ill-fated attempt to run a Triumph TR8 at Le Mans, but here's a taste of what happened.

The idea came from a collaboration between Jan Odor (of JanSpeed) and race nut Ian Harrower. The car was constructed to Group 5 rules by ADA Engineering from a double-skinned, steel centre section with glass fibre wings and closures and given that it was supposed to be challenging the might of Porsche, it was a real long-shot. The car was powerful at least; it was fitted with an experimental, twin-turbo 3.6 litre Rover V8 developed by Janspeed with up to 550 BHP on maximum boost. Unfortunately it was not in any way sanctioned by British Leyland and in fact the factory tried to scupper the project on a number of occasions by pressurising suppliers not to supply the British Racing Green team as it became known.

The car was never developed properly through lack of time and money (some factory support would have helped) and the two drivers, John Sheldon and John Brindley had a terrible job just keeping the thing in a straight line at 175 mph due to colossal vibrations which nearly shook the thing to pieces. They had arrived at La Sarthe having hardly turned a wheel and if it had not been for generous French scrutineer allowing them to present the car a second time (after adding some weight) the car would never have taken to the track at all, and if it hadn't been for a dedicated group of TR Register members they would not have even got to France! They even had to use a terribly old-fashioned, 4-speed Muncie gearbox (known colloquially as a rock-crusher) as the team's promised, special 5-speed unit failed to arrive after BL suggested to the supplier that their relationship might suffer if the 'box was shipped!

After some considerable work in the paddock, the car hit 201 mph on the Mulsanne Straight but alas it did not qualify for the race as insufficient laps had been completed. The car was seen on-and-off for two more years without ever achieving anything has lain dormant ever since. It wasn't pretty but in retrospect it did look good, well I think so anyway!

The car is currently owned by Bert Smeets, a Belgian collector of all things TR7.


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