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Monday, December 4, 2023

The forgotten prototype racer that charmed ‘Stig’

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Ben Collins could have garnered fame by means of his tv work, however he’s no stranger to the cockpit of a racing automotive. Throughout his profession, he has raced every thing from Le Mans prototypes to a Citroen 2CV. It can come as no shock that the equipment Collins appears upon most fondly comes from the extra highly effective finish of this checklist – not that there’s something unsuitable in any respect with 2CV racing! And no, his favorite is not the BMW330d from Prime Gear’s 2007 Britcar 24 Hours journey both. 

As an alternative, the 2003 ASCAR champion picks out the Ascari A410, later renamed the KZR-1, which was powered by a monstrous 590bph Judd GV4 V10 engine. Posed the query of which automotive from his again catalogue is his favorite at his long-awaited British GT return final month, Collins tells Autosport: “That’s simple, the Ascari LMP1, or LMP900 it was known as.

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“The 2 years I had then the quickest automotive on the planet virtually. It was an F1 engine with large downforce.

“On a bumpy monitor within the dry, you had wheelspin in first, second and third from the Judd engine which was a V10 screaming factor. Large brakes, speeds of 200 miles-per-hour almost in all places. We have been racing at circuits all all over the world like Monza and Le Mans, that was a very particular time.”

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The A410 had endured a troubled improvement and did not prequalify for Le Mans in 2000 with Ascari boss Klaas Zwart joined by Canadian Robbie Stirling and Method 3000 almost man Max Wilson. However by 2001, with Collins and Werner Lupberger becoming a member of the challenge, its gearbox woes had been resolved and the automotive was a extra aggressive proposition.  

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Racing the A410 for Crew Ascari within the FIA Sportscar Championship, Collins and Lupberger took fourth within the standings in a season capped by victory at Donington. After retiring from the Barcelona season-opener, the pair bounced again to complete second within the Monza 1000km, taking the chequered flag lower than six seconds off the GLV Brums-run Ferrari 333SP of race-winners Giovanni Lavaggi and Christian Vann.

Photograph by: Sutton Photos

Collins and Lupberger took fourth at Spa, however they tasted victory spoils within the Ascari A410 at Donington in 2001

A trio of fourth-place podium near-misses got here at Spa Francorchamps, Brno, and Magny Cours, however this streak was led to spectacular style at Donington, because the Ascari’s sole win was secured with a margin of near a minute over the title-winning Scuderia Italia-run 333SP pushed by Jean-Marc Gounon and Marco Zadra. Collins additionally piloted the Ascari on the Le Mans 24 Hours, however gas pump issues meant it failed to succeed in the chequered flag.

For 2002, the A410 developed into the KZR-1. Collins raced this iteration on three events, together with at Le Mans, however was unable to recapture his Donington success. Sixth within the Sebring 12 Hours was the excessive level, as suspension failure put the automotive out at Le Mans.

“I did two seasons of that in a automotive that was simply so vigorous and had no energy steering,” the 48-year-old continues. “You had a sequential shift, but it surely was a very bodily battle and unbelievably satisfying.

“Actually, the one factor you may say can be a step up from that will be a Method 1 race. That was superior and I cherished it” Ben Collins

“For me, that was the head of what I raced. Actually, the one factor you may say can be a step up from that will be a Method 1 race. That was superior and I cherished it.”

Shifting onto which of his many team-mates stand out above the remaining, Collins factors to Indianapolis 500 winners Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato – he raced alongside the six-time IndyCar champion in 1999 throughout an Indy Lights season with Johansson Motorsport, then with Sato on his return to the UK in British Method 3 with Carlin in 2000 – earlier than returning to his former Ascari accomplice Lupberger.

He describes the South African as a driver who, “on his day, was a celebrity and his qualifying was unbelievably fast”.

Joking as to why he didn’t select any of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James Could following their 2007 Britcar jaunt, Collins provides: “Nicely, they have been humorous, that’s for certain. That was an leisure present, but it surely was humorous watching them in the true world.

“Truly, it was meant to be a 24-hour race the place you shared the automotive. However from reminiscence, I did many of the laps. The Stig was very busy and it was a variety of enjoyable.”

Collins cites Lupberger as his favourite team-mate and believes the only possible step up from the Ascari was racing in F1

Photograph by: Sutton Photos

Collins cites Lupberger as his favorite team-mate and believes the one attainable step up from the Ascari was racing in F1

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