The 2023 Le Mans Classic Class Winning, 1971 Ford Capri RS2600 To Group 2 Specification

By the end of the 1960s Ford was pursuing an ambitions wide-ranging global competitions programme. With its UK operation concentrating on developing the Escort for rallying and circuit racing, Jochen Neerpasch, the head of the Motorsport Department in Cologne, was delegated to start work on a racing version of the Capri. Upon its release in 1969, the Capris gained early successes with class wins achieved in international rallies and it was clear early on that the car’s greatest potential was as a circuit racer.

The model known as the ‘RS2600’, based on the 2600GT which was Ford of Germany’s top-of-the-range model at the time, was launched in 1970 and was heavily updated in September 1971. During the four years of production, only 3532 RS2600s were built, and all were left-hand drive. Featuring a new 2637cc version of the Cologne V6 built by Weslake with their aluminium heads, it became the ideal platform for the Motorsport Department’s pending success. The revised RS2600 also featured a four-speed close ratio gearbox, modified suspension, vented brake discs, lightweight body panels and aluminium wheels.

Under Group 2 regulations, the RS2600’s Weslake developed V6 was allowed to be bored out to a capacity of 2,900cc and it was equipped with Kugelfischer fuel injection and dry sump lubrication. In this form it developed in excess of 320bhp. The suspension, brakes and wheels were up-rated appropriately, the bodywork was lightened by the extensive use of fibreglass panels and  ZF five-speed gearbox was fitted.

In January 1971, the homologation document 1609 was granted to Ford by the FIA for the RS2600 LW (lightweight), giving it a homologated weight of just 900kg. On the track, the lightweight RS2600 achieved great success. Entered by Ford Köln, in 1971, Dieter Gleamer won the European Touring Car Championship in an RS2600 and this title was repeated in 1972 by Jochen Mass. Obviously wining back to back titles was fabulous advertising for Ford and would help cement the Capris place in history as one of the iconic cars of its era.

This car: GAECMR37558

Built in the halls of the Köln Ford factory in Germany in November 1971, GAECMR37558 emerged as an authentic RS2600. One of 256 RS2600s exported to France, it received its inaugural registration on March 8, 1972.

Having spent the first 46 years of its life a road car, it entered a new chapter in 2018 when it was purchased by the previous owner as a restoration project. Specifically looking for an genuine RS2600, 37558 then underwent a meticulous transformative restoration to attain the revered 1973 Group 2 specification.

This began in the summer of 2018 at Custom Fabrications Ltd. Upon taking the shell back to bare metal, it required only minimal repairs. Strategic seam welding was then applied for heightened torsional rigidity, with special attention given to the suspension strut top locations. Next came the installation of a Custom Cages Ltd, Group 2 Capri roll cage. Built to FIA/MSA regulations, it is accompanied by a certification attesting to its integrity.

Normandale Refinishing, known for their precision work with Williams F1, took charge of the bodywork. 37558 was fitted with fibreglass wings, doors, bonnet, and boot, as specified in the FIA homologation document 1609. The car as then finished in the iconic blue and white Ford colours, reminiscent of the Ex-John Fitzpatrick Works team car.

The car was then passed into the capable hands of Jordan Racing Team for the final build Group 2 RS2600 specification. With a well proven and highly successful track record, Mike and Andrew Jordan and their team, drew on past experience gained from preparing other Capris. The utilising of high-quality components from Ford experts Gartrac, including front stub axles, rear axle, tubes, hubs, and bearings, showcased the dedication to authenticity.

The owner, well known for high standard of preparation of his cars over the years, insisted on a ‘no corner cutting restoration’ of the car and it clearly shows in the end product. The braking system features AP calipers, with correct 4-pot closed back calipers on the front and 2-pot on the rear, working in harmony with vented discs and aluminium disc bells.

The 2,903cc Weslake V6 engine was supplied and built by Chris Gilbert of INIT Racing, utilising Weslake aluminium cylinder heads, a slide throttle Kugelfisher fuel injection and all new engine internals, supplied by Ric Wood Motorsport.

Most recently engine rebuild was undertaken by Midland Speed Shop, with the dyno showing an impressive 318bhp with 225 ft lb of torque at 7,400rpm.

A new ZF 5-speed close-ratio gearbox, was supplied by ZF specialist Wayne Lee of Motorsport Transmissions. Under the bonnet, a bespoke aluminium radiator handled cooling duties, accompanied by black silicone hoses. ATEC black pipe work managed oil and fuel transfer, with anodised black fittings throughout. The water header tank and dry sump oil tanks are mounted within the front wings, as per the period RS2600 race cars, thus contributing to a clean and simple engine bay.

The fuel is held in an ATL foam-filled bag tank encased with aluminium, feeding the Kugelfischer up front. The interior featured lightweight wiring loom controlled via a bespoke switch console, complemented by period style gauges adorning the impeccably designed dashboard.

Ensuring safety was paramount, 37558 not only incorporates the aforementioned substantial Group 2 Custom Cages Ltd. roll cage, it has a lightweight Racetech FIA seat with side head protection valid until the end of 2024 and set a top-of-the-range black Schroth 4-point Hans harness, also valid until the end of 2024. A lightweight Lifeline Zero360 fire system can be found in a neat position on the floor of the passenger side to optimise weight distribution.

Making its debut at a BRDC test day in 2019, it has since graced various events, all under the expert maintenance and development of Hi-Tech Motorsport. Highlighted successes include appearances include the Tony Dron Trophy at the Donington Historic Festival in May 2019, where it finished 5th place overall on its first outing. Later in 2019 was the Spa Classic for the Heritage Touring Car Cup race where it qualified 4th overall with a time of 2:47.9 before going on to take a podium with 3rd place overall in only its 2nd competitive outing.

Due to the uncertain times throughout 2020, 37558 was not back on track until Motor Racing Legends, Historic Touring Car Cup at the Silverstone Classic in 2021.

Under new ownership in 2023, 37558 headed out to its most recent and arguably most commendable performance at last years Le Mans Classic, where in qualifying it placed itself in the mix with the Turbo Porsches and prototypes of Plateaux 6, with a blistering time of 4:49.8. It then went on to finish 28th overall and clinching the 1st position in its class. Following on from this, 37558 has since competed at Paul Ricard for Peter Auto’s Heritage Touring Cup, and Oulton Park for Equipe Racing’s 70’s/ Pre 63 / 50’s race where it qualified on pole in the wet and won the race by over 7 seconds in changeable conditions.

With FIA HTP papers valid though 2029, this presents a rare opportunity to acquire a well prepared, competitive and original Capri RS2600 brought to FIA Group 2 specification. Accompanied by its original French registration document, and confirmed by RS Capri Registrar Len Pierce, this not only offers a wonderful opportunity for its next custodian to take on events such as Peter Auto’s Heritage Touring Cup and Motor Racing Legends Historic Touring Car Cup, but they have the opportunity to re-register it on the road, opening up rallies like Peter Autos Tour Auto, and Modena Centro Ore alike.