The first race for the 2-litre two seater Sports 2000 cars took place at Oulton Park on April 8th 1977. Like the other pair of single seater categories, the original plan was hatched out by the fertile brain of Motor Circuit Developments boss John Webb and it too has become very popular, spreading to many other countries around the world.
Sports 2000 was introduced to fill a void left by the failure of the RAC’s 2 litre Group 6 Championship, which was abandoned at the end of 1976 and the new cars, using many off the shelf parts as well as several components common to other Ford based formulae, proved relatively inexpensive both to produce and maintain.
As a result, a reasonable grid of nine cars appeared at the very first Sodas team supported race – 50% more than at the corresponding inaugural FF2000 race – although several unfortunate incidents and a couple of breakages, it resulted in only four cars reaching the finish, the race being won by the Kelly Girl-Lola T490 of Divina Galica.
Happily, most cars were repaired for the second race at Silverstone only 3 days later and a field of 11 cars was mixed with a grid of Clubmans BSports cars, albeit to the chagrin of some. Miss Galica was absent due to a clashing Shell Sport G8 race, but a fine battle raged in her absence with forma Formula 4 driver John Brown emerging triumphant. Sports 2000 had arrived.
Some fine racing ensued in that opening season, most of the winning attributed to Lola cars, the Huntingdon firm having been closely involved with the organisation of the category. In the championship stakes Divina Galica and Midland Industrialist John Cooper enjoyed a close tussle for the title, although the lady was forced to miss a few rounds due to clashing commitments, which enabled Cooper to win the crow by a mere five points.
Both had been at the wheel of Lola T490s, while engines from Alan Smith and Titan powered the first and second placed cars. Several other marques were represented in the first year, including Saracen, Royale and the fledgling Tiga concern, set up by the forma grand prix drivers Tim Schenkenm and Howden Ganley, who built a car for John Brindley and, later Johm “Pancho” Webb to drive, Webb, in fact, scored the Tigas first win at Mallory Park in September and went on to be placed fourth in the series behind the Lola of former prodsportsman Chris Alford.
In the second season of the formula, Lolas were yet more dominant as even John Webb opted for a change of chassis, while Jeremy Rossiters difficult Robinson RS1 was the only other type of car to score points all year.
The only real variety to be found lay in the motive department, where engine tuners Roy Fewkes, Alan Smith, Sam Nelson CES, Titan, Burton, Davron and Denny Rowland who all produced motors with varying degrees of success, while Frank Sytner emerged on top with the drivers stakes.
Further afield Sports 2000 was already making its presence felt, particularly both in North America and Scandinavia, the latter hosting a well attended series where, surprisingly, considered their lack of sales in England, Tiga cars proved to be the most popular.
Spurred on by their overseas successes, Tiga resolved to make a proper challenge on the British market for the following year and enlisted Newbury’s Ian Taylor – a champion previously in both FF1600 and F2000 – to spearhead their trust. Taylor won his very first race at Silverstone, narrowly beating Desire Wilson after a thrilling encounter, and went on to score no fewer than 23 victories over the next 18 months, clinching the English Sports 2000 title two years running.
Such performances have bought Tiga Racing Cars from a position of relative obscurity into one of almost total dominance, their cars filling seven of the top ten positions in the opening round of the 1981 Derwent Television British Sports 2000 Championship. At the same time, the name of Calnes Sammy Nelson has also shot to prominence as an engine builder, Taylor having used the Wiltshire built engines for every one of those victories.
As a measure of the increase of interest in Sports 2000, no fewer than 45 drivers scored points in the 1980 British championship, while other manufacturers who have expressed more than a passing interest, apart from the “Big Two” – Lola and Tiga – are John Robinson, Crossle, Chevron, TDC and most recently March.
The same kind of enthusiasm existed abroad, as there was to be a pukka European Championship for the first time as well as the national series held in Holland and Sweden, while interest continued to grow in North America and even Japan.
Costs had risen dramatically since the formulas inception with a new chassis costing almost £10,000 – but there was a market for second hand cars and running costs could be kept within sensible bounds. In the main, the formula appealed to the wealthier amateur rather than the ambitious youngsters but it was readily ingested into the broad sphere of motor sport and seemed set for a bright future.
Thanks to Andrew Nixon who provided the Images from the original programme.