The CSCC Special Saloons + Modsports series
DRIVER : PETE STEVENS from Coventry
CAR : VAUXHALL CARLTON 5.7
ENGINE : CHEVROLET V8 350 ci ( 5736 cc )
CLASS : A NUMBER : 1 or 4
SERIES RECORD : 21 STARTS - 2 OUTRIGHT WINS - 8 CLASS WINS - 2 FASTEST LAPS
2 POLE POSITIONS
Vauxhall Carlton - Chevrolet 5.7
THE CAR :
Pete Stevens` Vauxhall Carlton is probably the most recognisable and certainly the winningest of all those entertaining Thundersaloon cars that graced the UK`s tracks from 1985 to 1995.
Ironically Stevens was originally the Carlton`s main rival before he was able to buy the car himself and add to its winning record. Thundersaloons was the spiritual successor to the 70`s Super Saloons and soon gained good prize money , TV coverage and some serious machinery built just for it. Back in 1986 veteran Vince Woodman and team mate Scottish hot-shoe John Cleland won the Championship in a works Vauxhall Senator. GM sold the car onto Stevens for 1987 in readyness for the brand new Carlton for the championship pairing. Built and run by Dave Cook Racing the Carlton reputedly cost up to 150,000 to build and co-incided with the launch of the road-model.
It was a very marketable car for GM as it looked very much like the production car but had a 5.7 Chevy small block V8 giving out 570BHP@7000 rpm. It was a pure race car however and in an Autosport test comparison at the end of the season recorded a 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds ,0-120 in 10.8 with a top speed , in that gearing, of 168 mph.
The reigning championship pair set pole and won on the Carlton`s debut , the season opener at Brands Hatch. The season didnt quite go to plan however. A few too many mechanical DNFs meant the car only finished 3rd overall. Stevens ,with fellow ex-Hot Rodder Neil Facey won in the Senator. With the Carlton fully sorted the Woodman/Cleland pairing won 7 of the 10 races in 1988 to win the title , setting a new standard in the series and lap records along the way. The title was retained in 1989 before the car was retired at the end of the season.
Joe Ward , owner of Baby Bertha , bought the Carlton from GM and raced it just once in the 1990 season , at Silverstone with Cleland and Tony Dickinson driving. Ward himself would win Class B in a Manta. Pete Stevens meanwhile won Class A again in the Senator , his 2nd title and that cars third. For 1991 Stevens knew the Senator was reliable but not fast enough to match the increasing challenge from the Sierras and various other rivals so he bought the Carlton from Ward. With Chas Millard co-driving Stevens won 4 rounds in 1991 and just 1 DNF but it wasnt quite enough and had to settle for runners-up , 3 points behind the Arquati Sierra. The Carlton now sporting its current colours and sponsorship from Sertec and run by Stevens privateer team.
1992 saw a succesful season , Stevens winning his 3rd title and the car its 3rd too. 1993 was another close fight but runner-up to the Birley/Piper Prelude 239 points to 247 ,Thundersports having switched to single drivers in double-header races by then. 1994 saw Birley retain his title , although Stevens won 6 races but the car wasn`t Championship registered.
1995 was the last in season of Thundersaloon as numbers dwindled , the Calton still there in its 9th season of racing.
Stevens won the first season of BARC`s new Formula Saloons in 1996 before retiring the car. The car made a few public apearences , like the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2003 so when the 2012 Special Saloon series was launched the car was a very welcome and appropriate addition. Stevens and his team rolled back the years with 7 Class A wins in 8 races winning outright at Donington.