FIRST DRIVE: Chevron GT3

2013 Chevron GT3
2013 Chevron GT3
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Be careful what you wish for; that’s the lesson I’m starting to learn after a late evening phonecall means that, rather than sitting in the office, I’m going to be inserting myself into the cockpit of Chevron’s GT3 race car instead.

If you don’t know the back story, Chevron Cars began in the 1960s building racers. Today, Roger Andreason continues to build and restore historic models, while the other side of the business is the modern Chevron racer you see here.

Pictures are all very well, but when you meet the Chevron GT3 for real it’s hard not to be intimidated. For starters it’s very compact; very low, with short overhangs and not exactly a lot between the wheels. Then add to this the fact that it has a 6.2-litre Chevrolet V8 in the back – and a race specification one at that – and the nerves start to jangle.

It gets worse, too. Anthony Reid, veteran racer and winner of the Goodwood hill climb last summer in this very car, went out first to get the car warmed up, followed team-mate Jordan Witt, then it was our turn. Unfortunately the mandatory lunch break came first, and with it came the rain.

So by the time I actually slid into the tiny cockpit, nerves had gone beyond jangly. Like any racing car, the driver is the last thing you make room for; there’s a substantial roll cage and a tiny bucket seat. The windscreen is narrow and your view out is between the front wings, while there’s a video monitor to look directly behind.

There’s a multitude of unlabelled and confusing switches and buttons before me on the dashboard so it’s a relief when one of the pit crew leans in and hits the starter button - a relief until it fires up, anyway. Racing cars generally don’t need to pass noise regulations so they tend to be loud, and the Chevron’s V8 sounds like it’s about to eat me whole.

The Chevron has a sequential gearbox too, rather than a H-pattern like most road cars, so it’s a simple lever that moves forwards and backwards for up and down. Dip the clutch, pull back for first and once you’re rolling you don’t need the clutch again.

I do just that, and with a helpful push from the team I’m kangarooing off down the pitlane. Proper racing cars like this aren’t designed to be good in traffic and at low speeds they grumble and protest, like a race horse asked to trot around a parade ground. Eventually I get out on to the damp surface of Donington Park and it’s time to get going.

At first the Chevron is a real handful. As I dawdle around at low speeds trying to get my bearings the engine protests at my lack of progress, and every time it hesitates, the hiccup makes me jab the throttle and create wheelspin. Then it twitches sideways, I back off and the cycle starts all over again. A whole lap of this makes me wonder just how far out of my depth I really am.

The Chevron is much happier at speed though, and once I start to push a little more, it all starts to fall into place. Even on wet tyres and a drying track, the throttle needs the utmost respect; there’s a minimum of 450bhp, possibly over 500bhp, and the traction control system is you.

But used properly the Chevron simply flies. There’s a spectacular blare from the exhaust even through my crash helmet and the acceleration feels more NASA than GM.

The brakes are like nothing you’ll ever experience on the road either. There’s no servo to help you out so an initial push is just met with a lot of resistance, but push with conviction and it has you heaving against the seat belts over and over again.

Corners are another thing altogether. For starters, the steering is like an out-of-body experience. It’s so sharp and fast that you only need make tiny movements with your hands in a fixed position, and you end up thinking your way through the bend rather than consciously steering it.

Grip levels are a psychological thing too. This car has massive tyres, low weight and a massive aero package to achieve mind-bending levels of cornering force, but on the other hand the car’s worth over £200,000 and doesn’t belong to me. In the damp conditions it scythes through the bends with precision, delicacy and as much speed as you dare.

So what does it take to get yourself a Chevron GT3? Well £175,000+vat might sound like a lot, but any pro driver will tell you that racing doesn’t come cheap. There’s also a version built to GT4 regulations that’s a full £50,000 cheaper.

The big secret is there’s a road version to come too and while we’ll have to wait until next year for that, budding racers and track-day enthusiasts can have a proven race-winner in the shape of the Chevron GT3. It’s as exciting as cars get.