Joining Patrick, on his right is Charles Morgan ‘Lui meme’…and on the left, Jean Pierre Jabouille, ‘himself’…
Patrick’s in some pretty good company…first there is the grandson of Morgan’s founder and the man who had a helping hand, along with his team Auto GT Racing, in the development of the Aero 8 GT3.
But the idea of actually seeing this un-mistakable looking machine amidst Aston Martins, Lamborghinis and Ferraris in European Cup competitions may seem a bit far fetched. But Jean Pierre is a Morgan buff and with the help of Jacques Laffite and Eric Sturdza, he has taken up a challenge of making a race car out of the Aero 8 and that’s a tall order.
ITV Jean-Pierre Jabouille
"There was this new GT3 regulation. I thought it would be difficult but a challenge to transform a Morgan into a race car. In GT3 there are many makes from Ferrari to Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Porsche and I thought it was within our capabilities to do it."
It’s also great to see Jean Pierre all kitted up… who better than Jabouille to see what the car’s actually got. He wants to fully understand it and add his feedback into the development…over two days he tested shocks, springs, wings, brakes and ride height. Despite being a bit rusty both man and machine are coming along nicely.
"It’s been a year since I lost drove. The feeling is okay but I don’t have the endurance, physically. I did 100 laps yesterday and a lot today. I am beginning to run competitive times and we’re moving forward. I think all the choices made in the construction of this car were correct and between 2007 and 2008, the evolutions were not general but rather on very specific elements related to the balance between the mechanical and aerodynamic sides."
Company boss, Charles Morgan was on hand this day at the Magny-Cours club circuit to check out the car before it heads into competition and this is the very fist time he’s gotten behind the wheel of the GT3 and it’s not without a bit of pride.
ITV Charles Morgan
Jean-Pierre helped Charles a lot to get up to speed and we are now sure the GT3 will be competitive.
Let’s now take a much closer look at this car. Production based, the Aero 8 doesn’t perhaps have the eternal charm of its predecessor, the 4/4 which was born in 1936 but the racing version certainly has a distinctive look about it. The mix of retro and modern is both astonishing and clashing.
The aerodynamics are not really it’s most lethal weapon. There is the nifty right side windscreen, its three screen wipers and the radiator grill prolonged by its long engine cover. So feast your eyes and we mustn’t forget this chromed door handle…
"I want to turn its defaults into qualities."
And also incorporating the principle: its weight, homologated at 1080 kilograms, 200 less than an Aston Martin DBRS9. Jean-¨Pierre is also pleased with the rather favourable weight distribution…at the rear is the fuel cell gearbox radiator and rear axle, all of which is stowed in the boot…
Compared to the competition, the Morgan’s weak point could be the engine, not because of its pedigree, this 5-litre BMW that develops 460 brake horsepower from 7000 rpm, but because it is bone stock. To keep the price down, the engine and gearbox must last the season. On a fast circuit it can be just a bit lacking compared to the other cars. .
Strictly decorative but a little reminder of the past are the wood panels in the boot and on the dashboard, which also has its aluminium trim and round gauges.
"To start it you push here, here and here and very importantly don’t forget the powered steering."
Time has come to shut the small door…and set off. The clutch is progressive, which limits stalling. However, Jean-Pierre like one of his drivers, Johan Boris Scheier told us…the engine does hiccup just a bit. In this case the clutch is used…
It hiccups if the revs are too low and when stepping on the gas. Due to the fickle engine mapping you have to go faster and be smooth on the throttle and it does take some getting used to.
One of its upsides is that it is easy to drive….but the gears are quite long…you only get up to fourth gear on the straight and its chassis is perfectly suited to this circuit. A big go kart capable of forgiving numerous mistakes or an approximate racing line…the front sticks nicely and as you begin to pick up speed, the back end begins to follow better and better.
One thing we really like is the brakes, the car feels very lights and you have the sequential gearbox selector. We began to feel more confident because we had the #30 Morgan to ourselves for nearly an hour. And of course we would like to thank Jean-Pierre and his team for a terrific day out. We had a tremendous time at the controls of this unique English machine…the remaining question now is will those circuits hosting a round of the European GT3 Cup be favourable for the Morgan GT3? Stay tuned…