Exciting Class of Vintage Race Cars Offers Thrills and Competitive Racing
– Story by John Kramer
– photos courtesy of John Kramer
Sports 2000 class race cars are exhilarating to drive and offer close, competitive racing that is accessible to amateur racers. The class started in the 2970’s and was designed to emphasize driver skill and training in a cost conscious package. These factors, together with strong advocacy for the class by Vintage Sports 2000 North America, make Sports 2000 one of the most exciting classes in vintage racing.
A Brief History
Sports 2000 (or S2) was created in 1976 by Brands Hatch circuit owner John Webb. Webb created the class to address the shrinking grids of two liter, two seat FIA Group 6 cars following the skyrocketing fuel costs and related economic challenges after the oil embargoes. He designed the S2s to be similar to the Lolas and Chevrons that were the mainstays of Group 6, but substituted the much more economical German Ford 2-liter SOHC engine for the exotic Group 6 Cosworth engine. S2 had tightly designed rules to control costs, and those original requirements largely remain in place today. S2’s rules are now maintained by Vintage Sports 2000 North America (VS2NA) and the VS2NA board does not anticipate making any rules changes in the foreseeable future and any material changes much also be approved by VS2NA’s membership. You can find S2’s rules by clicking The Cars and then Rules and Regulations at www.vs2na.com
S2 came to the United States in 1978 when Carl Haas imported five Lola T-492s for a group of Sports Car Club of America racers in the Midwest. S2 was well established by 1980 with fierce competition among up-and-coming racers, some of whom went on to successful professional caeers. In the late 1980’s and early 1990s S2 became the platform for two professional race series in North America. The American Cities Racing League was modeled on stick and ball sports and featured a championship for driver teams representing west coast cities. The North American Pro Series supported IMSA events and was renamed the Oldsmobile Pro Series in the 1990s when Oldsmobile used S2 to promote its new Quad Four engine that was used in the top class in the Pro Series.
Today, S2 is very popular in vintage racing and can comprise 10 percent or more of the race entry at certain events. especially the race weekends on VS2NA’s schedule. S2 also has a strong following internationally especially in the UK. Many manufacturers built a variety of S2 models over the years, including Carbir, Chevron, Lola, March, Pratt & Miller, Reynard, Royale, Shannon, Shrike, Swift, Tiga, and Van Diemen.
S2s emphasize handling and braking over power. S2s are capable of cornering and braking loads near 2gs and often turn some of the quicker lap times at vintage race events because of their handling ability. S2’s use a low center of gravity, light weight, slicks and efficient aerodynamics to generate great lap times. The minimum S2 weight with driver is 1,310 or 1,335 pounds depending on its engine specification. A Well tuned engine with the newer and higher specification camp shows approximately 150 hp on a dyno, and most S2 engines have the new cam. S2 top speeds at tracks with longer straights are in the mid 130 mph range. A quick S2 lap time results from good driving technique and maintaining momentum through corners. S2 is very much a driver’s class.
S2 racers have a wide range of experience and the deep grids usually ensure that people have someone else to race with. Here again, race results tell the story and it is common to see cars with tightly grouped qualifying and fastest race lap times all through the race group. This close racing requires everyone to remember why we do this and to keep our competitive instincts in check, and VS2NA works with the sanctioning groups to enforce their racing rules and general racing etiquette. As with all vintage racing, it is critical that we emphasize and promote safety.
Speaking of safety, an S2’s aluminum tub (some early models use tube frames) and its closed wheel bodywork provide good driver protection. S2s are very roomy compared to most open wheel cars and they are much easier to service than production based cars because their body panels are easier to remove.
S2 has three sub classes that recognize the incremental performance gains realized by the chassis manufacturers over the years and, more importantly, rewards racers of the earliest S2s. The three classes from oldest to newest, are Historic Sports 2000, Vintage Sports 2000 and Sports 2000. The S2’s class rules are also located at the rules and regulations link listed above.
It is important to know that older model S2s remain very competitive in the right hands and that the performance improvements over time were only incremental. For example, if you check S2 race results you will often see HS2 class Tigas or VS2 class Swift DB2s ahead of the newer class Lolas and Carbirs, and racers of older cars can absolutely win S2 races outright. The point is, don’t get so bogged down in focusing on classes and models that you don’t ever get started and miss all the fun.
S2s in good condition with reasonable spares packages can be purchased for between $20,000 and $40,000. As with any race car, the actual costs obviously depend on the particular model, its condition and its history. The most es pensive S2s are often the last iteration Lolas because of their level of development and the Lola brand, but, as previously noted, you don’t need a Lola to go fast, be competitive and have fun. S2 motors are low tech and durable and can go many race weekends between rebuilds. Many S2 racers do their own maintenance and track support. S2s use the tried and true Hewland MK 9 gearbox. Slicks from Avon, Hoosier, or Goodyear cost about $900 a set and, depending on how competitive you want to be, can last up to several race weekends. The cost consciousness that led to S2 in the first place is still and advantage today.
VS2NA is a volunteer managed advocacy group for S2 racers. VS2NA is not a sanctioning group, but works with sanctioning organizations like SVRA, VDCA, and VRG to arrange extra benefits for S2 racers at their events, VS2NA selects approximately 6 race weekends each summer at tracks east of the Mississippi and arranges parties at the events and, whenever possible S2 dedicated race groups and favorable time slots on the sanctioning group’s race weekend calendar. This year’s VS2NA calendar can be found by clicking Schedule at www.vs2na.com. Please note that lal of the SVRA events on VS2NA’s schedule except for Watkins Glen in July will feature S2 only races, and the season ending events at VIR will include VS2NA’s annual awards banquet. Finally, VS2NA’s board member Denny Gernert has obtained and incredible level of sponsorship for VS2NA’s members. VS2NA awards thousands of dollars of racing related prizes at each of it’s events to VS2NA members who participate in the race weekend with their S2. Thank you, Denny. Please join VS2NA if you own an S2 or are interested in learning more. You can find VS2NA’s membership form by clicking Membership Renewal on the VS2NA’s site.
You can find more information about S2 at www.vs2na.com and at www.s2racing.yuku.com. The Cars and Parts For Sale section on the yuku site is the most active source of S2s for sale. As previously noted, many constructors manufactured S2s over the years, which can create confusion, but there are many resources to help answer your questions about this and other topics. All of the VS2NA directors would be happy to answer your questions or refer you to others for help; you can find our contact information on the VS2NA site.