If you’re a fan of time attack on a global scale, then you’re no doubt aware that the Brits have a cracker of a series going (timeattack.co.uk), appealing to both the grassroots crowd with their Club class and high-end tuners with their Pro class. And from an American standpoint, it’s particularly cool seeing machines driven in anger that we were never lucky enough to get on this side of the pond — hot hatches like Mark Pollard’s MG Metro and sports cars like Jimmy White’s Vauxhall VX220.
Among all the uniquely British machines that compete in this top-flight time attack series, it’s Warren Kelly’s Lux Edition ’94 Ford Escort RS Cosworth that intrigues us the most. That’s because every USDM Ford Escort ever built was a truly wretched little tin can, hardly worthy of a trip to the corner store, let alone attacking time around a racetrack. But in the UK (and the rest of Europe) small Fords are a totally different breed, Mk I Escorts having a huge and loyal following to this day for both rally and road-racing purposes. As Euro-cool as early Escorts are, for our money the Mk V Escort Cosworth takes it to a whole new level, thanks to its WRC pedigree and limited production run.
For the Cossie uninitiated, Mk V Escort Cosworths were developed around the chassis and mechanicals of its predecessor, the Sierra Cosworth. This allowed Ford to use the larger Cosworth YBT 2-liter turbocharged engine and transmission hidden beneath a flared and vented Mk V Escort skin. With permanent 4WD that splits power 34/66 percent (front/rear), Recaro sports seats, a funky whale tail spoiler and a Garrett T25 turbocharger, the Escort Cossie was built for hardcore enthusiasts. It was also one of the first production cars to produce a meaningful amount of front downforce (33 lbs at 70 mph). With only 7,145 units built (the first 2,500 being “homologation specials” used to get the FIA accreditation for entry into the World Rally Championship) and an impressive WRC history, including wins at Monte Carlo and a Tommi Makinen win in Finland, these little Euro Fords are about as special as a 4-wheeled machine can get.
Warren’s Cossie has an even more unique history to it, having been raffled by Ford in June of 1994 as one of the last big turbo models. As Warren told us, “The chap who won it didn’t want the car and asked the garage if they could sell it. This went to a motor trader and I acquired it after looking for over 12 months. Like most Cosworth owners, I decided to put my own take on the car, and with so many options available, very few Cosworths are alike.” Warren started with a 5-lug hub conversion to which he bolted 19-inch wheels, making his the first Cossie Escort to run such a large-diameter wheel. This may sound a bit showy, but keep calm and carry on because Warren’s next step was to find a shop capable of building a 500hp engine. >>
As Warren wrote about on his blog (wrk-ltd.co.uk), after talking with many companies, most didn’t want to go above 400 hp because of transmission problems. In the end it was renowned UK tuner Mountune that had moxie enough to build the first iteration of the 500hp engine around a T4 turbo before upgrading to a GT35. After scratching his straight-line itch with a few 180-mph top-speed runs and an 11-second quarter-mile e.t., Warren decided it was time to prep the car for his real passion: circuit driving.
Spending weekends lapping at the Nürburgring and Spa would satisfy most enthusiasts, but in 2007 Warren decided to make the jump to time attack, starting with a round at Brands Hatch. “I entered this round mainly due to pressure from my friend Glen Horncastle, owner of Time Attack UK,” Warren says. “The event went well for me, and I managed to get into the final. The year after, I entered two rounds: Brands Hatch and Snetterton. I made the final in both, and at this point the bug had well and truly bitten.”
That’s when, over the winter of 2008, Warren decided to change a number of things on his Cossie, both in terms of appearance and performance. For starters, the body was upgraded to WRC spec carbon-Kevlar body panels and the wheels were downsized to 18-inch Rota Boosts wrapped in 265/40R18 Pirelli P Zero race tires. The suspension also got a serious overhaul, thanks to sponsor Black Art Design, which replaced the rubber OE bushings with a combination of polyurethane, spherical and solid bushings to go along with its highly sophisticated triple-adjustable coilover dampers.
There was no turning back at this point, so instead Warren turned up the wick even higher. A revised turbo setup and a 120mm Airtec front-mount intercooler was tacked to the Cossie’s nose such that the retuned Pectel T6 2000 ECU was now in control of a stonking 700+ hp and 660 ft-lbs of torque on race fuel.
The biggest thorn in Warren’s side had been the reliability of the Cosworth gearbox, so to solve this problem once and for all he made the significant investment required to mate a FFD 7-speed sequential gearbox to his Escort’s YB engine, having already upgraded to a Quaife ATB front differential and a Titan rear differential with GRP A uprated driveshafts. For in-car evidence of the incredible flat-shifting soundtrack produced by Warren’s Cossie and its FFD gearbox, search YouTube for the video “Time Attack Snetterton 200” and turn up the volume.
Warren Kelly is clearly a man on a time attacking mission, given the relentless improvements he and his tuning partners (most notably Rob Denney and the team from Mountune, the same group that crews for Tanner Foust in the European Rallycross Championship) have made to his exquisitely prepared and presented ’94 Ford Escort Cosworth. There’s little doubt in our minds that Warren’s Cossie and many of his Pro class compatriots from the UK series would give the top time attack dogs in Japan and America a serious run for their money. If only a big-time sponsor would step up to bring this type of international competition to a head — hey, Red Bull, are you listening?
Specs & Details
'94 Lux Edition Ford Escort RS Cosworth
Engine 2-liter YBT turbocharged inline-4
Engine Modifications Mountune Racing 26mm head port & fully built engine w/ wet liner block 10 long studs & WRC oil spray jets; Piper cams & adjustable cam gears; Arrow rods; Garrett GTX35 turbo; Airtec 120mm front-mount intercooler; Hart inlet plenum; gray fuel injectors (x8); Bosch in-tank prime pump w/ -44 inline Bosch pumps (x2); 2.5L swirl pot; Pectel T6 ignition system & coil packs; Mocal 16-row engine oil cooler
Drivetrain FFD 7-speed sequential transmission w/ built-in pump & 8-row Mocal cooler; Quaife ATB LSD (f); Titan LSD (r); GRP A driveshafts
Engine Management Pectel T6 2000 ECU
Suspension Black Art Design Suspension 3-way coilover dampers; Eibach progressive tenders & main springs; Grp A strut bar; complete WRC adjustable front end w/ rollbar & compression struts; HKS solid caster top mounts; alloy solid bushings
Interior 8-point welded-in rollcage; stripped interior; flocked dash; carbon-Kevlar Corbeau Revenge racing seat; Momo steering wheel; Race Technologies digital dash; Luke harnesses; Toggle switch panel; Nomad 40-psi boost gauge; Tilton 900 series floor-mounted pedal box
Exterior WRC-style carbon & carbon-Kevlar body panels; Carbon Delight carbon-fiber roof & front splitter; WRC carbon rear wing, carbon rear diffuser; Morretts headlights; Plastic4Performance windows w/ NACA ducts for driver cooling
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 18x9" Rota Boost wheels; 265-40R18 Pirelli P Zero track tires; AP Racing 378mm 6-pot (f) & 315mm 4-pot (r) BBKs; Performance Friction 01 brake pads
Numbers 700+ hp & 660 ft-lbs of torque on 109 RON fuel
Sponsors Mountune Racing, Auto Specialists, AIRTEC, Black Art Design, Hel Performance, Motul, Bara Motorsport
Special Thanks Big Dave Jordon & Steve; Wenny; Ginge; twins; & most important family, friends & my wife, Kay