Europa: the final countdown

Students from Cambridge Regional College have been learning how to prepare an example of the historic Lotus sports car from paddock to start line

Students at the Huntingdon campus of Cambridge Regional College are combining their love of motor sport with a future career as they provide full racing team support for a driver in the Historic Sports Car Club 70s Roadsport Championship.

The College’s Motorsport group students, under the guidance and encouragement of course leader Lewis Beales, are studying on a Level 3, two year BTEC Diploma course, while providing a range of engineering services for driver Howard Payne in his 1972 Lotus Europa. This includes full race tuning and final checks and adjustments required after qualifying, not simply to pass scrutineering but to ensure maximum performance in the race itself.

The championship sees 12 rounds of racing with the Huntingdon team attending events at some of Britain’s best-known circuits, such as Snetterton, Donington, Cadwell Park and a special event at the home of British motor racing, Silverstone.

Results so far this season have been encouraging, with the team currently occupying third place in Class C of the Championship. 

Lewis Beales said: “We’re doing well and, as a previous championship winning team in a different category, we’re always looking to improve. For the students, this is a real challenge. They are working on a vehicle that’s approaching 50 years old, yet still squeezing every ounce of performance from it under highly competitive racing conditions”.

The Lotus Europa in question is a mid-engined, modified road car based on original drawings made in 1963 by Ron Hickman, then Director of Lotus Engineering. The highly efficient aerodynamic design was later put into production by the legendary Colin Chapman.

Recent graduates from the course at Huntingdon are now employed in roles ranging from technician and sales consultant to engineering apprenticeships, competition engine rebuilding and model making, with distinguished organisations such as Lola, BMW, Sherwood Engines, TripleR Composites, Vindis Group and Geoff Richardson Racing Engines.

2014 graduate Daniel Knight became the first Huntingdon alumni to join Oxford Brookes, and was on the award-winning Oxford Brookes Formula Student race team in 2015.

Current student Nicholas Chatten is a member of the Historic Race team and also provides reporting on rounds of the Championship.

“Motorsport Engineering is a discipline in which the UK has always excelled” he says, “with British designers, technicians and drivers among the world’s elite. For any student who wants to follow an exciting career path in a sector where we are world class, working as part of a close-knit team and seeing the results of your work week in, week out, I’d definitely recommend this course and this College”.