Classic Ford June 2009
Matt Downer - Escort Mk2, 2.0L Duratec
Evo III, Escort RS2000 - Duratec Racer
No stranger to the pages of Classic Ford, Matt Downer shows us the latest incarnation of his stunning Mk2 Escort
Words Jon Betts, Photos Michael Whitestone
"IN ITS CURRENT GUISE, MATT'S MK2 IS BEST DESCRIBED AS A ROAD LEGAL RACE CAR"
We first featured Matt and his Signal Yellow Mk2 way back in 1998 when it was powered by a hot Pinto, and at the time it was just a modified road car. Since then it has changed a lot, having a spell with an naturally aspirated Cossie before arriving in its current guise, what is best described as a road-legal race car.
I've no doubt that many of you will be looking at the pictures and thinking, okay so it's just another Group 4 rally car, and to be fair that's exactly what Matt wants you to believe. "I've built the car to look how I want it to - like a tarmac rally car - buts it's built to race on the track in sprints." Clearly this Escort is full of surprises and is quite removed from your average rough-and-ready rally slag.
Now there's been a huge amount of debate over the last 12 months or so regarding the worth of the Duratec as a serious contender in the world of performance engines, but we reckon that Matt's current set-up could put all those arguments to bed. In fact you only need to ask our Editor, Mr Woolley about how well this car performs after Matt took him for a spin out on track at last year's Ford Fair. "I don't think there was a part of the roll cage that Simon didn't try to hang onto," laughs Matt.
But with a tried and tested NA Cossie on the go, why go to all the bother of fitting Duratec? "Well there was definitely a bit of 'I've done that already', but it was also a lot to do with the fact that I'd had it for along time and wanted to try something different," say Matt. "I'd seen and spoken to a lot of new Duratec owners and they had nothing but praise, the main thing being the torque that it produces compared to their old engines - XEs, Cossies, BDs. "The weight reduction was always a big lure too as it's free horsepower effectively. I also wanted more power - who doesn't? And I knew I wasn't going to get big power from the YB as it doesn't have a long enough stroke to produce the torque. And besides it would have cost me a fortune," explains Matt.
So following a conversation with Steve Broughton at SBD, Matt put an order in for a Duratec and offloaded the Cossie to help pay the bill. The engine in question was a bit of a test bed for Steve and actually appeared in our February issue where it was dyno'd at 304bhp whilst running eight injectors. The Duratec's critics will mention the suspect crank, but this engine uses the stock item yet still pushes out a confirmed 294bhp (it's now only running four injectors) and a massive 189lb.ft of torque, and will happily rev to 9400rpm.
Compare that to the figures on Matt's old YB and you will see an increase of 75bhp and 50lb.,ft of torque, which makes a huge difference to the way the car drives. "My first impressions were how smooth it was and it's ability to produce the power from so much lower down and with less need to wring its neck all the time to go fast, and it revs so well too, it really does feel totally different to my YB," says Matt.
The installation of the engine itself was relatively painless using SBD's new exhaust manifold, (now finished in a matt black ceramic finish thanks to Peter at Camcoat), their engine mount kit and a Retro Ford water rail, which required just a small amount of clearance adding to the bulkhead. The Duratec runs a PACE dry sump system with Matt opting to mount the tank in the engine bay rather than the boot, reducing the amount of pipework required saving a few pounds in the process. Matt is also using an electric water pump and a small Denso alternator helping to make the whole installation neat and tidy. Behind the Duratec sits a Quaife alloy case four-speed dog 'box, now utilising a hydraulic clutch for smoother changes. This modification, as with many other neat touches such as the alternator brackets, were machined and fabricated by Matt himself.
"My dad always wanted me to have a proper welded-in cage fitted but I've never trusted anyone enough to work on my car. That was until I met Gary." The work started with the removal of the old cage and the delivery of a pile of tubes from the Roll Centre which Gary welded into position. This has been linked into all suspension points and the A and B pillars with custom-made gussets to produce an extremely stiff shell - just check out the three wheel action shot! At the same time, Gary also fitted new seat mounts, an exhaust tunnel to allow the pipe to sit much higher up and a rather unique Watts linkage set-up. An Escort uses a relatively low roll centre at the front as standard but the commonly available Watts linkage kits have quite a high roll centre, located around the middle of the axle, so between them they came up with a new design that means the rear roll centre is now positioned around 4 inches lower.
The result is much less body roll and therefore increased rear end grip, which inspires far more confidence when cornering at speed. In fact, Matt is now complaining of too much understeer, although Gary has his own theory: "I reckon it's just the way he drives!"
With all the fabrication work out of the way, the shell was sent off to Shaun Potter at SP Racing Raint & Prep for the Kermit Grey interior and Signal Yellow exterior respray. The shell was then shipped back to the Retromotorsport workshop for the refit, which, thanks to the all new wiring loom from fellow racer, Graham Millar, went without too many hitches. Matt's attention to detail meant that everything fitted where it should do and, as most of the parts had already been in situ, it was a fairly quick process and Matt was straight back into competition only a few months after starting the project.
To ensure that everything went as it should do, the car was shipped back to SBD for its initial start up, which again thanks to the preparation and attention to detail by Steve and the guys at SBD the engine barked into life and was ready to run immediately, a further nod towards the benefits of running a modern ECU and throttle bodies. Matt is yet to get the full potential out of the car having only competed in a handful of events but already the car is considerably quicker and if anything it just grips the tarmac too well. This was evident at the Anglesey sprint that we attended with him where the other rwd Escort competing that day spent most of its time sideways, while Matt, with more power and torque, simply stuck to the black stuff like the car was on rails. Perhaps not as entertaining to watch but it does make for much quicker times.
As the car is further developed, we are sure that it will just get quicker and quicker and will prove all those Duratec critics wrong. Matt would like to dedicate this latest version of the car to his dad, Bob Downer who recently passed away. Bob was always Matt's number one fan and had always supported his racing, travelling to meetings up and down the country. "He was the reason I got into cars in the first place, I owe a lot to him."
Mk2 RS2000 flat front, Gartrac Boreham Alloy arches, steel inners and alloy front spoiler, Retromotorsport full weld in cage triangulated to all suspension points and gusseted into shell, Retromotorsport exhaust tunnel, Carbon Kevlar bonnet and boot, Signal Yellow and Kermit Grey paintwork by SP Racing paint and prep, Carbon Kelvar interior panels, Stack ST500R tacho, OMP wheel, plumbed-in mechanical fire extinguisher and hand-held extinguisher, Motordrive seats re-trimmed by Harrison trimming in Dynamica fabric, Safety Alcantrara Dash top, Electric power steering, RedTop 40 gel battery in Prepfab mount, Racetec auxiliary gauges, Brise 40L alloy foam filled tank, Windy Millar wiring loom.
SBD 2-litre Duratec with SBD Cams, taper throttle bodies, Saenz rods, Omega pistons, SBD 4-2-1 manifold ceramic coated by Camcoat, SBD/Pace dry sump systems, Pace 5-inch tall dry sump tank with SBD modified breather, MBE992 ECU, direct firing coils, electric water pump, Radfab radiator, SBD s/s exhaust silencer, Mocal remote oil filter, Goodridge -6, -10 & -12 fitting for oil and fuel. Power: 294bhp, 189lb.ft torque, max revs 9400rpm.
Quaife alloy case four-speed dog box 2.2 first, Superclutch 7.1/4 double plate clutch, SBD ultra lightweight flywheel, Titan hydraulic centre push, Rally and Comp equip propshaft, fully floating twin taper atlas axle alloy brace, alloy hubs, ZF motorsport diff, 5:1 CWP
Front: Bilstein Group 4 short 2.1/4 tarmac struts, 300/70 insets, 300lb springs, Gartrac tension struts with remote anti roll bar, rose jointed in situ adjustable TCAs, spherical bearing top mounts.
Rear: Work style four-link with Retromotorsport/Matt Downer low roll centre Watts linkage, raised boot floor large diff tunnel, Bilstein 220/110 coilovers 225ln springs.
Front: Alcon WRC four-pot radial mount callipers, 304mm x 25mm discs, Gartac alloy hubs, home made bells and calliper mounts, DS3000 pads, -3 ss pipe throughout.
Rear: Escort Cosworth callipers DS3000 pads, AP tarmac discs.
WHEELS AND TYRES
Group4 8x15 Compomotive ML ET-12 on Toyo R888s and Dunlop CR311s
Motordrive bucket seats, OMP deep-dish wheel, Safety Devices harnesses, hand-held fire extinguisher, Carbon fibre door cards, dash and instrument panel, Stack gauges.