I’m gonna ask you a question, a random one at that but you know who Ken Block is right? How about Colin McRae? Sebastian Loeb? Household rally driving names all with one thing in common …. MSport or more importantly Malcolm Wilson.
So who is Malcolm Wilson I here you ask and whats it got to do with the Escort Cosworth you see here? Well before he was shaping world rally champions and Gymkhana kings he was piloting WRC rally cars himself.
And one of his most successful cars was the very Escort Cosworth you see before you. The car you see in the pictures throughout this feature is the very car that Malcolm won the British Rally Championship in 1994.
To win the BRC Malcolm had to pilot the car to outright wins at the Ulster,Manx and Scottish International rallies, the very same rally title that some very iconic names like Roger Clark and Jimmy McRae have also had the honour of holding.
The car is also iconic amongst rally followers due in part to its British success but mainly due to the awesome Michelin Pilot livery that Malcolm Wilson campaigned back in 1994
So how did the car get from fully fledged rally car to iconic show/demo car?
Well at the end of the ’94 season the car was sold onto to Brian Lyle who competed in the 1995 British and Scottish National Championship, Brian achieved a 19th place at the RAC rally in that year. Brian then sold the car onto its current owner George Gauld in 1996, George piloted the car to a runners-up place in the Scottish Rally Championship in 1996, it would be the cars last competitive year.
The Escort sat pretty much in storage from the end of 1996 until in 2002 George decided it was time for a complete rebuild/restoration back to A1 original pre rally condition.
“It depressed me seeing the car dismantled and in boxes, so in 2002 we had it completely rebuilt and restored to its original as new condition. It hasn’t been driven in anger since and only really seen at local cars shows, where it always attracts a lot of attention. It’s an iconic British rally car and people have very fond memories of watching Malcolm Wilson win the British Rally Championship title in it.”
Considering that was nearly 12 years ago the car hardly looks like its been out the workshop for 10 minutes!
So where do we start? I can’t express how mega this car is in real life, the technology on the car is pretty relevant today but you have to remember that this car was originally built over 20 years ago!
The body shell is a WRC spec lightened body with a full WRC spec cage built to Wilson Motorsports specification complete with modified sills for a quick jacking point access, the roof has the WRC spec fresh air vents and of course there is the Escort Cosworth OEM bodykit complete with the iconic whale tail.
Slip inside the driver door and we are greeted with the usual suspects, Carbon/Kevlar seats are supplied for the driver and copilot complete with the Malcolm Wilson’s name and the name of his coplilot/navigator at the time, 6 point harnesses make sure they stayed in position during the stages.
A flocked dash keeps the reflections down that come through the front windscreen which interestingly is held in with a rubber seal and isn’t bonded like road going Cosworths to ease removal should it become damaged.
A digital dashboard relays info to the driver on stage and there a timing setup for the copilot to keep tabs on. The centre console only houses the most necessary fuses.
Under the bonnet is obviously where most of the action takes place
A fully built Monotune engine resides in the engine bay producing a WRC approved 350bhp, a 38mm restricted Garret turbo feeds the block with a Msport custom side exit exhaust doing the job of expelling the spent gases.
The car runs full anti lag along with some very trick “motorsport” upgrades, take the intercooler, its twin staged for the air intake and is mounted in the front of the car along with the standard cooling radiator but they are set up in a staggered position.
I tried to get a picture but its pretty tight in there to get the complete idea.
The cooling doesn’t stop there, all the differentials get their own oil coolers, there’s an oil cooler for the power steering,gearbox, even the suspension dampers get water-cooled via a tank in the rear of the car! See what I mean about trick mods?
Speaking of the diff’s and gearbox, the car runs a 7.5″ front and 9.5″ rear differential the gearbox is a 7 speed H pattern that drives all 4 wheels at once through a multi plate bronze clutch. Modifications were carried out to the steering giving it a lock to lock steering wheel input of 2.5 turns! very handy when charging around tight road rally stages.
The suspension and components are obviously fully adjustable and are rose jointed. The steering hubs are made from magnesium another weight saving idea, every second counts!
During this photo shoot the car was wearing its Tarmac wheel set up which is a 18″ x 8″ wide OZ Magnesium wheel but for gravel the car wears a 15″ x 7″ wheel and for Ice/snow the car uses a 15″ x 6″ wheel, of course shod in Michelin rubber.
With the car fully rebuilt George has decided that the car is too valuable to risk on the rally stages and now it resides in its own heated garage and is paraded at various shows. Michelin requested the car to be shown on its stand at this years Goodwood festival, goes to show the quality of this car.
I’ll leave this feature with a quote from Malcolm Wilson, I think its goes to show you just how iconic this car is to some people, for me it’s certainly burnt into my rally memories for life!
“I had two fantastic years driving the Michelin Pilot Escort RS Cosworth and enjoyed wonderful support from Michelin. I had been trying to win the British Rally Championship for a long time, but the 1994 season started with a fuel pump problem and retirement on the opening round in Wales. That meant we had to win all the remaining rounds to win the title. The pressure was on, especially as the competition included our team-mate Stephen Finlay. He was driving an identical Michelin Pilot Escort in the British and Irish Rally Championships, and had won in Wales. It all came down to the final round on the Isle of Man, which we won to take the title. In 1993 I also finished third on the RAC Rally in the car, which was my best World Rally Championship rally result as a driver – so I have very fond memories of the Michelin Pilot car.
“It’s hard to believe that all that was twenty years ago, because I still get asked to sign models and memorabilia of it today. At the recent Rally Argentina, a fan came up to me with a Michelin Pilot Escort RS Cosworth Airfix model, unused and still in its original box, asking to swap it for some current M-Sport World Rally Team clothing. And yes, we did the swap!”