Empire Customers Get F1 Lesson

Ever since the very beginning of our sport, at the turn of the 19th/20th Century, innovation and development have been a cornerstone of British Speed Hillclimbing as manufacturers have strived to beat their competition by working harder and thinking smarter.

Empire Wraith Willem Toet

An early rendering of the Empire Wraith concept


There is one hillclimb manufacturer which is really going places at the moment. Somerset-based Empire Racing Cars are having a major push in 2014, with the launch of both a brand new, state-of-the-art, carbon fibre chassised, motorcycle engined hillclimb challenger as well as a very innovative, supercharged, sports libre class challenger and a modified version of the existing Leaders class winning, spaceframe chassised ‘Double-0′ series.

A couple of weeks ago now a fantastic event was held in the Greyhound Pub in Brackley, Northamptonshire for Empire Racing Cars customers, plus a few lucky souls who were invited to tag along. Thanks to a last-minute call from Empire boss Bill Chaplin, Mr Editor was one of the lucky few…

The event was effectively a low-key launch of the latest iteration of the Empire Wraith, 28 Empire customers & guests were present, and was based around a talk by the man behind the cars aero package, Sauber F1 Head of Aerodynamics and former top-line hillclimber Willem Toet. The small group of guests were treated to a Powerpoint Presentation charting Willem’s history and background in the sport, the concept and planning stages of the Wraith, and the CFD development and evolution of the concept.

Willem Toet Pilbeam MP88

Willem checks the data on his Pilbeam MP88 (thanks to Steve Wilkinson).


It was agreed that the launch would effectively operate under ‘Charter House’ rules, so we can’t go into too much detail, but there is one amusing story that we thought we would reveal….

Willem and Bill first worked together back in 2005 & 2006, when Toet had just moved from the Honda F1 team in the UK to the BMW Sauber team in Swtizerland, and was unable to prepare and transport his Pilbeam MP88 for the British Hillclimb Championship. Chaplin stepped in to prepare the car, and to run the car at weekends to take the pressure off of the jet-setting driver. During 2005 Willem decided to move the rear wing of the then Judd EV powered car further back as part of a raft of developments to keep the Gould GR55B of Champion-elect Martin Groves in sight. A new wing mount was drawn up by Willem, Chaplin was sent the sketches and set to work. The first thing that the ever pragmatic West Countryman did was measure the size of the truck the Pilbeam was transported in, and the drawing was modified to allow the doors of the truck to still be closed when the car was in place.

Willem Toet Pilbeam MP88

Willem finished 2nd to Martin Groves in the BHC with the Pilbeam in 2005.


On arriving at the following weekend’s Hillclimb event, Toet spotted the new wing mount and was impressed by the job. After a successful weekends sport the Pilbeam was put back in the truck and as Bill slammed the doors shut, with about a quarter of an inch to spare, Willem suddenly exclaimed “struth, it is lucky that the new wing still fits in the truck!”.

“Yes Willem, it is lucky isn’t it!?” was Bill’s typically low-key response!!

Thanks for the invite to what was a cracking event, it was great to hear a manufacturer speak about the concept and thought process behind the carbon.

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