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Alan Cassells

The dark horse in Irish Motorsport just built a new car

Alan Cassells, a name that might not be familiar at the moment, but one that you may want to remember. After 12 years of racing and rallying in Northern Ireland, Alan has a new car and his eyes are set on winning both the Northern Irish Sprint and Hill Climb Championships. The car? A 350kg OMS 25 with a 500bhp turbo charged Hayabusa engine! But before we delve into that, here’s the backstory.

How it all began

Alan took an unconventional route into motorsport, aged 13 he ventured into junior autograss with a 1000cc mini, and it wasn’t long before he moved up to the adult series. “Autograss was a great way to get into motorsport, much more cost effective than karting”. During this time he went a bit mad for Vauxhall Novas, and not all of which made it back in one piece… “there were a fair few Novas, the GSI Nova ended up on its roof and written off, a lot of learning was done at age 16/17”. Not put off by the excursions, Alan bought another, this time a 1.4 Nova Sport rally car and it quickly started the modifying craze. “It had a modified engine, ran webbers; proper mint car and being a Nova Sport, it was very rare”. Alan raced the car in both rallies and hill climbs across Northern Ireland for a number of years. The Irish hill climbs had (and still do in fact) a rally car class; cars run rally setups (tires included) and this meant Alan could compete in two different disciplines in the same season.

 

The Peugeot days

After a few years with moderate success, Alan ended up selling the Nova to start his new craze for Peugeot’s and got his hands on a modified 106. It was around this time that the trophies started to roll in, but Alan stepped it up again, buying an even faster Peugeot. “This one had a roll cage, dog box, rally suspension and an engine with around 200bhp”. But this wasn’t enough and when the engine let go in Lurgan Park it was time for an upgrade. “I conveniently met a guy called Sandy Brown in Cornwall, a legend in building Peugeot engines, so I had him build me a race engine.” After a number of changes, the engine 1600cc 106 produced a crazy 251bhp with a 9,000 rpm rev limit.😨 A sadev sequential gearbox was fitted along with upgraded suspension, bespoke uprights, aim datalogging and many other upgrades. “It was a very quick car and by the end I had over 50 class wins and became the modified saloon champion.”

Photography credit: Graham Curry – http://ni-motorsport.co.uk/

The Radical

After all those wins, Alan decided to get something quicker “a very good friend of mine let me drive his Radical SR8 and a day later I decided to buy one”. It sported the very distinctive Cassells paint work, which was provided to him by long term sponsor, The Body Shop, based in Northern Ireland. The SR8, a 775kg, 411bhp RPE 2.7l V8 was used in the Northern Irish Hill climb and Sprint championships for just the 2019 season, “I got the sniff of a win with many top 5 overall finishes, but decided a single seater was the way forward, although the Radical was quick, it was much heavier than the competition and cornering speeds suffered.”

The OMS 25 - title challenger

Now it was time to get serious, the OMS 25 was bought last Christmas and it was a race against time to get it ready for what Alan (and all of us!) thought would be a full season of racing. The deadline was 14th March, the first sprint event of the season…

 

“I bought the OMS from an older gentleman who was retiring from the sport, the car had been sitting for a while, but to be honest that didn’t matter as we had always planned to modify and upgrade it anyway. The car came in hill climb spec, and had  a bored out 1600cc Hayabusa engine developing about 250bhp. “We completely stripped the car back its bare tub, every nut and bolt was off the car”. The car was resprayed in the Cassells Motorsport colours like the others before it and it transformed the look of the car. “The guys at IPS/The Body Stop always do such a great job, and the car really looks fantastic”. 

The new engine

The most significant change was to the power unit. “I knew exactly what I wanted to create as soon as I bought the car, Irish Hill Climb champion Rob Dwane has had huge success with his turbocharged OMS, no one can touch him and it’s a proven concept”. Alan’s car was raced in the British Hill Climb Championship, where the hills are much shorter in comparison to the Irish events. “A naturally aspirated 1600cc Hayabusa would be more than fast enough for the British hills, but for the long Irish sprints, you need a lot more power to be competitive”.

 

The engine was taken to Jack Frost at Holeshot racing, who conveniently lives about 10 minutes away from Alan. Jack is a bit of a legend in the trade, one of his most prolific builds being the Hayabusa in Guy Martin’s land speed record bike, which ended up at a ridiculous 830bhp!  

 

Although many of the mainland British Hill Climbers use supercharged Hayabusas, Alan is confident that for the Irish events a turbo charged outfit is the way to go. “Rob Dwane has proved it’s a winning combination in Southern Ireland and I discussed the setup at length with Jack Frost, running superchargers and inline setups are just overly complicated to get right, it was the only way to go”. 

The engine was de-stroked from 1600cc to a 1500cc, a large Xona X2C turbo was fitted along with a syvecs ECU and a new wiring loom. “The engine had a full rebuild and when Jack was finished, we ended up with just over 500bhp”. The car has full boost control, so for wet track conditions the engine can be turned right down to around 300bhp.

Hayabusa turbo conversion

The race to get it finished

The car was taken back to Alan’s home garage for the next wave of improvements. A new geartronics paddle shift system was fitted, along with a new dash display from plex/syvecs and new discs and pads. “The car had to be put back together before the first event and I spent the evenings and weekends trying to get it ready”. 

 

The car was finished on the Friday evening before Alan’s first event at Kirkistown on the 14th March. “I made a number 5 with a bit of gaffer tape, it was that touch and go. I had a brand new car with over 500bhp that I’d never driven before, there was absolutely no time for testing”. 

 

On race day the conditions were damp and overcast, a smooth practice run gave Alan the confidence to run the full 500bhp on for his timed run! Rather remarkably he won the Northern Irish event and got 2nd fastest time of the day, just behind Rob Dwane in the other turbo charged OMS 25. Unfortunately the rainy conditions would mean that this would be the only timed run of the day. “The car was competitive straight out the box – I had no shift lights or gear indicator due to the last minute rush; it just shows you how quick the car is”. This looks like quite a car and driver combination, once racing resumes be sure to follow Alan’s season. Alan’s thoughts for the future were fairly modest considering his first event, “ my concern is the bumpy Northern Irish roads, but we’ll see how it handles. There are a few records that still stand from 15 years ago, so it would be great to get close or even break a few of them”. 

To the future

“We’ll see what this year holds, my family has been so supportive over the last couple of months, so I’d like to thank them. The sponsors have been great too, shout out to IPS/ The Body Stop , Moyway Motors and Holeshot Racing.”

Alan Cassells

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