Tasked with returning this Escort RS1600i to the track, Guido Pitzen went a step further and recreated Gerstmann Motosport’s 1985 European Touring Car Championship Group A car.
If you’re reading Classic Ford, then the chances are high that you’re a fan of Ford’s products from yesteryear. Yet, while most of us have a thing for all Fords of a particular era, there are some that take their obsession to a deeper level, right down to liking a single model and in a singular discipline at that.
One person who freely admits he has a narrow but deep love of ’80s Escorts is Guido Pitzen from near Cologne in Germany. But Guido’s obsession extends to particularly liking race versions, and original ones at that. Better known as Prof. Futzemann, Guido has built up an extensive knowledge of the original ETCC and DTM cars, backed up by his garage full of choice examples.
Fortunately, Guido is more than happy to share his knowledge, skills, experience and even parts with enthusiasts all over Europe. And having worked for various race and rally teams and as a engineer for Ford at the nearby car plant, he’s got the skills to pay his bills, as well as funding his own race career in the 2000s.
These days, Guido doesn’t do so much racing, so he keeps himself content by building awesome road and race cars instead, like this Escort RS1600i Group A-spec tribute, known as Annette, you see before you.
Why Annette? The RS1600i is a tribute to the Group A car that Gerstmann Motorsport built for the German race driver, Annette Meeuvissen to compete in the 1985 European Touring Car Championship. Finished in Diamond White with its distinctive (and very ’80s) Kamei livery, it’s a great choice and means the Escort stands out a mile on the grid, as well as being a beacon for German race fans who remember the original Gerstmann ETCC cars.
This isn’t the first time Guido has built this car — in fact, it’s on its second incarnation, and was originally put together in plain livery for an Austrian customer around eight years ago.
“Sadly, it never raced and after five years he decided to sell it,” explains Guido. “Siggi, another customer from Switzerland — who also owns a Fuji-liveried Escort RS1600i — ended up buying the car, and it eventually ended up back in my workshop with a plan to make a few improvements, turn it into a homage to Annette’s original car, and most-importantly, bring it up to race standard again.”
Guido immediately stripped the car down, and set about improving certain areas of the shell, that another eight years of knowledge, learning and development can bring. The Kamei/Gerstmann livery was recreated at the same time, and took some time to perfect thanks to a scarcity of decent photographs of the original car.
Lift up the Aerocatches on the bonnet and you’re greeted by the familiar sight of the Ford Motorsport ribbed cam cover on the CVH. Like the rest of the car, this has been painstakingly built by Guido (“if it goes wrong, I can only blame myself”) to full Group A spec with forged pistons, and lightened crank. The Group A regs mean Guido can only go so far with the mods — while the head is heavily worked, he has to retain the standard-size valves, for example.
The standard injection system has to be retained, too. “We use the metering head from a Cologne to improve the fuelling, though,” says Guido, “and I also like to use the distributor from a 1.4 CVH, as it’s more reliable. You’ll see the exhaust manifold is the standard cast-iron item — I’ve tried all sorts of designs, but this one still gives the best results.”
With a 300 degree cam, peak power is around 160 bhp. “This is as much as you can make with the standard K-Jetronic system,” reckons Guido. “If we could use twin carburettors or throttle bodies then we could see 180 bhp.”
Getting that power out is a BC gearbox with straight-cut gears, complete with longer first to give the Mk3 the best chance of a good start, while the final-drive is a relatively short 4.7:1.
The Escort RS1600i was fabled for its superb handling from the factory, but Guido is still able to make improvements, including original Bilstein Group A coil-overs and adjustable bottom arms and Rose-jointed top mounts. He’s also made up his own adjustable arms for the rear, while wheels are lightweight Motec 7x15s with regulation Kumho tyres.
Like any race car, the aim is to make it as light as possible, and so the Mk3’s interior is barren to say the least. Almost all of the original trim has been removed bar the dash, which now houses a selection of Stack gauges mounted in a carbon panel along with a huge LED oil pressure warning light. “It’s actually a rain light,” grins Guido, “because I don’t want the driver to miss it.”
The switchgear has been relocated so the driver can actually reach them when strapped in, and there’s an old-school radio mounted where the passenger seat would have been, essential for communicating with the team on endurance races. There’s no heater, so on events at the Nürburgring where the weather can change from one end of the circuit to the other, Guido’s fitted a heated windscreen to cut down the likelihood of it misting up.
Interestingly, the regulations state that the roll cage must be a bolt-in item, and so a (very expensive) six-point one was bought from Heigo Sicherheitstechnik to Group A-spec, complete with door and harness bars.
With Siggi the proud and lucky owner of a collection of race cars, and with a constant list of things to do, Annette along with the Fuji car, spend more time at Guido’s garage then they do in Switzerland, or even on the race track. But Guido is quietly confident that the car will be out where it belongs on legendary tracks like the Nordschleife soon, and keeping the name of Annette Meeuvissen alive in the minds of race fans across Europe.
Keeping the name alive: Annette Meeuvissen
Kicking off her motorsport career in autotesting at the age of 18, Annette’s Ford connection started in 1982 when she entered the Fiesta Ladies’ Cup, winning the first race at Wunstorf and then going on to jointly win the championship that year alongside Delia Stegemann. Moving into endurance racing in 1983, Annette then joined the Gerstmann Motorsport team in 1985, driving the Kamei-sponsored Escort RS1600i that Guido based this car on in the European Touring Car Championship — including a couple of rounds at Donington and Silverstone.
Annette moved on from Gertsmann in 1987 and into rear-wheel-drive cars, piloting the BMW M3 for Schnitzer Motorsport in the International Touring Car Championship, followed by a number of years with Zakspeed. Annette retired from motorsport in 1992 and sadly passed away in 2004 at the age of just 42.
Words Simon Woolley
Photos Adrian Brannan
See more photos and read the full spec in the original feature on this Group A Escort RS1600i in the December 2017 issue
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