Michael Hübner has been racing and refining this tuned Ford Escort RS2000 since the ’80s. And in its updated spec, it’s enjoying a most dramatic rebirth
Feature taken from Fast Car. Words Dan Bevis Photos Ade Brannan
There’s an old saying that goes ‘Race cars never die, they just get faster’. It’s the nature of competition machines — they’re built to be the best they can be within whatever set of regulations they’re racing under, and over the years as the technology evolves, so does the machine. Inevitably racers get bashed and crunched, because the reality of driving on the edge at all times means that the risk of dipping over that edge is always a whisper away. Fortune has her whims, and some classic race cars somehow survive the generations largely unscathed while others limp through the decades like Trigger’s broom; either way, every such machine has a rich and varied past.
The car you’re looking at here had an interesting tale to tell right from the off, as it actually began life as two separate (and genuine) RS2000s. Michael Hübner, now 52 years old, bought this RS2000 shell back in 1986, and at the same time purchased another one with a rotten body but solid mechanicals; the plan from the start was to combine the good parts of the two into a road-legal race car and, with the help of two good friends, that’s exactly what he did. “We originally painted it red, with white wheels,” Michael recalls. “The shade of red was inspired by a BMW M3 from the DTM championship at the time, and from then on I changed things year by year to suit how I was driving it — the interior, the suspension, the wheel size — until the Escort turned into a true race car, and I started taking it to slalom races and track days.”
Fast-forward to 1998, and Michael’s competing in regional slalom championships in the RS2000, the car prepared to German Group F regulations with its standard-issue Pinto running around 180bhp. Man and machine had well and truly gelled over these many years, with the spec sheet constantly developing, and after the turn of the millennium the chassis came in for a significant overhaul which would alter its character exponentially.
“During the winter of 2002-2003 the car got four-link boxes and suspension turrets, and from this time I didn’t use leaf springs on the rear axle,” Michael recalls. “The Escort was then reworked to Group H regs, and I acquired a new engine with around 195bhp, on 48 IDF carbs, a home-made exhaust manifold and a five-speed gearbox.” With the architecture suitably beefed up, Michael began competing in national slaloms across Germany, which all went very well until the engine decided it didn’t want to play anymore in 2006.
“In the first race of that season I suffered a total engine breakdown,” he recalls with a wince, still clearly pained by the experience. “The vernier pulley was cracked, and due to this a valve tore off and damaged the whole engine. This was the end of the season for me, and I started to build up a further RS2000 bodyshell that I’d bought in 2004. This was an interesting shell, because in its early years it was driven by Wilfried Eichen, Juergen Zanetti and Olaf Manthey at the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in 1986.”
With the old racer on the backburner, Michael threw all his efforts into this unusual endurance-racer shell, building it to Group H regs and painting it the same colour as the other car.
By the time it was done it was boasting 217bhp from its fuel-injected Pinto and only weighed 825kg! The build was complete by the end of 2009, and Michael competed with this car from 2010 onwards, until 2016 when he sold it to a buyer in England.
While all this was going on, the old race car had been waiting in the wings, biding its time, patiently awaiting its time to shine anew. Michael had been steadily working on restoring the RS2000’s body, which began as an intention to simply weld up three or four holes which had presented themselves as requiring attention, but ended up spiralling into a full-blown restoration to make every inch perfect.
“The car’s new spec had to be superior to the old in all respects,” he assures us, “so I knew it would need a new engine, new suspension, 10×15 inch wheels, a weld-in rollcage with FIA certificate… and it should have a new look too. I love a classic design, so I decided to paint it silver with gold BBS E30 wheels.”
The decision on which engine to use was inspired by the race track — where else? “A few years ago I was at the Legend Boucle de Spa in Belgium as a spectator,” Michael explains. “In that year approximately 40 BDA-engined Escorts were on the startline, some of them driven by well-known drivers like Björn Waldegård, François Duval, Patrick Snijers… Due to the amazing sound of the BDAs I decided to put a 16-valve engine into my ‘new’ Escort.”
Due to competition regulations it was necessary to retain the Pinto block, so the choice was made to fit a naturally-aspirated Cosworth head, with a dry sump and throttle bodies. The engine was built up with a new crank, rods and pistons, along with custom cams and bigger valves in the racy head; its first dyno run of 2018 yielded an impressive 275bhp and 177lb.ft, which is a very fitting set of stats for such a dramatic rebirth.
“After the bodywork was done, all of the necessary holes were drilled and the rollcage was welded in,” says Michael. “Wolgang Pletsch from Sebastian Werner GmbH in Siegburg got the Escort for the paint job. Over the last two years I’ve assembled the car and in the middle of 2018 my new-old Escort was finished.”
It certainly looks the part, with those broad Group 2 arches stretched over the 10-inch-wide slicks, the custom droopsnoot nosecone acting as a statement of intent, and the upswept DTM exhausts and substantial rear spoiler presumably being the only parts most rivals will see. Michael’s story with this car stretches way back to the time of Chernobyl, the M25’s opening and Maradona’s Hand of God, and it’s seen countless evolutionary shifts since, but the latest spec is the most aggressive it’s ever been. He’s looking forward to a full slalom championship season to see what the old battler can do. See, race cars never die. They just get faster.
TECH SPEC: FORD ESCORT MK2
Escort RS2000, fibreglass front wings, Group 2 arches and front spoiler, lightweight bonnet with aerocatches, lightweight nosecone with small single lights and carbon fibre inserts, aero mirrors, alloy boot spoiler, bronze-tinted polycarbonate windows
2-litre Pinto, naturally-aspirated Cosworth 16-valve head prepared by Stefan Glass, dry-sumped, throttle bodies, Megasquirt ECU by Frank Hepekausen, Martelius exhaust manifold and custom home-made exhaust system with Powersprint components, alloy radiator, Quaife five-speed dog ’box, AP Racing 184 mm clutch, Atlas axle with 5.8 CWP and
KW Competition 2A two-way front coil-overs, adjustable TCAs and compression struts with anti-roll bar on drop links; six-linked, KW Competition two-way rear coil-overs; Wilwood Midilite four-pot calipers with 285 mm vented discs (f), Fiesta calipers with solid discs (r), Bias pedal box, hydraulic handbrake;10×15 inch BBS E30 wheels, 10.0/21.5 (front) and 10.7/21.5 (rear) Avon slick tyres
Corbeau Revenge race seat, VDO gauges, Stack rev counter, OMP steering wheel with quick-release, weld-in Zelle multi-point rollcage by raceparts.cc, battery and 18-litre alloy race fuel cell in boot
“To my wife, and also to Stefan Glass, Frank Hepekausen at fh-Motorsport, Wolfgang Pletsch at Sebastian Werner GmbH, Stephan Korbach at www.raceparts.cc, Tosten Schmidt at GRP4 Fabrications http://grp4fabrications.com, KW www.kwsuspensions.net and all others who have supported me with words and deeds”