Lenstra turns back the clock

Jerry Lenstra does not collect classic cars.

He races them.

And so does his son Mark.

They campaign RS1600 Mk I Ford Escorts up and down the east coast of Australia in the Nc class of the Historic Touring Car category.

Jerry began racing cars back in the late 1960s.

“I started doing hill climbs and lap dashes in a Mini Deluxe,” he recalls with a smile. “Then I found a Cooper S in a wreckers yard and rebuilt it to compete in club events.”

In the late 70s Jerry stepped away from racing because of increasing family and business commitments.

In the 2001, on a whim, he went out to Sydney’s Eastern Creek raceway and watched the Historic Touring cars perform.

“The atmosphere in the pits was just so friendly and the racing so good I decided to go racing again,” he said.

But what car to race?

“I considered all of the usual options such as a Mustang, EH Holden, Monaro, Torana, and Camaro, but really wanted something different — something that stood out,” Jerry explains.

And that’s where the idea for a Hillman Imp first arose.

“I decided on an Imp because I thought it would be fun, different and competitive,” Jerry says.

When the car first hit the track it created a considerable amount of interest.

“I’m sure no one expected that an Imp would be able to run competitively, but I found that it could run in the mid-pack,” Jerry says.

After a couple of years of constant improvements Jerry was able to extract 90kW out of the 1040cc engine.

Such was its speed and agility that the little Hillman became universally known as the “fastest Imp in Australia” and Jerry acquired a global reputation as a man who knew how to make Imps run fast.

By 2010 Jerry wanted to move on to the next challenge. He sold the Imp and purchased a blue Ford Escort RS1600.

It came with a twin cam engine. After the motor detonated at Lakeside while Mark was driving, Jerry replaced it with a Cosworth BDA unit.

Jerry also purchased a rolling Escort shell with Cams log book for Mark to race. It is BDA powered too.

“We tend to use my blue Escort for development of new ideas and when they are proven we put them on Mark’s car,” Jerry explains.

If you would like to see the Lenstra team race, then your next opportunity will be Historic Winton, May 25-28.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au

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