CHRIS LAWRENCE - RIP AGED 78

27/07/1933 - 13/08/2011

 

 

CHRIS LAWRENCE AND THE AERO EIGHT AT MORGAN MOTOR COMPANY

 

 8th January 1996 Chris Lawrence leaves Marcos and joins Morgan living in his caravan on site.

Chris starts modifying front engine subframe of the honeycomb chassis Morgan Plus Eight GT2 Race car built by Andy Rouse and Roddy Harvey Bailey as raced in 1995 at Silverstone in British GT.

21st February 1996 Successful test of new suspension design at Mallory Park

2nd 3rd March 1996 BPR Race Paul Ricard. Morgan Plus Eight GT2 achieved 170 mph, a personal best for me in a Morgan

23rd, 24th March 1996 BPR Race Monza. Apart from the amazing pizzas at the hotel my main recollection is of the difficulty in keeping the  race car pointing straight going down the straight!

1st April 1996 Tim Whitworth joins company. One important job is to audit expenses of the Morgan international race programme.

13th 14th April 1996 BPR Jarama Spain where we started from the pitlane and broke down on the first lap in front of 200 Spanish Morgan owners.

11th 12th April 1996 BPR Silverstone. Morgan punted off by Zonta in a Porsche GT1 at Becketts.

29th 30th June 1996 BPR Nurburgring.

13th 14th July 1996 Anderstorp Sweden where after retiring Charles Morgan sliced his finger dicing sweet chilli chicken for the team.

7th 8th September 1996 BPR Brands Hatch 12th overall, 6th in class. The bonnet flew off the Morgan half way through the race. The pit crew retrieved it from the hairpin before refitting it.

 

 

21st 22nd 1996 September Spa. Engine blew after Eau Rouge whilst climbing hill.

October 5th and 6th 1996 October Nogaro. DNF. Driver of Porsche GT2 in a near fatal terrible crash.

November 1996 Adrian Van der Croft buys the Morgan Plus Eight GT2 honeycomb race car

Lawrence builds new race car with Randle/Park Sheet Metal bonded tub and designs new front end utilising aluminium extrusions. Rear suspension uses wishbone as spring turret in an easily detachable subframe which Morgan patents.

11th Feb 1997 First crash test of aluminium chassis at Mira, only 4mm rearward movement of steering column recorded during the mandatory full frontal crash test at 40mph

First track test of the car with a wide Plus Eight body at Snetterton where car lapped under one minute ten secs.

25th May 1997 BPR International FIAGT Race at Helsinki, Finland, which was held on an improvised track in the harbour. Mercedes Benz CLK GTR and the long tail McLaren F1 appeared for first time. Charles Morgan posted faster times than Bill Wykeham.  He said he was intimidated by the solid concrete barriers, I replied “what concrete barriers?”

29th June 1997 BPR International GT Race Nurburgring. Finished almost last but was congratulated by Karl Heinz Kalbfell and Wolfgang Reitzle of BMW who watched their McLaren BMW F1 win. I said we would go faster if we had a BMW engine.

July 1997 Karl Heinz Kalbfell visits Malvern and assures us he will hasten permission for Morgan’s use of BMW’s V8.

20th July 1997 BPR International FIAGT Race at Spa.

Aluminium race chassis is fitted with Chevrolet engine and becomes “Big Blue”.

 

 

19th October 1997 “Big Blue” entered for Sebring 12 Hour International GT Race with Chevrolet engine. Next door team commented “one of your drivers is deaf and the other is blind” after one driver failed to come into pits and the other hit Chris’s legs during a pitstop. However reliable finish in harsh wet race.

BPR 1997 Laguna Seca with “Big Blue”. Tony Dron sets a fast GT2 time in race but blows engine

January 1998 decision made to end race programme and concentrate on developing production version of chassis. Project codenamed P8000.

Start build of two P8000 road cars with aluminium chassis BMW N62 4.4 litre engines, manual 6 speed Getrag gearbox and wide Plus Eight bodies with one piece fibreglass wings and bonnet.

6th May 1998 First Meeting with BMW in Munich, Dr Schmidt (Engine), Manfred Christian (Commercial), Wolfgang Hall (Gearbox) and Gunther Ranzinger (electronics and engineering) present

May 1998 First Gumball Rally London to Portsmouth, then Bilbao to the Adriatic in dark blue prototype P8000. Overnight at the Cannes Film Festival where Lawrence and I had a room next to actress Milla Jojovich (Fifth Element etc).

Work begins with Richard Joyce and AP Racing, Coventry, to engineer racing 4 pot calipers and the the latest ventilated disc brake system for P8000 road car.

22nd February 1999 P8000 first visit to Miramas. One week with two development cars (Green and Dark Blue)

May 1999 finish production chassis. Create more aerodynamic bodywork with help from the Morgan sheet metal shop

June 1999 second Gumball Rally with Chris Lawrence from London back to London via Hamburg in Dark Blue prototype P8000

19th July 1999 Granada hot weather testing P8000 to monitor engine cooling and aircon systems. Took new shape car and photographed it outside the Al Hambra. Driving up and down the Sierra Madre with Mercedes who were testing long lines of prototype Smart cars on same route. They said we annoyed them because we seemed to make 4 climbs to their one 50 mile laborious hill climb. Bosch engineer Thomas Moessner develops cruise control system for Aero Eight. Early one morning Chris hits the milk lorry when he sets off on the wrong side of the road in dark blue car.

26th 1999 July development team moved to Miramas to try V-max with new shape body. Reaches 160 mph and successfully completes 8 laps at over 140mph staying cool at idle in the heat soak chamber. Car as fast roof up or down.  Chris develops roof tension system to control flapping hood material on the Morgan. BMW testing their Z8 and the BMW roof is so tight that the catches are locked solid.

11th October 1999 Sir John Harvey Jones tries the new Aero 8 and pronounces it “magnificent”.

12th November 1999 Peter Morgan’s 80th Birthday Party

 

 

January 2000 frame panelling of Geneva Show car begins.

Dashboard design finalised with Mulberry bag in place of glove compartment

Survirn wings made from glass fibre to the CAD tooling pattern

Feb 2000 Geneva Showcar painted metallic dark blue

14th Feb 2000 Richard Surman Photographs Aero Eight Geneva showcar in new repair shop

29th Feb 2000 Press Day Geneva Car Show. Bare chassis and Aero Eight concept car displayed.

Over 300 orders received for an Aero Eight priced at £49,950

29th March 2000 London Launch of Aero Eight at Wykehams Kensington.

7th April Aero Eight shown at Essen Motorshow.

12th April 2000 Chris Lawrence gives presentation of bonded aluminium construction of Aero Eight to Alcan in Nachterstadt

18th 20th May 2000 Chris Lawrence does Gumball London to Moscow with Carrie. Comes back after suffering a puncture in Latvia.  

31st June 2000 Presentation of the story of the development of the Aero Eight at Bath University

17th 21st July 2000 Final handling and high Speed Testing at Miramas.  V-Max of production car 160mph. Strengthen the rear suspension arms.

14th November Morgan Motor Company wins Autocar Award for most exciting low volume car company

16th November Birtsmorton Court Press Launch with two production cars.

February 2001 Peter Griffiths and Steve Morris present plans for the new Aero Eight building

May 7th 2001 Two production Aero Eight cars started

13th June 2001 Morgan Aero Eight granted European Whole Vehicle Approval e11*98/14*0182*00

 Aero Eight Production begins in earnest in autumn 2001 in new workshop

 


 

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