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Prodrive Visit

Prodrive Headquarters, Banbury, Oxfordshire
Prodrive Headquarters, Banbury, Oxfordshire (Photo courtesy of Prodrive)
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Nirvana Of Petroldom

The notion of heaven varies from person to person and each creed offers a "better place" as a reward for staying loyal to the gang and doing as you’re told. Of course you don’t get to see just what this ultimate goal will look like in advance, you only get hints and suggestions on which to build with your own imagination. Well recently I got to glimpse the Nirvana of petroldom as I went on a tour of the Prodrive works near Banbury, Oxfordshire.

I understand construction of the entire site began auspiciously, with the talented Mr Richards successfully altering proposed building plans by having the units constructed in white rather than brown and facing a better direction to be seen from the, at that point not built, M40. Smart move. So arrival at the site, from our direction at least, was pre-empted by a visual as we sped past looking for the exit ramp.

Once inside we quickly found ourselves surrounded by many of our heroes - the tour begins in the Prodrive museum, so we stood in the centre of a circle formed by the 6R4 of Jimmy McRae and David Richards’ own Porsche, both Scoobies from the late and great Richard Burns and Colin McRae, touring cars from Menu and Thompson and many other best in class racers topped for me by the DBR9 which took class at LeMans 2007 (ask me later about my trip to the journee du test!).

All the vehicles in the museum had been made into winners by a tap of the magic Prodrive wand (and I think the drivers were quite good too). It was fabulous - I felt weak at the knees standing amongst them, being able to open doors, catch a photograph without it being blurred by speed, and I even held the same steering wheel once turned by Colin, and I wasn’t the first, I fear, to experience an overwhelming sadness at his early departure to his Valhalla - wow, I wonder what that’s like!?

The tour could have ended there and I would have been happy, they even provided coffee and biscuits. But that was just warming us up, we still had a lap of the factory ahead.

After tearing us away from the Hall of Fame we watched a short film about history and development accompanied by a comprehensive talk about Prodrive past, present and future and if I didn’t want a job there before I certainly did by the time that had finished - I can almost picture just what kind of a broom I would have to sweep up with.

All this and we were only halfway into the tour but it wasn’t long before we stepped into the specialist conversion workshops where privately owned pristine or pre-driven OM vehicles came to be entirely stripped down (including paint for full spec changes) and transformed into the potential Prodrive heroes of the future. The first thing that struck me was the state of the workshops, breathtakingly clean pale grey floors, white walls and ceilings, bright banks of lights, stainless steel bench tops, racks of drawers possibly containing ranks of gleaming tools (unchecked) - quite clearly even the team member who’s job it was to "clear up and put the tools away" was highly skilled.

We marvelled at the row of Aston Martin N24 shells awaiting their fittings before being shipped to Japan for a single class race series. We nosed around the Impreza engines which were getting a shave and a haircut. Were shown the complicated maps for wiring looms and then stood behind the thickened safety glass of the engine test rooms. We lifted sheets on N-class warriors and drooled over the current fleet of racing Astons taking all the trophies. We were even allowed to meet (and try to talk to) the oily boffins responsible for the computerised milling machines.

If I had seen anything else I think I would have popped. I was especially thrilled to be let loose around the liveried racers which were in for a fettle before the next outing. I must express my highest praise and thanks to Prodrive for inviting our party on the tour. They do not charge but instead ask us all to make a donation to their chosen charity, the Oxford Children’s Hospital. Visit the Prodrive website, find out what you can, and support any car they put in a race, for they are the Fathers (and Mothers) of Heroes.

Mike.

Images

GALLERY 1

Prodrive Museum - 29 images on 2 pages
Prodrive Museum

GALLERY 2

Prodrive Factory - 46 images on 3 pages
Prodrive Factory

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