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. Jenny his wife visits from USA.
· Chris starts modifying front engine subframe of the honeycomb chassis Morgan 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. 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 car pointing straight going down the straight!
· 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. 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 I sliced my finger dicing sweet chilli chicken.
· 7th 8th September 1996 BPR Brands Hatch 12th overall, 6th in class. The bonnet flew off 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 Kroft buys the Morgan 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 at MIRA, only 4mm rearward movement of steering column recorded during the mandatory full frontal crash test at 40mph
· First test of car at Snetterton, car lapped under one minute ten secs.
· 25th May 1997 BPR International FIA GT 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. I posted faster times than Bill Wykeham, my co-driver. He said he was intimidated by the solid concrete barriers, I replied “what concrete barriers?”
· 29th June 1997 BPR International GT Race Nürburgring. 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 the BMW V8.
· 20th July 1997 BPR International FIA GT Race at Spa.
· 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
· 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).
· 22nd February 1999 First visit to Miramas for 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 long 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 of 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 new shape displayed.
· 29th March 2000 London Launch of Aero Eight at Wykehams
· 7th April Aero Eight shown at Essen Motorshow. Aero Eight ABS system tested by Bosch achieves the best results of any production car tested by them.
· 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 to Moscow with Carrie. Comes back after puncture in Latvia. Carrie remains with Chris as his partner.
· 31st June 2000 Presentation of the development of the Aero Eight at Bath University
· 17th 21st 2000 July Handling and High Speed Testing at Miramas. Strengthen the rear suspension arms.
· 14th November Morgan Motor Company wins Autocar Award 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 Aero Eight European Whole Vehicle Approval granted e11*98/14*0182*00
· Aero Eight Production begins in earnest in autumn 2001 in new workshop