One of the most revered names in Australian motor sport returns to its racing roots this weekend when the new-generation factory Elfin Racing Team makes its debut in the Alphera Dutton Rally in Victoria.
Elfin, founded by legendary race car driver and builder Garrie Cooper 50 years ago, made a huge impact on Australian open-wheeler and sports car competition from the 1950s to the 1980s, winning no fewer than 29 championships and major titles at the hands of drivers such as Larry PerkinsJ ames Hunt, Vern Shuppan and John Bowe.
Now, current Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series leader Tony D'Alberto will have the honour of joining the long list of race drivers to have piloted Elfin race cars in the heat of battle when he steps into a rally-prepared Elfin MS8 Clubman to contest the three-day Dutton tarmac rally starting on Friday.
The event will be just the first to be contested by the factory team, which plans to draw on a pool of up-and-coming young drivers to contest events such as the Mt Buller Sprint and the Marque Sports Car Championship round at Phillip Island.
The new team is being run out of the Elfin Sports Car Company s factory in the Melbourne suburb of Braeside.
The company, which was bought by Walkinshaw Performance last year, believes the resumption of Elfin factory racing is more than just a marketing exercise for sales of its V8-powered road cars.
Elfin CEO Chris Payne said competition had been the primary function of Elfin under Garrie Cooper s management until his untimely death in 1982.
"Elfin was first and foremost a race-car company, and the race track is its spiritual home," he said. "Elfin cars have remained a favourite of club racers over the years, but we feel it is time to get serious as a factory by restoring that side of the company."
"When Tom Walkinshaw bought Elfin last year, one of his goals was to resume racing. While it is early days in that program, we believe events such as the Dutton Rally are a good place to commence a new era of motorsport presence for Elfin Sports Cars."
Powered by a 5.7-litre Holden Gen III V8, the Elfin MS8 Clubman to be driven by D'Alberto in the Dutton Rally is essentially a road car with modifications to meet CAMS regulations, including roll cage, side intrusion bars, racing seat and harness.
However, the engine has extra punch, having been upgraded to about 300kW courtesy of a Walkinshaw Performance aftermarket engine enhancement package.
D'Alberto, who is leading the V8 Supercar Fujitsu development series by a commanding 65 points with two rounds to go, said the Elfin MS8 Clubman was an ideal car for the Dutton Rally, combining race-like nimbleness and awesome power-to-weight ratio.
He said the Elfin would be markedly different from his first tarmac rally experience in a front-drive Holden Vectra.
"The Elfin should be able to handle any situation motorkhanas, track sprints, anything," he said. "It's going to be fun and, hopefully, fast."
Foundation partners in the venture include Yokahama Tyres, Simmons Wheels, Wurth, Ecliptech, Goodridge, HSV, Perry Exhausts, Signzone, Belmont Nominees, AP Racing, HP Tuners/VCM Suite and HM Headers.