GRR

The last Aston Martin-powered car to lead Le Mans

23rd November 2022
Adam Wilkins

EMKA Racing was established in 1981 by Pink Floyd manager and gentleman racer Steve O’Rourke. Named after EMKA Productions, itself derived from the name of O’Rourke’s first daughter Emma Kate, it was set up to enter endurance racing. The jewel in crown would be an entry at the Le Mans 24 Hours, where O’Rourke had previously competed as a driver.

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Len Bailey, instigator of the Ford GT40, was commissioned to design the EMKA Group C racer and the build was handled by Michael Cane Racing. From early on, Aston Martin Tickford was involved to supply the 5,340cc V8 engine. In its first outing at the Silverstone 1,000km race, it was lapping 11 seconds off the pace of the leading Porsche 956 of Stefan Bellof and Derek Bell.

Despite the speed deficit, it has the distinction being the last Aston Martin-powered car to lead at Le Mans. Current owner Doug Titford takes up the story: “In 1985, there were fuel regulations limiting the amount that teams could use. Everybody was managing fuel very carefully. Michael Cane who was running the car – before he went to Williams – and Steve O’Rourke – who was a bit of character by all accounts – hatched a plan. They knew everybody would come in after 40 minutes and take a full load of petrol, so they brought the car in after 20 minutes so they only had to have a half fill. When they went out after 20 minutes, they led the whole field until the field caught up again. Tiff Needell led for a few laps, and it’s the only time he’s ever led at Le Mans.”

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Doug bought the EMKA in 2015 having begun his historic motorsport adventure in 2003 with a Ford Capri. “As soon as I saw the first Le Mans Classic, I wanted to be involved,” he says. “A friend of mine said ‘The only car you’ll be able to afford its a Capri,’ so I went searching. This was in 2003 when Tom Walkinshaw went bust. I bought a Capri out of his auction that turned out to be a works car.” In 2006, a Chevron B1 was added, and he still owns both cars alongside the EMKA.

“The EMKA is a complete step change from the rest,” he says. It was lessons learnt from the Capri’s set-up that helped dial out some of the EMKA’s severe understeer. “It’s a brute. It still understeers but not as badly as it did. It’s a fantastic thing to drive.” When we spoke to Doug during the 2022 Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, he was gearing up to take the EMKA to Le Mans the following weekend, a circuit that has a special place in his heart. “There are lots of faster cars around there. We’re in Class 1B for the older Group C cars. If we finish in the middle of that lot, we’re fine. Historic racing is all about fun as far as I’m concerned.”

Photography by Pete Summers.

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  • FOS 2022

  • Festival of Speed

  • EMKA

  • Group C

  • Aston Martin

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