This is the first ever racing Rover SD1

11th January 2023
Ethan Jupp

We think of Rover SD1s as a stalwart of the Group 1 touring car grid at the Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport, and indeed, an essential piece of the saloon car racing puzzle in the early to mid-1980s. There was a point, however, where someone had to think “hmmm. SD1. That would make a good racing car”. That person (or outfit), was David Price Racing (yes, before Tom Walkinshaw Racing got hold of them) and the car we’re writing about today is SD1 DPR1, the first of the roaring racing Rovers.


Of course at the time saloon car racing looked very different to how it does today, or indeed how it has for the past 20 years. The chocolate box of potential machinery was much broader in flavour, with a basic choice to be made: large and powerful, or small and nimble. It’s the clash of cars running along these two themes that made the racing in period and indeed, the racing around our own Goodwood Motor Circuit today, so spectacular.

Small and nimble was often the European way, with the American combatants mostly providing the big V8 brutes. As such, the British brute that was the SD1 was somewhat a curveball of a competition car in its day. Akin to the likes of Dodge building a WRC entrant today. Well, didn’t DPR hit a winner when he investigated the idea of a large car with American-level power matched with British chassis and handling sensibilities? The best of both worlds and the rest, where it comes to the sprawling successes of the Rover SD1, in Group 1 and Group A, is history. But as above, that history starts with DPR1.


Run first by DPR in 1981 and 1982 with the legendary Rene Metge at the wheel, this car saw extensive action in the French Touring Car Championship. What proved to be a fast car right out of the box, was plagued by reliability issues for its first year. Niggles worked out for 1982, Metge went on to win the FTCC in 1982.

The car now is owned by Members’ Meeting Governor and beloved friend of Goodwood Nicholas Sleep who is as avid a racer as he is humble about his own abilities behind the wheel. The incredibly enthused Sleep talked to us at the Members’ Meeting in 2021, about his experiences thus far and his ambitions for the car.


“There’s a lovely picture of this car testing at Goodwood in 1980, with Peter Lovett at the wheel,” he says. I’ve never seen someone look so lovingly at a car with its entire rear axle out.

“We had a disaster yesterday, a continuation of a problem with brakes binding that we’ve had since earlier in the season. Yesterday, we did a lap, came in under a red flag and they bound, and we’re worried as we can’t find the problem and we can’t trust it. You know what it’s like, it’s wet at 110 [mph] into the corners for an 80 apex speed, and there’s no runoff, so we thought it best not to risk it.”

“We’ll get there. When we’re testing, we’re doing [one minute] ‘30s and ‘31s and we’re in the mix, but we want to be quicker.”

Indeed, at the 79th Members’ Meeting in 2022, Sleep managed to get the Rover to the end for a mid-pack finish in and a fastest time just a hair outside the 1:30 mark. As of 78MM though, teething issues grounded the big Marlboro Rover for the race.

“It was found about ten years ago by one of the guys that raced it in the ‘80s,” Sleep tells us, of how he got into the car.

“Ken Clark restored it and then we bought it. We sat on it and worked on it and we’ve been racing it since the beginning of the year [2021]. We knew when we bought it, it had been sitting and problems would come down the line. We’ve worked a number of them out but we've got a way to go.”


“It needs a better driver.” Sleep jests, when we ask what’s needed to get it where they want it.

“We just want to do the car justice and have fun. When you drive it, it’s beautiful. Long wheelbase, you know exactly what’s going on. You can just drift it, it doesn’t snap on you, there are lots of warnings of what’s going on.”

His ultimate ambition with the car? “I’d love to reunite the car with Rene Metge.”

We hope to see Nicholas and his Rover racing again at the 80th Members' Meeting, in the renamed Gordon Spice Trophy. Three months to go...

Photography by Joe Harding

  • Rover

  • SD1

  • Gerry Marshall Trophy

  • 78MM

  • Members' Meeting

  • 77mm-2019-gerry-marshall-trophy-2020-jayson-fong-main-goodwood-17102019.jpg

    Members' Meeting

    Two heats and a final for the Gerry Marshall Trophy at 78MM

  • gerry-marshall-practice-pete-summers-goodwood-16102107.jpg

    Members' Meeting

    Gallery: The tin-top terrors of the Gerry Marshall Trophy

  • 75mm_gerry_marshall_trophy_goodwood_19031704.jpg

    Members' Meeting

    Gallery: Battling into the dark