The Prototype Deep Sanderson 301 – a prototype 1960s racer – has been confirmed to be an early entry for Silverstone Auctions' July 23, 2011 event during the Silverstone Classic race weekend. The prototype was the first metal-bodied car developed by racer and builder Chris Lawrence, originally using a rear-mounted Mini Minor engine.
The prototype ran in 24-hour Le Mans, Spa and Nurburgring races in 1963 and 1964. It was eligible for every 1960s GT sports car race and was invited to Goodwood Revival and Festival of Speed.
The prototype, which was launched at the 1962 Olympia Racing Car Show, was the predecessor to an estimated 16 “production” fiberglass-bodied Deep Sanderson 301 Sports Coupé cars. Lawrence, who wanted to race a car of his own design at Le Mans, further developed the prototype into a racer, which debuted at Le Sarthe in 1963.
The racer then became the first Mini derivative to be an international sports car racer - rather than rallying - preceding the Mini Marcos by four years. In Le Mans, the 301 ran for 20 hours, leading the Index of Performance before being disqualified on a technicality. While competing in 1963 endurance races in Le Mans, Nurburgring and Spa with its original 988 cc engine, the 301 challenged the 1964 Le Mans 24-hours with a BMC Abingdon factory-supported 1293 cc experimental engine.
The road-legal MOT'd prototype, once registered as 2 ARX, is being offered on a 1970s plate given to the car when sold by Lawrence. It retains the experimental BMC engine and its Le Mans lights. Although restored and raced in the 80s and 90s, the 201 was found in storage after a decade in the early 2000s.
The owner returned it to Lawrence who restored it fully before it appeared at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed, climbing the hill in under one minute.
It featured in Mini's 50th anniversary parade at Goodwood and, in 2010, it raced in Goodwood Revival's Fordwater Trophy with driver Simon Diffey, who qualified in ninth and finished in 11th place, achieving speeds over 125mph on the Lavant straight. The “prettiest Mini Special,” finished in its original racing colors of British Racing Green, produces 114 bhp and is rated at 126 mph at 6,500 rpm on the rolling road.