When Southampton car dealer Mike Harris took an unwell Peugeot 205 GTI in as his very first part-exchange back in 2005 he knew it had potential. But little did he realise that this car – in many ways his first taste of business success – would play a vital part in his own motorsport career.
With a knackered gearbox and plenty of hard miles under its belt, the Pug had clearly seen better days, and Harris gave over just £50 to get his name on the V5. His own motorsport ambitions then intervened as the unloved pug, a car that was destined for the scrapheap, was turned into a track car project.
A few track sessions saw the original 8v lump switched out in favour of a 16v unit from a 306 GTI6. This engine used a stock bottom end, which itself had clocked 126,000 miles. Elsewhere it wasn’t so standard, breathing through Jenvey throttle bodies and a port polished head complete with uprated camshafts. An Ashley exhaust and Omex management completed its spec. Four years back, the engine made 210hp on a dyno – impressively, it’s still going strong without a single rebuild – sadly, something that can no longer be said for the red Peugeot.
More time on track convinced Harris that racing was his next move, and soon enough the Pug was uprated in order to compete in Class F of the Castle Combe GT Championship. A hugely successful debut into the championship means that Harris has already secured a class win, and currently just five points and one remaining round sits between him and an overall second place in the series. It’s an amazing feat for what has to be the most underpowered car in the competition.
Sadly, the car that started it all won’t be the one that Harris crosses the line with in his next race. After entering a Welsh Saloons event at Castle Combe in July, Harris’ 205 was taken out by another competitor at Combe’s notorious quarry corner, the resulting crash sent the 205 backwards into the barriers at around 80mph. The impact tore the driver’s seat from the car’s floorpan and left Harris with blurred vision for the next 24 hours although, thankfully, he was otherwise without injury.
In a strange twist of fate, a spectator that had watched Harris’ 205 on track that day – but didn’t witness his accident – got in touch. His message read that he’d purchased a 205 GTI race car several years ago and, due to family commitments, no longer had the time to do it justice. After several years of inactivity, the previously successful race car was now up for sale and Harris was offered first refusal.
The offer was too good to refuse and before long the new car was painted and prepped for a shakedown at Thruxton. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as the 8v engine tuned to Group A spec by Touring Car champion Richard Longman soon put a leg out of bed – smashing a piston straight through the side of its block.
Supportive friends and family came to the rescue and the 16v engine from Harris’ totaled 205 was quickly placed into the new car. The spirit of the old car certainly hadn’t died and it all came together in the penultimate round of the championship as Harris secured his class win. Regardless of what happens in the final round of the Championship, Harris is certain to conclude a successful year of racing. For any locals to Castle Combe or anyone who’d like to see Mike Harris doing what he does best, the final round of the GT Championship takes place on Saturday October 8th.