You would be forgiven for thinking that this stunning Peugeot 106 is a little used show car but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Owned by Portadown’s Alan Cassells, this is a very potent competition car that Cassells drives competitively on a regular basis…
In fact, he has competed in almost 20 events last year and as Cassells’ results prove, it’s definitely not a case of ‘all show and no go’. The Portadown driver has won his class and has taken first in the overall Modified category of the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship, and was set to do the same in the Sprint Championship too.
However, his story begins in autocross, a sport he started when he was around 12 years old. His dad was a mechanic and looked after a few autocross cars so it was a natural progression for Alan to start competing too.
“We were at the events anyway so that’s how I started,” Cassells told Pacenotes. “I got behind the wheel of a 1000cc Mini and gradually worked my way up through the autograss classes, first with the Mini and then a Nova.”
When he was 16, he turned his attention to rallying, competing in Northern Ireland’s Rallysport Association events on-board another Nova. Cassells later progressed to compete in MSA clubman events, such as the Loughgall Stages, Lurgan Park Rally and Drumhorc Hillclimb, with a red Peugeot 106 Cup Car.
“I remember getting onto the start list of the Lurgan Park Rally,” he said. “To be accepted on the list, was a big achievement at the time, but it’s a difficult venue. I entered a couple of times but usually ran into some sort of trouble – I only finished it once out of three attempts.”
“I didn’t do a lot of road rallying purely for cost reasons,” he added. “You could use your year’s budget for two rallies or do a full season in the sprints or hills.”
It is in the Northern Ireland Sprint and Hillclimb Championships that Cassells has found his home. Now armed with his potent yellow and black Peugeot 106 rocket, he has been tearing up the tarmac with the car for around 10 years.
“The car originally belonged to Mark Doyle of KD Cars,” Cassells said, “but the specification has progressed a lot since then. I’m very fussy so it’s a lot tidier as well – now it goes better and looks better!”
Cassells won the 2013 Sprint Championship with the car before taking a two-year break from motorsport. He got married in 2014 and then he decided to spend 2015 completely rebuilding the 106.
“It was extensively rebuilt,” Cassells revealed. “The car was taken back to a bare shell which allowed us to do some extensive modifications. We fitted a new engine, transmission, front suspension, brakes and a lot of fibreglass parts.”
He continued: “We did a lot of fabrication under the bonnet. The engine was moved from its original position to put it lower and in the centre of the engine bay so there was a lot of metalwork and a lot of measurements taken. My Dad and I did all of the work so it resulted in a few raised tempers!”
In addition to moving the engine, the car’s bulkhead was removed and strengthened. Sill stand points were fitted along with Satchell Engineering floor strengthening and front-end strengthening kits as well as upper and lower braces.
Cassells fitted a purpose-built engine from Cornwall based Sandy Brown Racing Engines. With lots of bespoke parts as well as a DTA ECU, the 1648cc engine is capable of outputting 227bhp at 8,000rpm and 155lb ft at 7,000rpm.
“Sandy Brown really knows what he’s doing,” Cassells said. “The engine was mapped on the dyno before it was fitted to the car but then he insisted to come over and map it again. I couldn’t understand why but he explained that when on a dyno, an engine uses more fuel. So he flew over and mapped it again while on the road.”
The engine is mated to a five-speed Sadev sequential gearbox which has a revised final drive to suit the power output. It also has custom made ‘unbreakable’ shafts with Citroen CV racing joints and closed loop flat-shift.
In terms of suspension, a Satchell Engineering wide-track front suspension kit was fitted complete with Bilstein inserts and Eibach springs. It’s all fully adjustable too, making sure that Alan can adjust the setup based on the type of event he’s entering.
Meanwhile, the rear has 3-way adjustable Proflex dampers, a modified 106 rear beam as well as Peugeot Sport torsion bars and anti-roll bars. Ian and Ben at Godspeed provided Alcon 4-piston calipers for the front which are combined with Carbone Lorraine brake pads and 305mm discs and bells, while the rear has Godspeed G Hook rear discs.
It also has a full exhaust system from Armagh’s JSM Automotive and a custom exhaust manifold from Edwards Motorsport in Wisbech, England. All of the parts are contained within a lightweight shell which is fully seam-welded and has a full Custom Cages weld-in cage. Maxi Motorsport’s fibreglass bonnet and boot lid help to keep the weight down, along with a polycarbonate window kit, while their fibreglass wide arch kit completes the stunning look.
A mammoth amount of work went into building the car during 2015 but Alan immediately reaped the rewards.
“Since the car was rebuilt, the results and the speed have really started to come,” Cassells said. “I finished joint first in last year’s Hillclimb Championship and was second in the Sprints. This year is looking even better.”
He added: “The car was competitive before, but it wasn’t as good as it is now. I can mix it with the two-litre Escort competitors as well as other bigger engined machinery.”
Alan admits that he is “very fussy” when it comes to his car and his attention to detail is impressive. Every time he arrives at an event, the car looks spotless and is meticulously prepared.
Just take a look at the clinically clean interior, which houses a whole load of other rally goodies including a Race Technology Dash 2 Pro, Geartronics gear display, flocked dash not to mention lots of carbon-goodness including door trims, quarter panel trims, footwells and hydraulic handbrake lever.
During the past two years of competition, Alan has only had one problem with the car when a £30 sensor failed at the Cairncastle Hillclimb. It’s great testament to the professional build that Alan and his father carried out as well as the high quality parts installed.
“A lot of work is done in the background,” he admits. “It has been a very busy two years (since rebuilding the car) and I have to thank my Mum, Dad, Judith and baby Noah for all of their support.”
The old adage ‘by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’ comes to mind but Cassells’ results are testament to the fact that he never fails to prepare.
“With the way the car is working now, it doesn’t need anything changed,” he proudly claims. “It’s perfect. I don’t think it can get any faster but you need the whole package. I learned a few years ago that there’s no point using rubbish tyres. Bill Adair is rarely at sprints or hillclimbs in his lorry but he will deliver tyres to the house…and I’ve bought quite a few of them!”
The question is…what next? Alan is on the verge of sealing both the Sprint and Hillclimb titles this year, so what will he do for a new challenge?
“If I ever decided to sell the car, I’m not sure what I would do,” he said. “Someone suggested I should try a single seater but I’m not sure I’d like that. I’m on the pace of the Escorts already so that wouldn’t be any faster. So I’m not sure what to do…but whatever it is, it has to be faster and I’d like to have something a bit different too.”
Until then, we can continue to enjoy watching Cassells power his pocket rocket around the race tracks and hillclimbs in Northern Ireland. Feast your eyes on this beauty!
Words: Jonathan MacDonald | Photos: Graham Baalham-Curry
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