2002 Riley & Scott MkIIIC
This fabulous Riley & Scott MkIIIC comes to the market just in time to be snapped up and used at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting in the LMP1/900 demonstration, in the Peter Auto Endurance Racing Legends or Masters Endurance Legends series in Europe. Equally it would be the ideal car to be enjoyed in countless vintage races across America including blue riband events such as the Daytona and Sebring Classics.
Riley & Scott was founded in 1990 by Bill Riley and Mark Scott, initially building cars for the Trans-Am series, before developing a sports racing prototype for the new WSC class in the IMSA GT Championship, the first cars debuting at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona with Dyson Racing. The new prototype was called the MkIII and went on to become one of the most successful models of cars in endurance racing, taking 47 victories and championship titles across 7 seasons in IMSA, United States Road Racing Championship, Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series. By 2001 however the car was falling behind in competitiveness and needed updating for the new LMP900 rules in force. Riley & Scott used the same tried and tested base design principles, but in effect started from scratch, in the process incorporating a number of design elements they had used for the Cadicall Northstar LMP they had designed and built for GM. The chassis was a steel/carbon hybrid, with the bodywork made in carbon. At the front, a radiator was fed air from a vent above the front splitter, which then exited over the top of the bodywork just in front of the cockpit. The sidepods were on the whole lower, but of a similarly flat design with exchangeable sections for to improve cooling and aerodynamics as and when required. The engine bay could accept multiple naturally aspirated engine types, any of which could be mated to a new 6-speed gearbox built by X-Trac, which was a great improvement over the previous 5-speed unit. This gearbox was further enhanced by the option to fit a Megaline pneumatically actuated gear-change system, which was activated by paddles on the steering wheel, rather than by a traditional gear stick.
The most notable visual difference with the MkIIIC were its more rounded nose plus the the cockpit area, as it featured a single rollhoop as seen on the Cadillac LMP, though an optional roll hoop extension was offered as was required by Rolex Sports Car Series regulations. The front of the cockpit was also redesigned, with an aerodynamic windshield being added in front of the driver in place of a full-width design.
Five MkIIICs were built, with one chassis serving as the FIA crash test donor, so in effect just four cars were delivered to customers. Chassis 004 went to Floridian amateur Jim Matthews, a seasoned endurance racer. However in early 2002 Reynard, Riley & Scott’s parent company since its acquisition in 1999 went bankrupt, so a new company called Riley Technologies was formed. Although there was never an official MkIIIC factory effort, Riley was contracted to effectively fully run the Jim Matthews Racing MkIIIC in an ambitious programme which took in the 3 biggest races in endurance racing: the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, plus the Petit Le Mans as a final race. This was in effect a works effort with one amateur driver throughout as Matthews planned to drive each event himself, with front-line professionals being recruited for the other seats. The team fitted a 6-litre Elan V8, which proved to be the best engine choice available and ran the car in both carbon and steel brake disc specifications.
For their attack on the 24 Hours of Daytona the team contracted Guy Smith (who later went on the win Le Mans with Bentley), Scott Sharp (1996 IRL and 2009 ALMS Champion) and Robby Gordon (IRL, Champ Car, NASCAR and off-road star) to join Matthews. 004 qualified well in 4th place, and featured strongly throughout the race, looking like a contender for victory until an issue lost them some time near the end and they finished a nonetheless highly impressive 2nd overall. For the 12 Hours of Sebring a month later Smith was retained, with Belgian endurance veteran Marc Goosens joining the line up. The trio qualified in the top ten and again impressively finished 3rd overall, in front of factory entries from Audi, Cadillac and Panoz!
These two consecutive performances must have meant the team arrived at Le Mans with high hopes. Guy Smith had been called up for Bentley duties and so reigning 24 Hours of Daytona winner, Didier Theys, was recruited to run alongside Matthews and Goosens. 004 however qualified a disappointing 16th, which didn’t reflect the car’s potential at all. It is interesting to note however that every car inside the top ten ran on Michelin tyres, with just the factory Bentleys on Dunlops, whilst Ascari ran on Goodyear like the MkIIIC. As a side note it is believed that Matthews Racing had initially planned to run on Michelin rubber all season, but having decided against certain races, the tyre supply was cancelled. This is a pity as it is rumoured that when testing on Michelin rubber the MkIIIC had lapped half a second faster than an Audi R8 on the same tyres! In any case the engine failed at Le Mans after 13 hours. For the team’s final outing of 2002 with 004 Goosens paired up with Tony Ave, but Ave retired after contact with a barrier near the end of the race.
Since then 004 has been lovingly cared for and sparingly used having been returned to its 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans specifications. This is a rare opportunity to acquire one of the most significant Riley & Scotts in terms of results, but also because it represents the pinnacle of their development with the base design. The car runs perfectly having recently been serviced by the original specialist from Riley & Scott and has had a new fuel cell, fire system and seatbelts fitted.