Walter Wolf stormed onto the Formula One racing scene in the mid 1970s with visions of grandeur. After purchasing a major stake in Frank William Racing Cars and rescuing the defunct Hesketh Racing team in 1976, the Austrian-born Canadian oil baron gave it the old college try and formed Walter Wolf Racing to compete in the 1977 Formula One World Championship.
With Jody Scheckter hot-shoeing the gold-and-black liveried Cosworth-powered Wolf-Ford WR1 to a slew of 13 podiums, including wins in Argentina, Monaco and Canada, Walter Wolf Racing finished fourth in the championship that year. However, Wolf’s F1 results dwindled over the next two seasons and the plug was pulled at the end of a disappointing 1979 campaign.
Meanwhile, the Wolf lore continued to grow in North America when Gilles Villeneuve took over driving duties for Chris Amon in the Can-Am racing series part way through the ‘77 season. The closed-wheel Wolf Dallara WD1 racer didn’t fare particularly well that year (12th overall), but it was an important stepping stone for Villeneuve in getting to F1.
It was Walter Wolf who helped get him an audience with Enzo Ferrari who later hired him to drive for the Prancing Horse in the 1981 F1 season. Villeneuve recorded two victories and two more podiums (including third place at the ‘81 Canadian Grand Prix) in 19 starts over two seasons for Ferrari before his fatal accident on May 8, 1982 during qualifying for the Belgium GP.
Wolf got involved in German Touring Car racing in the 1980s after fading away from open-wheel racing. However, in 2009, Giovanni Bellarosa, owner of the Italian racing team Avelon Formula, bought the rights to Walter Wolf Racing. After shortening the name to Wolf Racing, the company began to develop the Wolf GB08 – a CN class Sport Prototype – with high ambitions “to open a new era in the category.”
The Wolf Racing GB08 debuted in the 2010 Italian Prototype Championship where it was unmatched. In 2011, the dominance in that series continued alongside another dominant debut season in the Speed EuroSeries. Further success in the Eurosport Prototype and VdeV Proto Endurance Series’ and other endurance races helped cement the GB08 as the car to beat in Europe.
Built to the FAACN regulations and featuring a 255-hp two-litre K20 Honda Mugen engine mated to a Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox (available with or without a paddle shift), the GB08 is not street legal.
It is eligible to race in SCCA CSR classes, NASA Super Unlimited and at other North American venues in HSR and PBOC races; and, can be configured as an endurance car for races up to 25 hours long or a super fast track day car for lapping days, which is how we’ve been introduced to it by our friends at 6th Gear Inc.
With an office in Toronto and a full-service garage on pit row at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) since 2010, 6th Gear has been in the business of providing track time and high-speed lapping experiences to its many clients since 2004.
“We started this as a lapping day club,” says co-founder Robert Sabato, who recalls rounding up a couple dozen guys, renting out Mosport for one day and having the time of their lives. “We got five weekends of lapping in in one day, had some great food and then it just all started from there.”
“When we first started out, every one of us were in street cars. Everybody took their street car, modified it and spent a lot of money on them. Although they were very fast, a lot of fun and pretty reliable, they weren’t ultimately safe and the expenses were very high.”
Sabato has run the gamut when it comes to cars, having played around with and lapped all kinds from the Porsche 911 GT3 to Corvette C5s and C6 Z06s before ultimately getting into prototype and sports racing cars. “We raced the Corvettes and it was just brutally expensive,” he says. “We went into the IMSA Lites series and that was a lot better, a really good bang for the buck with the prototype cars.
“Once we tried the downforce cars, a lot of us gravitated to them,” Sabato explains. “The experience was so different but, ultimately, we still liked our lapping days and we wanted to have a good reliable car and a great experience to go lapping.
“We looked around, we tried a Juno, we tried a Liegier and we also tried the Wolf when we found out about the dealership in the U.S. We tried the GB08 out at COTA in January (2013) and it was a no-brainer. Once our engineers saw and looked at the car, we knew it was the right piece of machinery to get a great lapping day experience and have lots of reliability.”
So, in partnership with Wolf Racing’s North American distributor Motorsports Southwest LLC in Austin, Texas, the Wolf GB08 is now available exclusively in Canada through 6th Gear. Pricing starts at $150,000. The car shown here is the only one in Canada (at press time); and, it comes with a $170,000 retail sticker thanks to optional full carbon bodywork and paddle shifters for the six-speed sequential transmission.
Last fall, 6th Gear extended PRN Ignition the chance to experience the GB08 first hand at our favourite local race track, and perhaps turn some laps to see what this car is all about.
Upon arrival at CTMP I find Simon Payne, 6th Gear’s race engineer, busy checking various nuts and bolts and making other adjustments to the car ahead of the day’s testing session. The FIA carbon fibre monocoque chassis/tub and full carbon body make a good first impression. Heck, this stuff is made by the same people that supply Italian supercar manufacturers Pagani and Dallara.
Derived from Formula 3, the overlapping triangle, pushrod suspension with dual-adjustable Ohlins dampers ensures knife-edge corner-carving abilities, and is capable of producing enough G forces that your body is going to feel at the end of a lapping day. OZ Racing wheels, Cooper Tires racing slicks, four-piston Brembo brakes and an OMP electric fire suppression system reinforce the fact the GB08 is a fairly serious piece of gear.
Sitting in the cockpit, it almost feels like a fighter jet complete with a black box – a MecTronik MKE6 ECU in this case – and XAP F3 dash/datalogger. “The dash system is (accessed) straight out of the wheel itself, and the dash display is out of a GP2 car, which is the level below Formula One,” Payne points out. “The solid state electronics in the car are Le Mans prototype spec. The wiring in them is exactly the same principle and processes as an LMP2 car.”
This car has the third generation aero kit on it, which was brand new for 2013, and helps produce 907 kg (2,000 lb.) of downforce at speeds above 225 km/h. This is significant since the GB08 weighs just 540 kilograms (1,190 pounds). The standard engine develops 160 lb-ft of torque, which is aplenty to accelerate to from 0-100 km/h in under three seconds.
Available engines include a purpose-built 330-hp Mugen K2X four-cylinder and a 500-hp V8 (GB08S). For longevity purposes, they’re not fully-built race engines. The gearbox has been proven very reliable over in Europe, too.
The GB08 already produces a ton of downforce, but traction control is available. It’s a cost option that’s probably a little restrictive for track day stuff according to Payne. “It’s suitability as a track car has allowed us to bring it over to Canada,” he says.
Just how fast is it around CTMP’s fast and bumpy Grand Prix road course?
Canadian racer Daniel Morad was tasked with finding out driving one of Motorsports Southwest’s dialed-in GB08s during a time attack session in its 6th Gear track day debut last June. He impressed with consecutive lap times of 1:16.9 and 1:17.3 – faster than the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars that race there, and not too shabby for a Honda-powered car – to give Payne a solid baseline to help Sabato and company to benchmark against in the future. Watch the on-board video on 6th Gear’s YouTube channel: http://prnmag.com/morad_wolf.
At the last 6th Gear track day of 2013, Sabato was off his game and well off Morad’s torrid pace. Perhaps it was his nerves – he’d put his company’s recently-upgraded C5 Corvette race car into the wall between turns nine and 10 (with me in the passenger seat) earlier in the day– but you wouldn’t know it by the perma-grin worn on his face.
I didn’t end up behind the wheel myself, but Payne’s crew did make quick work of converting the cockpit over to a two-seater so that Sabato could redeem himself by demonstrating the Wolf’s wicked power-to-weight ratio and extreme braking capabilities to me on track at speed. It was a tight squeeze and you do feel all of the bumps. It’s not blindingly fast in a straight line, but it’s extremely fast in the corners. The way it can stop, turn in and rotate and go through a corner is absolutely remarkable. That it flies past Audi R8s, BMW M3s, Porsche 911s, Corvettes, Vipers and Ferraris like they’re driving in reverse is a bonus, I guess.
The thing Sabato likes most about this car is that “once we’re done with the day and our engineers go through it or our mechanics, they check all the fluids, do all the normal checks, check the alignment, check the tires, get the tires ready for the next track day, we honestly don’t need them for the next day, to come out and drive the car. You can show up, hit the start button, have some fun.”
Road cars can become quite expensive for track day use once you get above a certain performance level. The GB08 is worth looking at for anybody that might be considering a purpose built track day car. “The point when you put a car on a trailer to take it to the track rather than drive it there yourself, this is absolutely a viable car for you.”
For a car you can’t even drive on the street, $150,000 is undoubtedly a lot of money. This is why 6th Gear is crafting a co-ownership program where two or more people can share the car. “If you get two, two-and-a-half hours in with your partners in the car and you’re sharing the costs of the expense... it’s going to work out to an unbelievable bargain,” explains Sabato, who shares this car with two other people. They’re the same people who share the Corvette from earlier that may have been written off. I can only wonder how that was explained; but who knew the Wolf of Mosport would be powered by a Honda engine?
Now check out our video of the Wolf Racing GB08 CN Sports Prototype in action on the Grand Prix road course at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.