Ric Wood looks remarkably relaxed for a man who is about to hand control of a 2003 Opel Astra DTM German touring car to a man he’s never heard of, let alone met.
But here he is, smiling, and here’s his car, which he bought from the works Opel touring car team and which he races mostly in Holland. He won so many races in the UK with it that most series kicked him out.
And from 12-14 June he’ll be driving it around the 1.2-mile sprint course at Cholmondeley Castle during the eighth Cholmondeley Pageant of Power.
You could think of the pageant as the north’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. Except that, situated as it is not far from Crewe, it’s not so far into the north as to be inaccessible from the Midlands or the south. It’s lower of key, too. A touring car at Goodwood would probably be a current race car and arrive with an entourage of engineers.
This Astra is looked after by a couple of Wood’s employees from his engine design business. Don’t think that it’s anything less exciting for that, though. Yes, it looks like an Astra, but no DTM car in recent history has borne any mechanical relationship with its road-going counterpart.
This Astra’s gossamer-thin, carbonfibre-backed skin adorns an ultra-rigid safety cage. When you sit in the near-central driving seat and note that the interior air vent is beautifully constructed from carbonfibre so thin that it’s actually opaque, you know you’re in the presence of a real weapon.
Its naturally aspirated 4.0-litre V8 sits long and low under the hood, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox. With the restrictors Wood is allowed to put on it, he’s looking at an easy 460bhp. That’s quite a lot in a car that weighs 1150kg including driver.