One of the ‘unicorn’ cars of the GT1 era and of the British GT Championship was the 1999 Sintura S99.
The Judd V10 engined rocketship’s star burned brightly but briefly taking a race win against stiff opposition at Silverstone in a solo season that also saw a one-off appearance in the ALMS at Laguna Seca.
The car is now in New Zealand, but DSC caught up with one of the pair of drivers for that 1999 adventure, still a familiar face on these pages, now United Autosports co-owner Richard Dean.
“Kurt Luby and I had just done a season of British GT in the Dodge Viper and had won the GT2 category.
“Towards the end of that year, we were contacted by a guy named Phil Bourne and asked if we’d be interested. So we said, We’re both interested if we can keep the two of us in the car together.
“Phil headed up this project for Richard Austin, which is (ex British GT and BTCC driver/team owner) Rob Austin’s dad. (Sintura is an anagram of his name – R Austin)
“It was Richards project and we went down to Evesham where it was based and saw the tub and heard about the whole project and it looked good.
“The car looked like a proper prototype racer. It looked to me like a Group C car, full carbon bodied and a lot of power!
“There was certainly a business plan beyond just racing the car, that’s for Richard to say in detail but my impression was that this was more than just spending money to go and have some fun. There was very much interest in getting the car to be accepted into (international) GT1, selling and supporting cars and being ultimately competitive – which on its day it definitely was.
It was a head-turner, wasn’t it?
“It was obviously a controversial car that when everybody looked at it if it was going to be allowed if it was going to become the norm it was going to change the face of GT1 probably. So there was a lot of resistance for it to be accepted as a full-blown GT1 car.
Where did you first run the car?
“We first tested it at Pembrey. We did a couple of days down there. And it was a big step up – not that I hadn’t been at that level of performance car before, but I hadn’t been at that level for quite a while.
“From a Viper, to step up to a real downforce car was a significant step.
“I remember doing the runs at Pembrey and it was hot. It was summertime and I remember it being quick there.
You were really busy around Pembrey with the car and it had a lot of downforce even for a tight track like Pembrey. Certainly turns 2,3,4,5 and the last turn at Pembrey with as much downforce as you had on the car it was a seriously physical car.
“And I remember thinking this is a bit serious again, rather than, a bit of fun in and amongst running my Formula Ford race team that I was running. I needed to step up fitness-wise. It was a proper piece of kit.
“That engine (Judd V10) just sounded amazing. I remember watching Kurt go around Pembrey in it and listening to it. It was a really, really exciting car.
“It was a quick thing, but Richard funded it purely himself and I would imagine it was an expensive project looking at the design of it. A full carbon body and full carbon tub.
“And because it was finished quite late, we didn’t have a development programme. So everybody looked at it and thought, well, it should be quicker than it is. And there’s absolutely no doubt that it could have been a lot quicker than it was, but we were rushed into racing it straight away without having the luxury of a test programme.
“I think if the car had been out testing in June, July, August for the following season everybody would have been up in arms about it. It would have just disappeared up the road!
“But we were still we were still learning about it as the car sort of faded because I think Richard’s enthusiasm to plough as much money into it as clearly was required started to tail off as I don’t think he gathered as much financial support from sponsors as he hoped.”
So potential not really fulfilled?
“In truth, it didn’t really fit its class. It was somewhere between a GT1 and a prototype and definitely with a development plan and a test budget it could have been amazing.
“This was a small one-car team. When I look at we what we operate out of now with United, with all respect to Richard and what he put together, this was a small workshop without a big full-time crew.
The car did the part season of British GT, but then at the end of the year, there was a trip to the ALMS at Laguna Seca. How did that come about?
“I think it was just really about trying to demonstrate the car outside of the UK and do something with a credible series to try to open up the potential for a market.
“Everyone could see its potential and we’d won a race in British GT (at Silverstone).
“Everybody started to complain about it as is the norm in GT racing and as you’d probably expect when you looked at the car.
“Certainly, if I’d been on the receiving end of it in a championship I was trying to win and that turned up I’d probably been moaning about it myself. But I think Richard and Phil knew that the options for where it was going to be able to race was going to get harder and harder until they satisfied the criteria of road cars and production numbers.
“I think they were looking at that point to see where else it could race and out in the States was an obvious choice to go and show it.
“We went out there. And while there was no doubt it was fast. It was hot out in Laguna Seca and we hadn’t actually raced it outside of the UK climate. It felt like summer and it had some cooling issues.
“So we ended up doing the race at nowhere near its full potential having to cut big holes in the bodywork and short shift and lift and coast just to keep the engine from letting go so it never really showed itself out there, which was a shame.”
And at the end of that season, it just quietly faded away?
“Richard either needed somebody else to help share the financial burden or he needed to face another full season of paying for it all himself.
“It probably wasn’t helpful, the fact that I wrapped it up into a ball at Donington Park either!
“So the cost of that season with that crash included, he was staring at a big another big budget and with the regulations probably closing in on him a little bit and the threat of being of ineligible it faded.
I do remember Malcolm telling me, I think Kurt taking him around Donington Park in it, at a pace, with no passenger seat would that be right – and in a time that would have put the car on the grid?
“I don’t think Kurt’s ever realised that danger has been invented.
“He’s always lived his life for the day, fast and barking mad!”