Featured: Exploring The History Of Motorsport In Colombia With Club Los Tortugas, Pt. 2

Exploring The History Of Motorsport In Colombia With Club Los Tortugas, Pt. 2

By Alvaro Colombiano
May 25, 2017

This is the second piece of this week’s exploration of Colombian car culture at the 60th anniversary of one of the country’s largest groups of gear heads, Club los Tortugas. Check out part one if you missed it earlier, or just dive into this collection right now—either way, you’ll find cars from all over the world that have made an impact in South American racing and wider car culture.

After walking through the first section of the massive structure brimming with cars, we continue our walking history tour with a great surprise, finding a 1967 330 GT 2+2 series II that’s been in the country for decades. This car must have been one of the first of the Cavallino Rampante to arrive in Colombia with a Colombo V12 engine. I simply can imagine how this car must have sounded around the streets of Bogotá in the 1960s. Alongside this Ferrari was a full stable: a 308 GTB Quattrovalvole, a 328 GTS, a Testarossa, a 348 TB (coupe) and 348 TS (targa), and a Mondial to, in a sense, round out the bunch.

This 1967 Ford-powered Lotus 51b was one of the first formula cars to arrive in Colombia, and when it arrived the body was modified to compete in the prototype category, and the engine was swapped for one from a Renault 12. All the same, during its time competing in Colombia, the car won several races: the 3 Hours of Tibitó and El Circuito Base de Apiay (which was a race on an air base) for example. The car was recently restored to its original look, and alongside it was another formula car, a 1980 Van Diemen-Renault, which won the Formula Colombia in 1987 at the Autodromo de Tocancipá, where these formula series were held in Colombia until 1998.

The next car was a very special 356 indeed. Finding the intriguing story of this Porsche 356A Carrera GS/GT from 1958, I was told that this car belonged to the official factory Porsche team, and during the former glory years won the 12 Hours of Sebring, Targa Florio and the Grand Prix of Venezuela, as well as a local win at the San Diego circuit in 1962.

The next segment cars were increasingly wild in their appearance and more race-oriented overall, like this punched out wide body Toyota Starlet race car with 250hp to move the small mass around. This car was prepped to race alongside bigger competitors during the 1990s, and it competed in endurance races at the Tocancipá race track in Colombia, and in various circuits around Ecuador too. Check out those wild plastic fins on the front fenders. Wild!

The next car had a similar atmosphere about it. This Simca on steroids was one of the most successful of its category, and in the 1990s it won the 1995, 1997, and 2001 national championship. The car is similar to those that competed locally in the Marlboro championship in the ’70s, and this little thing still won with a 1300cc four-cylinder engine with 130hp. And looking at its body work, and weight reduction-orientation in the overall build, one can only guess at home much fun it is to drive.

Cars like this 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo were successful in their own right, competing in exciting races like the street circuit of Armenia and La Virginia, among others. This early turbo Motorsport offering made for a great racer for the tight streets and walled-in courses, but it also would have been exceptionally cool to see this German boxy coupe flying down roads between coffee plantations, as the region it raced in is known for.

Alongside the 2002 there were a couple of cars that caught my attention for their pure scarcity in Colombia. The first one is this Hillman Imp with 80hp from 1966—the little competitor to the Mini Cooper won the street circuits of in the cities of Ibagué, Buga, and Cali in 1973.

Another exciting car in attendance was this racing oriented Alfa Romeo. It was a great and welcome surprise to see this incredible Autodelta GTA Corse “Alleggerita” with its 1600 twin-cam, twin spark system motor pumping out 170hp. Certainly one of my favorite cars from this event, alongside it was a 1300 Sprint prepped locally that currently races the nostalgic re-edition of the San Diego classic series.

This 1989 Spice prototype with its 650hp aluminum V8 was first raced by Derek Bell, who in 1994 won his class in the 12 Hours of Sebring in this car. The same year, the car was brought to Bogotá and raced by Juan Pablo Montoya, who used it to win the 6 Hours of Bogotá, and established the fastest lap record, a time that remained unbeatable for 19 years! This car also won the 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1999 six hour endurance race at the Autodromo de Tocancipá.

This Austin Healey 3000 Bn7 Mark I represented an English influence in the realm of sports car racing in South America, and with a 2900cc 210hp inline-six, this car had similar specs as the one that was used in the Coupe des Alpes and the Monte Carlo Rally.

It’s possible that this group of cars started it all in my country: the Allard J2X from 1952 packed in a 250hp V8 to compete on streets of Bogotá in the 1955 GP. Nearby was this MG TC from 1949: this was the first postwar sports car imported to Colombia.This car made its racing debut in one of the most difficult races on the continent: La Carrera Quito – Bogotá – Caracas.

To end this brief article series on the history of racing in Colombia, along with the photos of some other cars that caught my eye, here is some footage I’ve found on the 1960 San Diego Circuit of Bogotá, with some of the cars displayed in this article in competition: 

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Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
6 years ago

Bell, Wallace and Weaver finished 1st in class, and second overall, with first place going uncharacteristically to a GTS car.

6 years ago

D. Bell finished second in the Spice. Not a Sebring race winning car, sorry.

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