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Upward Spiral - MNR VortX RT+

A recent energetic arrival to the kitcar scene is MNR Ltd run by father and son team Chris and Marc Nordon. Marc certainly has a performance pedigree having been involved in motor racing since 1988 when he was karting alongside a certain Jensen Button before progressing through the ranks and into the rarefied atmosphere of the British Touring Car championship in 2000 when he raced a Nissan Primera for Nissan GB on a semi-works basis. By late 2000 he formed Marc Nordon Racing with his dad Chris, when they prepared and hired out racecars, mostly Renault Clios. From this experience and their engineering background it seemed like a logical step to combine racing and a love for fast cars, which in late 2003 resulted in them starting work on their VortX Lotus Seven-inspired range. Since making their debut at their local Great Northern kitcar show at Harrogate in August they’ve not really had time to catch their breath and an embarrassing amount of orders have come flooding in.

What could have easily been just another clone of the LSIS style car was from the outset designed to be something a little more sophisticated and particular emphasis has been put on under the skin areas such as the chassis and suspension and Marc’s experience in race cars including numerous highs and lows provided a base on which to form their own car, and with the chassis construction he’s very much followed the ACB Chapman philosophy of 'to increase speed you have to decrease weight' and the MNR spaceframe constructed from 18-gauge steel, incorporates a deformable structure including side impact protection.

MNR VortX RT

Out back there’s similar thought processes gone into the set up and there’s another crumple impact zone that, god forbid, will help the survival chances of the occupants in a big biff, a dangerous occurrence in such a delicate type of car, so extra consideration from the manufacturer in this instance is a welcome thing.

The styling of the car in not that dissimilar to its rivals, not surprising given the sector it competes in, but there are several distinctive areas such as the scuttle area and slightly curved cockpit sides that set it apart and give it an individual identity. One thing that was immediately apparent was the quality of the GRP, which is first class and the work of Bob Holmes of Vimar Composites near Harrogate.

MNR Vortx RT+

While Marc and Chris were developing their car they started selling LSIS components from their website as well as undertaking build work for other manufacturer’s kits and their large farm-based workshops are kept busy with this type of work in addition to their own kits.

Their VortX range is split into three distinct models and starts with the RT, which is aimed primarily at road use but can easily be used for trackdays, and for your £2450 inc VAT you get the MNR spaceframe chassis primed and finished in black and it comes fitted with all brackets, a standard roll bar with rear stays, fitted floorpans, Polybushed lower wishbones in oval tube (top wishbones are round tube), 10-piece GRP body kit, which comes in either blue, black, orange or yellow and various steering and suspension components including Pro-Tech dampers as well as many other sundry items. A comprehensive kit for the price. For the money the quality is top notch and you get a lot of components that most others don't supply as standard and it’s worth pointing that there’s full independent rear suspension rather than a live rear axle and even for a comparative budget car the roll bar is FIA-approved. Marc reckons that £5500 is a realistic price to get a self-built RT on the road.

Purposeful interior of RT+

Next up comes the RT+ model, but more on that in a moment as they are also rather interestingly also finding time to ready their flagship Super model, which will feature a fully round tube chassis made from highest grade T45 material and fully rose jointed suspension. I think the message here is that if you’ve been impressed with their offerings so far “You really ain’t seen nuthin’ yet”!

We recently had the chance to nab first drive of their VortX RT+ model, which is a road-legal racer stripped to the bone and weighing in at a mind boggling 412kg and it’s this model that you can expect to see out next season in the 750MC RGB Championship, after several drivers of established models have decided to change to the MNR product, and this I think is indicative of the engineering prowess on offer here as racers in the main know the difference between ‘pig-iron’ and CDS, and appreciate these sort of differences.

Bespoke components of high quality

At our private test venue Marc goes out first to warm things up a little and we watch intently as the Fireblade-powered demonstrator is put through its paces. Most of us mere-mortal drivers feeling disgusted at the ease in which he is instantly quicker than the rest of us from the get-go, in that special way special driver’s have. The RT+ appears to corner flat with very little bodyroll and I can’t wait for my turn behind the wheel. As my ‘big-bear’ frame negotiates the full roll cage and I do my best gymnast asymmetric bars impression, I find that there’s actually a lot of space within the cockpit and as I guess you’d expect from a car designed by a racer there’s very little un-necessary tackle here, just the essentials. The steering wheel is set back towards the driver a la BTCC cars unsurprisingly and the long gearstick is right where you need a sequential changer to be. As the ‘blade barks into life the bespoke exhaust emits a beefy sound. Another thing that racer’s seem good at is positioning pedals properly. Graham Hathaway’s Global GT Light is set up just so, as is the VortX and it’s a nice change from some rivals where you have to sit in a gorilla like fashion with the clutch foot waving around like a poplar in a hurricane. Operation of the clutch is most un-bike-like in action and there’s no on/off malarkey’s here. As I edge out onto the circuit the fun is about to begin…

Clearly this car has been set up by people who know what they are doing and stability is an instant sensation, as is the stiffness of that spaceframe, and this thing feels rock solid as I tip into the first hairpin. As speed and confidence builds it’s apparent to me, an experienced but middling driver, built for comfort rather than pace, that you can take a few liberties with the VortX RT+ and get away with them, and I find the handling pretty neutral and although the tail can be provoked, it really is a simple matter of bringing it all together again and that’s a reassuring trait. I found that to make best use of the bike’s top end spitefulness you really need to drop down through the gears for the hairpins at either end to get the most pull from the 893cc unit. This is the sort of car that could quite easily be driven to a trackday, thrashed all day and then driven home again and I liked the feeling of being able to go progressively faster with each subsequent lap and the VortX is a machine that rewards positive inputs and is a real driver’s machine.

Back in the pit area I take a closer look at the delicate yet immensely strong looking spaceframe and the bespoke suspension components, and Marc tells me about their new tie-up with Bruce Irving’s Raceleda operation, makers of jewel-like replacement uprights and the like for Sierra, Cortina and Mk2 Escort and when you get under the skin of the VortX and really see what makes it tick, the quality becomes very apparent.

The RT+ package costs £3500 inc VAT, which is just over £1000 more than the standard RT, but the chassis is different and the suspension is rose-jointed throughout, and Marc estimates that £8000 should see a good example ready to roll, which again represents pretty good value for money in my book.

This is one new arrival that has hit the ground running and looks like continuing to flourish. Definitely worth adding to your shortlist of contenders in the LSIS sector.