In the early 1990s, the 800bhp V8-powered Intrepid RM-1 radically opted for maximum downforce and outright speed. Jump on-board to see how terrifying that really is at Road Atlanta
In terms of win-loss records, the Intrepid RM-1 sportscar prototype will never be among the elite. Across 32 races in America’s IMSA GT Championship between 1991 and 1993, and against the likes of the Nissan NPT-90, the Porsche 962C, and the Jaguar XJR-12, the RM-1 won only once, chassis #001 – rather aptly – taking the chequered flag at the 2H New Orleans in the prototype’s debut season. Not what designers Bob and Bill Riley had expected for a machine that produced more downforce mid-corner than anybody had seen yet.
Back in early 1990, American racer Jim Miller reasoned that success with customer sportscars would be fleeting at best. It wasn’t long before the American abandoned the Spice Engineering-built GTP he had been running in favour of a clean sheet design from the Rileys to be built by Pratt & Miller, the partnership that would go on to build the American Le Mans Series championship winning Corvette C6.R. Priority during the build went towards optimising downforce and minimizing aerodynamic drag, the team gambling on this paying off across America’s tight and technical race circuits. A gamble that came with a few stumbling blocks.
The team’s focus on outright speed meant reliability took a back seat, meaning the RM-1 entered only one 12-hour race (at Sebring) and no 24-hour races at all during its lifecycle. Further, with plans to run a 1000bhp Judd V8 falling through, Intrepid instead sourced an 800bhp 7.2-litre Chevrolet V8, which, while lighter, was also considerably underpowered compared with its rivals. Its 1991 debut though got off to a good-start.
Around the tight streets of Palm Beach, USA, South African Wayne Taylor in the RM-1’s first race – under the MTI Racing banner – managed to claim 2nd at the flag after starting 6th, a result that ushered in the production of a second prototype. Tests at Sebring led to the introduction of closed wheel wells, the more aerodynamic approach helping the #64 RM-1 take its maiden win on the rain-soaked streets of New Orleans. Bob and Bill Riley’s design seemed to be paying off until the series made its way to Watkins Glen, a fast, sweeping track that punished the RM-1’s limited aerodynamics and leaving it almost 50kph down on the leaders through the faster sectors.
Worse was to come, a collision halfway through the 500km event tearing the front of the chassis completely apart, causing huge damage to driver Tommy Kendall’s legs and ankles. The accident sent potential buyers and sponsors looking elsewhere, the program never really recovery from the very legitimate hit the RM-1 had suffered. With Chevrolet reducing its support for 1992 and the chassis beginning to look its age by 1993, the Intrepid RM-1 project came to an end shortly afterwards.
Though success was minimal, the Intrepid RM-1 made its return to Road Atlanta recently at the hands of Patrick Bean in the above Goodwood Road and Racing video, the monstrous V8 showing it’s clearly lost none of its speed.