Dr Robin Tuluie is no stranger to turning his fantasy vehicles into reality. The ex-astrophysicist and Engineering Director at Bentley is renowned in the motorcycle-racing world as the creator of the 2001 Tul-Aris: a prototype ‘fusion’ race bike powered by a Polaris snowmobile engine capable of producing a GP-worthy 185 crankshaft horsepower. More recently, Tuluie has built a remarkable racing car that will be put through its paces at the Chateau Impney Hill Climb this July.
Robin’s passion for motorsport began in the mid-1980s, when he entered his first motorbike race in California on a Norton Commando. He went on to compete regularly, winning several National Championships, but didn’t become interested in racing cars until, in 2013, he took up a position at Renault Formula One as Head of Research and Development and came over to the UK. It was through his colleague and Bentley-enthusiast Robin Grant that Tuluie became involved with the VSCC and turned his attention and engineering prowess to building his very own vintage race car.
Robin’s vision started to take shape when he found a Menasco Pirate engine:
“It looked quite promising, and so I started reading up on it and learned that they were initially built for just airplane racing. Al Menasco was an aero-racing enthusiast and built the engine for that purpose. They were very successful – more races were won with a Menasco aero engine than with any other aero engine.”
Robin decided that the six-litre Menasco Pirate was the perfect engine for his race car, and set to work looking at the different chassis options, eventually settling on a classic Riley chassis and gearbox. Having admired the work of fellow VSCC member Richard Scaldwell – who is returning to Chateau Impney this year with the De Dietrich – Robin commissioned him for the Menasco Pirate’s bodywork.
Throughout the build, Robin’s aim was to create not the ultimate racing car, but something that evoked the feel of some of the Brooklands aero-engined racers. It was also important to him that the car was driveable both on the racetrack and the road, and to that end the car is a two-seater and slightly taller than traditional racing cars.
The Menasco Pirate was completed in around two years – Robin’s determination and dedication never faltered, and it certainly paid off. The finished car not only looks incredible, but has proved itself on the track, although Robin admits there have been some low points amidst the many highs:
“Racing a car you’ve built yourself brings the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s fantastic when you win. You know, one year I entered 11 events, both races and hill climbs, and won 10 of them. I can’t describe what that feels like. But then other times, it’s a bit of a low – I brought the car back to Silverstone for the first time in three years a few weeks ago and was running in second place, but then first gear broke on the gearbox so I had to pull out.”
While Robin loves showing off the car’s edge at circuit and speed events, he particularly enjoys the control element of hill climbs, along with their more laid-back, social atmosphere. Looking ahead to the Chateau Impney Hill Climb, he says: “I imagine it will be wonderful. I will try and get the best out of the car but it’s not about that, it’s about having fun and enjoying the camaraderie, the sights and the sounds.”