Mark Sparrow, A Former Rocket Scientist Who is Now Making a Race Car

How Former Rocket Scientist Mark Sparrow is Making his Boyhood Dream a Reality

Since the age of 11, Mark Sparrow has been passionate about Group C race cars. As a boy, he saw the Group C cars racing at Le Mans 1989, and that love of the sport’s power, speed and drama took hold and never let go. Like many people, Sparrow dreamt of creating his version of the race cars he loved; however, unlike most people, he got to work and built his own endurance racing car, turning his dreams into a reality at his facilities in Surrey.

Introducing the Tertre Rouge Race Car
The endurance racing car is designed to match or exceed a late 1980s high-end Group C car’s performance and give the same driving experience. Just like its predecessors, the race car has no driver aids and has around 800bhp/ton, which is coupled with over 1000kgs of downforce and huge tyres.

The car’s ride height can be lowered for racing, and its road wheels and tyres have the same diameter as the Group C tyres, making them easily swapped out.

The engine has the same closed deck block and modifications but uses newer technology and equipment than the 1989 Le Mans and 1989 & 1990 World Sportscar Championship-winning Sauber Mercedes it is based upon.

The chassis of the car with its two red Cobra race seats

The chassis is designed to meet and exceed the MSA and FIA requirements and contains an integrated survival cell with integrated crash structures. It has been designed to give great access during pit stops and has easily interchangeable sections.

The design is inspired by the late 1980s Group C car. Hidden in the cleaner lines are all the NACA ducts for brakes and oil coolers, which helps to keep the same prodigious downforce Group C cars are famous for. The race car also supports butterfly doors for optimised driver ingress and egress. The body is optimised to produce maximum downforce for modern 200mph VMAX race tracks while retaining a 250mph (400 KPH) maximum top speed.

A head and shoulder shot of MarkThe race car’s manufacture is heavily influenced by Sparrow’s career experience in aerospace engineering and spacecraft engineering.

In the same way that an aircraft or spacecraft goes through its AIT phase, the Tertre Rouge Racing car has been designed and built with the highest standards of design and assembly, including full daily tool control, and using a strict aerospace and race car material and construction methodology.

Sparrow said, “I believe the late 80’s Group C cars were the peak of race car engineering due to relaxed rules, alongside turbocharging and aerodynamics coming on leaps and bounds in this period. This produced endurance cars that could cover a mile in 15 seconds, cover 3,300 miles in 24 hours, and qualify in the top 10 for a period F1 race. There’s absolutely nothing like a Group C car.”

Le Mans is a really special place to me, which is why my brand is Tertre Rouge Racing – named after the corner on the Le Mans circuit. This quote from Audi’s Brad Kettler sums it all up for me: ‘That’s the thing when you’re at Le Mans when a car goes by you in the pit and the time pops and the next time you see it it’s been almost 9 miles across the French countryside in 3:30,’ (source: Brad Kettler, Audi Technical Director, 2008).”

A rendering showing what the car will look like when completed

Tertre Rouge Racing Car Specifications
The Tertre Rouge Racing car brings together two facets of Mark Sparrow’s career experience as an engineer: the toughness of military vehicles and the light weight of spacecraft.

According to Group C Sports-Prototype Regulations (Appendix J, Art. 257), the definition of a Group C car is: “Two-seater competition automobiles built specifically for races on closed circuits.” The Tertre Rouge Racing car has been designed and built to the period FIA race rules and the current road regulations, and it has been engineered to compete in endurance racing.


  • Length 4800mm (Group C regulations)
  • Width 1989mm (Within Group C regulations)
  • Height 1150mm
  • Wheelbase 2700mm
  • Weight 950kg (Complies with Group C regulations) (Subject to final weigh-in)
  • Fuel tank 100L (Group C regulations)

Wheels and Tyres

  • Front: 285/30/19 on lightweight aluminium centre-lock wheels
  • Front Option Avon/Michelin 335-645-R18 (Group C tyre) on 18″ centre-lock wheels
  • Rear: 345/30/20 on lightweight aluminium centre-lock wheels
  • Rear Option Avon/Michelin 365-720-R18 (Group C tyre) on 18″ centre-lock wheels

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine 750bhp Mercedes 5L M119 twin-turbocharged V8
  • Gearbox 6 speed straight cut sequential with ratio choice and drop gears


  • Front 6 pot racing callipers with 380mm discs
  • Rear four-pot racing callipers with 355mm discs

​Steering and Suspension

  • Unassisted rack and pinion with quick-release steering wheel
  • Front and rear unequal-length adjustable double wishbone suspension with adjustable anti-roll bars and rocker-based rising rate suspension with adjustable shocks

Chassis and Body

  • Bonded carbon fibre structural foam core composite panels over a steel skeleton with integrated roll cage

A photograph of the cars pedals

About Mark Sparrow
Mark Sparrow, 44, of Elstead, Surrey, is a mechanical engineer with a degree in automotive engineering in motorsport. His career has spanned from toolmaking to designing armoured military vehicles to rocket science for Bepi Columbo, which is currently orbiting somewhere around Mercury.

Sparrow currently runs his own company contracting for the aerospace industry. Tertre Rouge is the first car he has designed from a clean sheet and is currently in the process of being built.

All images courtesy of Tertre Rouge Racing.

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A rendering showing what the finished car will look like from the frontMark Sparrow, A Former Rocket Scientist Who is Now Making a Race Car 2

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