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I measured the voltage of the battery without the key in the ignition and it's 12.6.

When I insert my key and turn on the ignition the electrics work fine, the headlights come on etc.

When I turn the key there is a whirring / faint grinding noise for as long as I have the key turned. When I'm looking at the RPM gauge I can see it occasionally turn to around 1,000 but then drops down to 0.

I don't think I can hear any clicking, but I've never noticed one before either.

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That sounds like the starter motor not engaging, which probably means the solenoid (the bit that ought to be clicking) is sticking or has failed.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Corsa's starter is right up under the back of the engine, which makes it awkward to get to for testing... Can you get a helper to turn the key while you listen to the engine to work out where the whirring noise is coming from - if it is the starter it'll be coming from low down behind the engine. If it's coming from the engine itself then you've got a bigger problem, but I would expect that to be louder.

A sticky solenoid can quite often be sorted short-term with a bit of percussive maintenance (i.e. hit the starter with a rubber mallet), but will eventually require the starter to be replaced.

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I had these exact same symptoms happen occasionally on my old '75 MG and like @Nick said, a delicate (or in my case not so delicate) tap would always solve the issue. – vlsd Apr 29 '13 at 15:19

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