Around and about: comment on the racing and club scene, April 1971

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Youngsters in motor racing

The old adage about never being too young to start certainly seems to be true in Formula Ford racing these days. At Brands Hatch a few weeks ago the front row of the grid comprised Richard Croucher (aged 18), Tom Pryce (aged 21), and Tony Brise (aged 18). In fact the “old man” actually won followed by the two youngsters.

Of course if you are only a teenager it is unlikely that you will have something like the £1,000-£1,500 in your bank account necessary to run a competitive Formula Ford car but the successes of these two youngsters must surely encourage doting fathers to spend some money on their sons.

However one should not get carried away and think that a youngster with only a year’s driving experience on the road can climb into a racing car and immediately burn off all the bright young hopes of 25 or 26. In fact both Croucher and Brise have a lot of racing under their belts in karting. In karting there is a special class for juniors who can actually start racing at the tender age of 14 and this is just what Brise and Croucher did. Furthermore both have fathers who are well known in motoring sport for Croucher’s “dad” is an RAC scrutineer and Brise’s father a former World Stock Car Champion and kart racer and manufacturer.

Both lads were successful in karting for Croucher did well in the races round full size circuits, particularly Lydden where his lap record was faster than that for full size race cars, while Brise won a class in the British Championship in 1969.

Twenty-one year old Tom Pryce came to the forefront of Formula Ford in a rather different way. He entered a competition run by a racing drivers’ school at Silverstone and sponsored by the Daily Express. After doing well in a series of private races, this young Welsh mechanic won the final which some of you may remember was held at last year’s International Meeting at Silverstone. His prize was a brand new Lola Formula Ford which he contrived to crash before he ever raced it. But with determination he re-built the car and soon had it going well and towards the end of the season started to feature well in the results particularly at Brands Hatch.

Another 21-year-old just about to make an impact on the Formula Ford scene is a South African called Jody Schekter. He has been winning races in Renault saloons since he was 18 in his home country. His big break came when he entered the recent Sunshine Series Formula Ford series in South Africa where there was a prize of a Driver to Europe award, for the highest placed local. Attracted by this Schekter bought a Lola FF and, though he had never raced a single-seater before, won the award and earned much praise from the British drivers who finished first and second in the series.

So now Schekter has arrived in Britain and with his prize money has purchased the Merlyn Mk. 11A which brought Colin Vandervell over twenty wins last season and Emerson Fittipaldi considerable success before him. Incidentally Schekter also had considerable kart experience before taking to cars.

Of course, as DSJ frequently reminds me, there is nothing new in motor racing. He re-calls that a young 18-year-old by the name of Tony Rolt was winning club races at Donington in 1939 and that by the time he was twenty-one Prince Bira was also taking the chequered flag. In more recent times Stirling Moss was starting to make his name at a similar tender age and so was Jacky Ickx.

European 2-litre Championship

Last year the FIA introduced a new European Championship for 2-litre sports cars, either of the Group 5 or 6 categories. Despite a few teething troubles it was considered to be successful and this year the championship is to be run again and starts at the new French circuit of Paul Ricard on April 16.

Last year Chevron’s cars, and their driver Brian Redman, narrowly won the title from Jo Bonnier in his works-backed Lola, these two makes plus Abarth dominating the proceedings. This year Chevron will be represented with their open B19 models driven by Chris Craft (works), John Miles and Graham Birrell (Dart) as well as a host of other fast private owners like John Burton, Ed Swart and John Lepp. Lola will again be represented by Bonnier as well as privateers like Guy Edwards and Alan de Cadanet’s Ecurie Evergreen team.

There will be several other marques racing including Huron, who will have at least three cars at many rounds, Martin with constructor/driver Brian Martin heading a two-car team and there is also a works assisted Daren with a BRM engine for the experienced long distance team of Davidson/Wheeler. Taking in one of these 2-litre races while you are on the Continent could be well worth while. There is also a round in Britain this year at Silverstone on June 5th, as the main race in the well known Martini meeting.

***
Club notes
On Friday, April 2nd the energetic Circle Car Club, who are based in Middlesex, will be holding a midnight matinee at the Odeon Cinema, Watford. The programme, which starts at 11 p.m. includes several motor sporting films and tickets, price 40p, are available from the cinema. All proceeds to the British Polio Fellowship.

***
The Monoposto Club have asked us to point out an error which occurs on page 166 of this year’s RAC Blue Book. This says that the Formula allows proprietory chassis built prior to 30th September, 1960. This should read prior to 30th September, 1966.

***
The Riley RM Club have had a change of both the Secretary and the Spares Secretary. David Morris of 37a Tudor Drive, Gidea Park, Romford, Essex, takes over the former position while B. Newton of 38 Montrose Drive, Glendale, Nuneaton, Warwicks is looking after spares.