I write to you on the topical subject of “originality” in Historic Racing. Having followed the various editorial comments and correspondence in your excellent columns over the last few months, I thought that you might be interested to hear a story from “another side of the fence”.
I am the owner of a 1953 Cooper-JAP Mk7, 1,100 cc (V-twin) F Libre/F2 car. It is as near to original condition as is possible. In fact nearly every item (except perishables eg tyres, brake linings etc.) is the actual component supplied with this car when it left the factory. It was supplied by the factory in early 1953 to LC Chan in Singapore, (his son now owns the British Leyland agency in Hong Kong) who used it to good effect to win the Singapore High Speed Trials, and the Johore Grand Prix (fastest lap and new lap record), in the very same year.
Its racing life ended after the death of one of the Chan brothers, in another car [Wasn’t that a Jaguar D-type? — CR] It was kept (apparently unused) in Singapore till the early 1970’s, when a serviceman imported the car, after which it came into my hands.
It is my ambition to circuit race the car, but, despite its almost perfect originality and authenticity, I cannot do so anywhere in the world because I am British, and the car is rear-engined. It is apparendy a little known fact that all historic races for single-seaters in this country have the rules rigged to eliminate the eligibility of rear-engined cars, with the exception of the Esso Historic Single-Seater Championship for 1980. I tried to enter the same Championship last year, but was turned down because my car was rear-engined (even though the published rules did not exclude rear-engined vehicles in the 1945-1953 class). However, this year they have included a special rear-engined class (why the hell a special class is needed I don’t know). On applying again this year, I was told that as I didn’t have documentary evidence of my car competing in an FIA sanctioned F2 race, my car was not a bona fide F2 car(!), and as such did not qualify (the Far Eastern events were F Libre of course, due to the scarcity of F1 and F2 cars in Singapore at the time). A Spitfire isn’t a Spitfire till it has shot down a Messerschmitt, you understand!?
Further, the sad irony of this story, and to me a very serious aspect, is that I cannot possibly qualify for the mandatory RAC International Historic Licence, to race anywhere else in the world, because I cannot race in three historic races in this country to get my licence signed!! We therefore have the ludicrous situation whereby, if I were a Frenchman, German or any other nationality, I could race my Cooper all around Europe (INCLUDING ENGLAND), but because I am British, and in this country the blatantly biased and prejudiced rules exclude rear-engined vehicles, I cannot.
I challenge anybody to justify the exclusion of rear-engined pre-1960 single-seaters from any historic championship. I’m afraid the old excuse of banning them in the interests of close racing doesn’t really hold. There would still be close racing for the front-engined fraternity, it’s just that it would be in mid-field, with Lotus and Cooper Climaxes at the front, where they should be, in fact where history records that they were. Or perhaps, one of the so called sportsmen, who went home crying after JCB produced a front-engined car for Stirling Moss, that was faster than their own, would lend me their front-engined “original” GP car, to get my licence signed. Then maybe I could race elsewhere in the world, where my car is a more than welcome entry.
DC Andrews, Towcester