Atlantic back on track

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There is no full revival as yet, but a Brands Hatch trial could lead to bigger things

Perhaps the last piece in the British historic racing puzzle, Formula Atlantic was primed for revival shortly after Motor Sport closed for press, at the Historic Sports Car Club’s Legends of Brands Hatch meeting.

The HSCC added a dedicated Formula Atlantic class to its Derek Bell Trophy races. Club CEO Grahame White – who recently announced that he will step down from his role at the end of 2018, after two decades – said, “It’s been something that the club has been discussing for a while, really, but it gained traction when we got one or two more Formula Atlantic cars entering our Historic F2 series.

“We thought, ‘Maybe there are more of these cars around’ and decided we should get them over to race. It was felt that a standalone class at Brands Hatch could attract more Formula Atlantic entries.

“I think it’s important to encourage people who have got Formula Atlantic cars to bring them over to race, and it’d be nice to double the number of cars for future events.

Formula Atlantic proved popular in the UK in the early to mid 1970s as a more affordable alternative to Formula 2. It can trace its origins to the American Formula B series that began in 1965 and quickly spread to Canada and then to Britain in 1971. With huge fields during its peak period of 1972-1975 it proved a stepping stone for a number of drivers on the way to F1, including Alan Jones, Tony Brise, Gunnar Nilsson and Tom Pryce. The formula disappeared during the late 1970s and a subsequent UK revival never quite attracted the support of earlier days, though the category continued in other parts of the world. Alo Lawler was the last British Atlantic champion, in 1983.

The HSCC is keen to play down the prospect of a full championship after its latest revival.

“Maybe what we’re doing now, with a dedicated class, could encourage Formula Atlantic to gain ground but these are early days. You can’t start a full championship overnight without the support of competitors and their cars,” says White.

“In the long term, perhaps, there is an opportunity to form a strong addition to the historic racing scene.”

The HSCC will reveal its plans for next year after its next board meeting, which White says contains some “exciting ideas”.

Iain Rowley and Alan Morgan, who developed the Historic Formula Ford 2000 series, are catalysts of the Formula Atlantic revival and optimistic that a full championship can be started.

“My racing goes back to the early 1970s and I always thought Formula Atlantic cars were proper racers,” said Rowley.

“I’ve now managed to buy one – the ex-Howdy Holmes March 79B – and myself and Alan thought it would be nice to see what response we got if we could have the odd standalone race. The HSCC has been very supportive and we’ve got hold of most people in the UK and Europe and had a really good response. If interest is high enough, I can go back to the HSCC and say ‘What about a standalone race next year?’

“Fingers crossed, but everybody has been fully supportive over a comeback.”

And, while a lot of Formula Atlantic cars are homed in the United States, a database is being built by Rowley and Morgan to track the cars’ whereabouts, spread the word about the new class – and perhaps kick-start a formal comeback.

“If anybody is sitting on a Formula Atlantic car and wants to sell it, now is the time to act,” added Rowley.

BTCC AT GOODWOOD

The British Touring Car Championship’s 60th anniversary celebrations continue with a historic and modern shoot-out planned for the Goodwood Festival of Speed on July 12-15.

The Festival will mark the diamond jubilee with a class of iconic saloons, including an Alfa Romeo 155, Mini Cooper S, Volvo 850 estate and Jack Sears’ 1958 Austin A105 confirmed to tackle the course.

Current BTCC teams will also take cars up the hill, with a shoot-out between Matt Neal, Andrew Jordan, Tom Ingram and Rob Austin to add to the BTCC festivities. More drivers have still to be confirmed.

This year’s Festival of Speed is themed around the Duke of Richmond’s top 25 moments from past events, with the central statue celebrating Porsche’s 70th anniversary. Works drivers and iconic models will be present and off-track activities are planned.

BRIGGS TO RACE M8E

Historic racer Warren Briggs, a former McLaren team member, will drive an M8E Can-Am car in the American Historic Can-Am Series. Briggs, who currently fields a McLaren M29C in the Masters Historic Formula 1 Championship, acquired the car 12 months ago and WDK Motorsport is preparing it for competition in the United States.

He will race the car with Brian Redman at Road America, during the Weathertech International Challenge on July 19-22, and then at Laguna Seca on August 23-26 at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, where grids of 24 Can-Am cars are expected.

“I shook the car down in November 2017,” Briggs said, “and after we put period bodywork on it, to comply with the American regulations, we tested it at Donington this year.

“It’s just fantastic to drive, and interestingly I’m more comfortable in it than I am in the F1 car. I’m not on top of the M29C by any stretch of the imagination, but the Can-Am car moves around more and, to me, it’s like driving my Ford Mustang. It’s going really well.

“The thrill of a full grid of Can-Am cars is just incredible, all of them in period livery. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

The M8E, chassis 80-06, was delivered to a Fred Parkhill of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in May 1971 and competed in one Can-Am race at Donnybrooke later that year, with 11 more races under its belt between then and ’78.

It was sold to a British owner in 1987, then two years later to a Swiss collector who uprated the engine to 8.8 litres with a comprehensive rebuild.

HOY TACKLES CLASSIC

Sir Chris Hoy MBE, winner of six Olympic gold medals in cycling, will make his debut at the Silverstone Classic in July as he competes in the Masters Endurance Legends category.

Hoy (above), who completed a British GT season with Nissan in 2014 and won the LMP3 class of the European Le Mans Series in 2015, has also contested the Le Mans 24 Hours.

He will now enter the new-for-2018 Masters Endurance Legends series, for prototypes and GT cars from 1995-2012 for his first competitive trip to the Silverstone Classic on July 20-22, driving a Courage LC75 LMP2 that raced at Le Mans in 2007.

Other cars expected to compete include a pair of Peugeot 908 diesels, a Dallara-Judd SP1 and a Lola-Mazda B12/60.

ŠKODA ACE RETURNS

Having picked up three class wins on the Ulster Rally in period, former Škoda works driver John Haugland will return in a Škoda 130 at the Titanic Déjà Vu Ulster rally from August 31-September 1.

“It will be nice to see old friends from years back and return to Ireland, where there’s a very good rally atmosphere,” said the Norwegian. “It’ll be a very special event.

“I think they’re using a lot of classic stages and we’re going to drive through them – not too competitively, but I’m excited.

“How quickly are we going to drive on the stages? I haven’t a clue.”

The Škoda 130 has been prepared by local main dealer John Mullholland, but it’s not an ex-works car.

Haugland picked up six European championship rally wins and 106 class victories from 1966-1990, but now runs a winter rally school in Norway and enters historic rallies in the Czech Republic.

HISTORIC F3 INITIATIVE

Thirty-five cars will contest the FIA Historic Formula 3 European Cup race at Zandvoort, as part of the Historic Grand Prix meeting on August 31-September 1.

The field comprises period cars from 1971-1984, not least the Ralt RT3s and Brabham BT41 plus various Martinis and Marches, with regular HF3 racers such as Tom Bradshaw, David Thorburn and Patrick Gormley entered. Category 1 includes cars from 1971-78 while Category 2 covers 1979-84.

Coincidentally, it also marks 40 years since the opening race of the European F3 Championship, in which Dutchman Jan Lammers beat 41 rivals at his home track. Lammers went on to take the championship in 1978, with four victories that season against the likes of Alain Prost, Anders Olofsson and Derek Warwick.

Two entries are ‘wild cards’ and the organisers hope to have a Dutch racing legend and a former F3 champion competing.

“We are delighted that the FIA has acknowledged the great history of Formula 3 racing at Zandvoort by allowing us to host the new FIA Historic Formula 3 European Cup,” said Circuit Zandvoort COO Erik Weijers.

“The addition of an FIA-sanctioned F3 competition to the programme of our increasingly popular Historic Grand Prix Zandvoort will raise its profile even more.”

FIA Historic Motor Sport Commission president Paolo Cantarella added that the Historic Formula 3 European Cup has been created to celebrate the importance of Formula 3.

“There are several national Historic Formula 3 series in Europe and we want to recognise the importance of the category in an FIA-labelled single event Cup at Zandvoort, in cooperation with the existing national series organisers,” he said.

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