Last season’s British Formula One Championship, sponsored by Aurora AFX, makers of model motor racing systems, succeeded beyond most people’s expectations; whilst it didn’t set the world of motor racing alight it did pull in bigger crowds at British circuits than any other formula. Tony Trimmer proved a worthy Champion — and the fact that a Grand Prix also-ran could win these non-World Championship Formula One races so easily tells you all you need to know about the driving talents of the Aurora participants relative to the real Grand Prix circus.
Whatever, Aurora were satisfied with the publicity they achieved and made the best of it, John Webb and MCD were well pleased with the Championship’s crowd-pulling strength, the one golden area in that respect at club and national racing level and the spectators themselves seemed to be happy with the spectacle of close F1 racing and the screaming of flat-out DFVs. Now Aurora have secured the future of the British Formula One Championship for at least two years with a substantial injection of finance, to the tune of £200,000 in 1979. A race victory in any of the 1979 events will earn £5,000 for the winning driver and his team.
Next season’s 15 round Aurora AFX Championship will include three overseas rounds: at Zolder; Zandvoort; and Nogaro. Domestic rounds will encompass all the major British circuits, including Silverstone, though the Championship is an MCD promotion.
An added attraction in this year’s Championship will be the appearance of two wheel maestros Barry Sheene and Giacomo Agostini. While Agostini has proved disappointing in Formula Two in 1977, Sheene is an unknown quantity on four wheels. Agostini has bought both the Williams Grand Prix cars raced by Alan Jones in 1978, while Sheene is expected to drive an Arrows.
The system of points scoring has been amended to bring it more into line with the World Championship arrangement: the top six places will be awarded points on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 scale. In addition, two points will be awarded for pole position and one point for fastest race lap.
A new experimental qualifying procedure will follow the format used in the two British USAC races. Grid positions will be determined on the basis of four-at-a-time qualifying runs conducted in the final practice session for each event. Under this system team managers will draw for qualifying order prior to the final session, and then four cars at a time will be allowed 20 minutes of track time to set a grid position.
This Aurora AFX Championship is fine as a pensioning off formula for old Grand Prix cars and drivers who didn’t make the grade at World Championship level. Whether it will work in reverse as a training ground for future Grand Prix drivers remains to be proven — it will be a good thing if it does — but it does promise some good, close racing for the new season. — CR