Matters of Moment, January 1950

Formula Three

In a way it is a great compliment to our 500 Club that the F.I.A. has introduced the International Formula III to cover the racing of cars up to 500 c.c. But it is proof positive that there is no such thing as inexpensive motor-racing. During the war Kenneth Neve and Joseph Lowrey thought about racing cycle-cars propelled by motor-cycle engines not exceeding 500 c.c. and Motor Sport gave publicity to the idea. It did seem as if home-builders of specials might get some real racing, over circuits, for a not too enormous or crippling outlay. The scheme caught on very quickly in this “‘specials-conscious” country and the design and construction of individual cars to the Formula laid down by the newly-formed 500 Club proceeded apace.

Colin Strang spent a tall pile of pennies on building his effective Strang 500, which, with no blame attaching to Colin, became a sort of yardstick of 500-c.c. performance and perfection, but a somewhat depressing one to those would-be racing participants whose bank overdrafts and P.O. Savings Accounts confined them to more stick-and-string methods.

C. N. Cooper, whose blood obviously still contained a few microbes which had survived from the time when he prepared racing cars for Kaye Don, built his son a “500,” using F.I.A.T. suspension units and a J.A.P. engine. It proved so successful, such a real Grand Prix car in miniature, that a big demand for it quickly materialised. The Coopers decided to commercialise their venture, and again no blame attaches. If they had not, some other concern would have; already Marwyn and Iota were in the market with cars and parts.

All this merely proves that motor-racing never will be inexpensive. The Cooper car is not excessively expensive, representing, indeed, excellent value for money, especially in times when every individual has to contribute to the work, health and maintenance of his fellow creatures. And your front-line racing car never will be possible for an outlay of a few hundred pounds. It always was the same, even in the days when Godfrey and Nash’s racing cyclecars built at Hendon were just that much better than the cyclecar built in Bill Blogg’s spare bedroom.

So far no one has entered the “500” arena with multi-cylinder engines and the Club Formula has banned blowers. But the multi-cylinder attack is bound to come sooner or later and with it further increase in the expense of effective participation.

So the-advent of Formula Ill can be hailed as a natural sequence of development, even if it removes for ever hope of the chequered flag amongst the more impecunious builders of 500-c.c. racing cars.

In this country 500-c.c. racing has received the blessing of the R.A.C. at Silverstone and of the organisers of first-class race meetings at Goodwood, Brough, Bristol, Blandford, etc., and has already reached a high level, with the need for “double-knocker” Norton engines and the like in competing with the leading exponents of the art. The cars are sufficiently fast and so controllable as to offer an excellent spectacle to the public, and a considerable degree of driving skill is called for, and ably shown by men like Stirling Moss, Eric Brandon, Don Parker and others, so Formula III racing has undoubted possibilities. It will not call for the decidedly specialised skill and experience required to drive the B.R.M. or fly jet-fighters, nor will the expenses involved be on the prohibitive scale demanded for running a team of Formula I cars, and consequently the success of this new Formula seems assured. In France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and other countries, interest in 500-c.c. racing is considerable, and D.B. exhibited a racing “500” at the recent Paris Show.

Our 500 Club has sensibly decided to brush up its publicity and to go for the new Formula racing in a big way. It even expresses the hope, through Gerald Spink, its appointed spokesman, that Britain will be effectively represented in International racing by its 500-c.c. cars and that they may soon bring us something of the world-wide prestige once earned for us by the Bentleys at Le Mans.

British motor-cycles and riders have brought our motor-cycle industry very valuable publicity, not only through International victories by solo machines but by our successes in sidecar racing. If 1950 sees the beginning of a similar onslaught by the B.R.M. in Formula I racing, backed up by British “500s” in Formula III events, enthusiasts in this country will at last be able to fling their caps over the rainbow and the British motor industry will benefit enormously. At worst, owners of the more efficient 500-c.c. cars will be able to participate in Continental races of Formula status without any appreciable increase in expenditure.

* * *

Attention is drawn to a notice on page 35 in this issue relating to the reversion to its previous quality of Motor Sport, necessitating it price increase of threepence as from the February issue.