Track Testing the Formula 3 Ginetta

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So far in Formula Three the most technically advanced car, namely the Cooper Type 72, has won practically everything worth bothering about. Another very advanced F.3 car is about to take part in its first race and is all the more remarkable because its constructors have never raced a single-seater before. The car is made by Ginetta Cars, of Witham, Essex, whose build-it-yourself G4 sports car has been enthused over in these columns from time to time. The Ginetta G4 uses a steel frame bonded into glass-fibre panels and a glass-fibre body, and the Formula Three car uses a monocoque glass-fibre chassis, probably the first time this has been done in a single-seater apart from the not-too-successful Lotus 27.

The chassis of the Ginetta is of monocoque construction similar to the bath-tub shape of the Lotus 25, with a steel frame sandwiched between two layers of glass-fibre. The frame is welded up from 1 in. x 16- and 18-gauge tubing but is not intended to be a space frame and only serves to provide mounting points for suspension, engine, gearbox, etc. The inner glass-fibre skin is moulded in a male mould, then it is turned upside down and the steel framework laid over it, the two components then being bonded together. The outer skin is then laid over the steel frame and is also bonded to it. The resultant chassis is claimed by Ginetta to be extremely stiff and more torsionally rigid than a space-frame F.J. car which they built but never raced. Sub-frames are fitted front and rear for mounting of the various auxiliary components, and these are rigidly mounted to the steel tubes in the monocoque section by collars which are brazed into the frame tubes. The front suspension is by one-piece fabricated steel upper wishbones, operating the vertical coil-spring/damper units inside the chassis in conjunction with lower wishbones. The uprights are modified Triumph Herald units, and an anti-roll bar is located inside the bodywork. The steering rack is located low down, in line with the lower wishbone mountings. The suspension is fully adjustable for camber, castor and toe-in.

The rear suspension is by reversed lower wishbones, a single upper arm and double radius arms with outboard-mounted coil-spring/damper units. The hub carriers are magnesium castings of Ginetta design, as are the 13-in. Bugatti-like wheels with four large, prominent “spokes.” The engine used in the car at present is the Holbay-modified Ford unit, claimed to give something over 80 b.h.p. at 8,200 r.p.m., which is mated to the Hewland-modified 4-speed Volkswagen gearbox.

The Assistant Editor was invited to try the car at Snetterton recently on a pleasant sunny day and, with a track virtually clear of traffic except for Graham Hill doing some post-Belgian G.P. testing with the B.R.M., it was possible to put in a good deal of testing. At present the car has no seat, merely some foam padding stuck to the floor and a removable back-rest. Despite the fact that the body is only 2 ft. wide there is plenty of room for a large driver, although a seat would be welcomed by smaller drivers as lateral location at shoulder height is poor, due to the fact that the chassis structure finishes at waist height. The steering wheel is a small 11-in. diameter soft leather type, and the only instruments to bother with are the 10,000-r.p.m. tachometer and water-temperature and oil-pressure gauges. The gear-lever for the 4-speed gearbox is located on the body side at the right, the lower end having a ball joint which is located inside a hollow steel tube passing through the chassis to the gearbox. This seems to give better location of the gear positions. The driving position is better suited to those of medium height as the 6-ft. driver has to adopt a slightly splayed knee attitude and with the present pedal layout has difficulty in making heel-and-toe gear-changes. These are, of course, things that can be fairly easily modified by alteration of pedal positions and spacing.

The starting drill is simple enough as it is necessary only to depress a toggle switch to bring the ignition and fuel pump into action and press the starter button. The Holbay engine has virtually no power at all below 5,000 r.p.m. and it is vitally necessary to keep the engine revving at between 7,000 and 8,000 r.p.m. if any sort of lap time is to be made, for if a gear is missed or a corner taken in too high a gear the revs drop off and the engine will wet a plug immediately. The gear-change pattern is in the conventional H-form, so that a new sequence does not have to be learned, and it is quite a simple matter to get the car moving in 1st gear as long as plenty of throttle is used. Once on the move it takes some time to become acquainted with the feel of single-seater motoring, for the wheels dance about just a few feet in front of you, the wind rushes over the small screen at great speed, and you are seated only an inch or two above the ground. However, confidence soon grows and I was soon using full revs in the gears; at Snetterton in a Formula Three car one passes the pits in top gear, changing down for the double right-hander of Riches, which can be taken flat out in 3rd. Third is maintained round Sear and top is reached just on the apex of the kink into the long Norwich straight, with 8,200 r.p.m. coming up just before the 300-yard board at the hairpin, which is taken in 2nd gear. Going up through the box again along Home straight, top is required for a few seconds before changing down to 3rd for the Esses, this gear being held round Coram curve almost until the pits are in sight again.

The Ginetta struck me as being a particularly rigid car, bearing out all the claims made for it by its makers. It gives a pleasant ride, soft in the modern manner but with no trace of roll. Some tremor can be felt over some of Snetterton’s really bad patches just before the hairpin and in the Esses, and there is some tramp from the front wheels when braking hard. This was originally attributed to the use of rubber bushes in the upper wishbone and these were changed for needle roller bearings. Although slightly improved, no cure was found, and on the advice of the B.R.M. mechanics, who experienced a similar problem with the basically similar B.R.M. front suspension, the leading arm of the lower wishbone will probably be strengthened. No other real problems seem to be arising at the moment, although it may be necessary to fit a rear anti-roll bar when more power becomes available as even with the rather poor output of this particular engine understeer is quite noticeable.

Due to my inability to heel-and-toe properly I had to brake and change gear by moving my foot completely from the brake pedal to blip the throttle, which is hardly conducive to fast lapping; even so, I managed to get down to 2 min., and one of the Walklett brothers lapped in an excellent 1 min. 55 sec. without being able to brake heavily due to the afore-mentioned front-wheel tramp. With modifications and the attentions of an experienced single-seater driver, the 1 min. 45 sec. bracket should not be an impossible goal. At which stage other F.3 constructors and drivers should take note.

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