Around and about: comment on the racing and club scene, June 1971

Clubman’s Formula
Recently, at a National status race meeting at Brands Hatch the organisers, while laying on a veritable feast of single-seater racing including Formulae Ford, Three and Atlantic, also slipped in a Gregor Grant/Shell Championship round for Clubman’s cars.

How this category of racing has grown up, and what exciting spectator stuff it provides too! It all started probably some 15 years ago with the Lotus 7, which owners used to modify for sports car racing, and these were not surprisingly able to see off sports cars like the MG-A and so on. Others, with Arthur Mallock’s U2s and similar machines built by small-time constructors like DRW & Terrier, joined in the fun. As racing grew and the machines got faster and faster, it was obvious that the poor chap with a Sprite or Spitfire just wasn’t getting a look in at club meetings. So the BRSCC and BARC held a meeting where the category was split, and the result was that we now have Clubman’s Formula for the U2s, Lotus 7s (and now a whole new breed of exciting specials), and a separate class known as Modified Sports Cars for the Sprite, TVR, and Jaguar “E”-Type owners.

The Clubman’s rules formulated for the 1965 season stated that the cars must be front-engined, have a space frame chassis, non-all-enveloping body, and use either BMC or Ford push-rod engines for capacity classes of up to 1,000 c.c. and 1,000-1,500 c.c. (now enlarged to 1,600 c.c.).

The Formula thrived, slipped into a bad patch, and then in the face of opposition from the new Formula F100, staged a big revival for the 1970 season. Now the Formula is going great guns with some thirty or forty really competitive cars. Lotus have won the main Clubman’s championship for the past two years, but this does not mean you stand a hope of winning in your road-going Lotus 7 with the engine hotted up. In 1965 Lotus built a machine called the 3/7 with independent rear suspension and various other tweaks, and this took Tim Goss to the Clubman’s Championship in 1969. For 1970 they built Goss a brand-new racing Clubman’s car called the Lotus 7X and he repeated his championship success. Now Goss is racing a F.3 March, but both his former mounts are still racing, the 7X as part of a two-car team sponsored by Ogden St. Bruno, no less.

However, the U2 in latest Mk. 8 form is definitely the car to beat at the moment, and Arthur Mallock’s young 18-year-old son Ray, is the driver to beat. Gone is the swing-axle front suspension of which Major Mallock was so long the expert, and in its place a Formula car-like wishbone layout but at the rear a coil-spring-located live axle remains. These remarkable cars, now powered by 160-b.h.p. push-rod Ford engines tuned by Holbay, put up remarkable lap times. Ray Mallock is presently breaking lap records almost every week-end, and he recently lapped Thruxton in an astounding 1 min. 20.8 sec. (over 100 m.p.h.), which some of the lesser lights in Formula Two were struggling to beat at Easter.

U2s of various ages and states of modification make up most of the grid at the average Clubman’s race. But there are plenty of one-off specials of a very high standard of workmanship and design. Some tend to be virtually U2 copies, but others like the BIadon, the Myerscar, the Ellova, the Gryphon, and particularly the Ibec, bristle with original thought within the bounds of their front-engined concept.

Unfortunately the cost of Clubman’s racing, traditionally one of the cheaper Formulae, has rocketed with the intense competition over the past couple of years. Most of this has been in the sphere of engine costs, for a new 160-b.h.p. Holbay engine will cost in the region of £800, and need regular and expensive servicing to keep it in race winning trim. However, one can still go competitive Clubman’s racing for a good deal less than that, particularly if the 1,000-c.c. class is taken as a goal.

Very good second-hand U2s can be picked up remarkably cheaply, while a boon to Clubman’s Formula has been the glut of high-revving 1-litre ex-Forniula Three engines.

Units, which last year cost £850 and were serviced at a cost of something like £100 every two or three races, are now selling for the ridiculously low sum of £250. By using a little less revs than the F.3 boys’ 10,500 r.p.m. these units naturally give much longer periods of reliability, and in a Clubman’s chassis the 125 b.h.p. can make things very exciting.

So for an outlay of less than £1,000, all those aspiring young racing drivers amongst you could be there battling it out every week-end for championship points and having a thoroughly good time. It should be mentioned that while Clubman’s racing is fairly cut and thrust and professional, it is much more friendly than the frantic Formula Ford stuff, complete with all its protests and the like. In fact a thoroughly good training ground for young racing drivers.

Wet day at Oulton Park

A few weeks ago we took a trip up to the pleasant Cheshire circuit of Oulton Park for a typical club meeting organised by the Lancs. and Cheshire Car Club. The atmosphere was somewhat different from that of a couple of weeks earlier when the Formula One circus (or part of it at least) had been in action, but was equally pleasant in its own way. Unfortunately it poured with rain all day and everyone, including a surprisingly large number of spectators, got soaked.

The main race of the day was a 23-lap, 100-km. event for Formula Fords. This is of course far longer than the average race for these cars and the race qualified for the British Oxygen Championship. There are a great number of FF Championships but this is THE one to win, effectively being the British Championship, and we were pleased to see BOC putting considerable energy into their sponsorship.

With important points at stake the grid was packed with 30 of the top FF drivers, the great majority, who have a professional attitude and are aiming for the top, while a couple of reserves didn’t get a race. The treacherous conditions caught out several drivers including the early leader, while the daunting Oulton circuit in wet conditions was sorting out the men from the boys. Some who had built up healthy reputations by lapping Brands Hatch club circuit quickly looked decidedly unhappy down in twelfth and thirteenth places.

Despite a couple of minor off-course excursions, victory went to young Tony Brise who, as we mentioned a couple of months ago, is the 19-year-old son of the former Stock Car World Champion. Brise undoubtedly has a big future in motor racing, for his control of the car in the conditions was superb, while others like the much vaunted South African Jody Scheckter flew off the road. Finishing second after giving a good chase was the experienced Ian Taylor.

An interesting point was that Wise was driving an Elden, a car built by a tiny two or three-man firm in South London, while Taylor was at the wheel of a Dulon, another firm with minimum resources. They left behind the cars built by such Grand Prix constructors as Lotus and March, while the third man was actually in one of the old Lotus 61s rather than the later and much more sophisticated Lotus 69s. This could be shown to prove quite a few things, but my interpretation is that in Formula Ford driving, skill, and a good engine are probably more important than a cholce of chassis.

BP Man of the Meeting

The meeting at Oulton turned out to be one of 14 to have a Man of the Meeting award sponsored by the BP people. The idea is for a panel of experts at the meeting, including BP’s Harry Downing and the representatives from the two sporting weeklies plus a man from the Daily Express, to nominate such a person at the end of the meeting. The winner does not necessarily have to have won a race but to have given an outstanding performance with regard to the quality of his car and the strength of the opposition.

Naturally if a chap led a race handsomely and broke down on the last lap or something like that, he could win the award which is a nice rally jacket, a decent trophy and £10 of petrol vouchers. The award is meant particularly to provide encouragement to young drivers, and at the end of the season the 14 winners will join the panel to decide which of them shall be chosen as the BP Superman of the Year. Presumably they cannot vote for themselves!

At Oulton I was invited to join the panel as the Fleet Street representative was not present, and we had no doubt that Tony Brise was the man. Fortunately he was well aware of the scheme and was absolutely delighted to have won. The next Man of the Meeting award will be on June 20th at Brands Hatch. While BP no longer support Grand Prix racing in the way they used to in past years, it is nice to see them spending the motor racing budget they do have on such schemes as this one.

Historic Championship

There are so many Championships in motor racing these days that it is almost impossible to follow them all. In fact the Editor suggested we might print a list of every one, but as this would have filled about three pages and space is at a premium, we abandoned the idea. However, news comes of one new championship for which there is definitely a place. This championship is to be sponsored by the JCB Excavator company in Staffordshire, who have had motor sporting connections for several years, and it was the idea of Nigel Moores who owns and races a splendid collection of historic cars. The plan is to run a series of six races in which both Historic and Historic Sports cars will compete. There will be three classes, with the sports cars split up into up to and over 2,000-c.c. categories with the racing cars making the third class and points scoring on a class basis.

We look forward to some splendid fields with the amalgamation of these two categories, and hope to see Jaguar “D”-Types and Listers battling it out with Maserati 250Fs and the like. The races will be in addition to the outings these cars have at vintage meetings, and starts with a round at the Martini Trophy meeting at Silverstone on June 5th. The remaining rounds will be at Silverstone on July 10th for the St. John Horsfall races, at Snetterton on August 1st for the Archie Scott-Brown Memorial Trophy, at Silverstone on August 14th and again at the same circuit on August 28th. The final race will be at Crystal Palace on September 25th when the AMOC will be in charge of the organisation.—A. R. M.