Formula Three Review

Motor Sport Formula 3 Championship

The first three Shell Super Oil races, which qualify for the Motor Sport Formula Three Championship, have been held in recent weeks and have shown that, even if the new 1,600-c.c. restricted engined cars are not as noisy or numerous as the old high-revving cars of last year, the racing is equally keen.

Any new Formula has its problems at the start and the new-style Formula Three which has replaced the 1-litre Formula (run from 1964 to 1970) has been the subject for considerable adverse criticism. The main grouse is that the restrictor hole on the atmospheric side of the engine is too small at 20 mm. So far the engine manufacturers are reporting that the Ford twin-cam based engines with a potential of 170 b.h.p. are strangled down to 105 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. The old 1-litre engines used to give 120 b.h.p. at 10,200 r.p.m. and sounded like real racing engines while the new motors make a noise like a Formula Ford.

All this aside, there is no doubt the racing has been as close as ever and the early races have already given several interesting pointers. The first two races were both over 40 laps of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit on a Saturday before a big race the following day. The opening round was on March 20th before the Race of Champions and the second as a curtain raiser to the BOAC 1000, on April 3rd.

The opening race was only the third ever for the 1,600-c.c. class and was the first to have cars in any number. It was a triumph for Grovewood Award winner Colin Vandervell driving a works-assisted and Castrol Oil-backed Brabham BT35 with a Rowland engine. But he won by the narrowest of margins from Bev Bond, the former Gold Leaf Team Lotus F3 driver now in the Ensign. In fact the Ensign with a Holbay engine has been quite a revelation for it is, in the main, the work of one man. That one man is another former GLTL driver, Morris Nunn, who has built the chisel-nosed, side-radiatored Ensign in his home workshop.

Bond, in fact, led the opening race for a considerable time but then Vandervell pulled back the gap and was challenging for the lead when Bond spun. Then Bond fought back, closed on Vandervell, and the pair crossed the line with the Brabham's nose just in front. Into third place came Gerry Birrell in a works-assisted Lotus 69 which had been slowed by damage to its front bodywork in the early stages. Into fourth place came the Ecurie Ecosse March 713 of Tom Walkinshaw, followed by the similar car of former club saloon-car driver Roger Williamson who last year won the Hepolite Glacier Championship in a 1,000-c.c. Ford Anglia. The much fancied James Hunt in the works March 713 backed by Rose Bearing retired with a sticking throttle.

It was Williamson who was the revelation of the second race for he has really taken to single-seaters, having been a top karter some four or five years ago. In fact he led on several laps as he battled like an old hand with Bond in the Ensign, who once again spun and had to make up lost time. It was Bond who just got the final verdict but again the race really kept the crowd on its feet. Hunt again suffered from a sticking throttle, tried to drive on the ignition switch and was even contesting the lead. Unfortunately he lost the unequal struggle and finished up with a very bent motor car after going off at Druids.

Another driver out of luck was Vandervell, who was fastest in practice, but halfway through the session had crashed heavily into some Armco barrier and the Brabham burst into flames. Vandervell escaped with the back of his helmet singed and was out of racing for that day. A couple of new Lotus 69s appeared, one for the experienced Ian Ashley with backing from Lotus Racing Ltd. and another from Team Lotus for the equally experienced Dave Walker. Walker lost almost a lap at the start when his clutch gave trouble and drove a tremendous race through the field to finish fifth behind Ashley.

The third round took place at Mallory Park on Easter Monday and this time Bond won, Walker crashed just before the finish while Williamson was ahead of Vandervell.