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What's happening in Formula Ford

Formula Ford, the category of racing Introduced in 1967, continues to go from strength to strength and, if the early season races are anything to go by, 1972 could be the best year ever for these 1,600-c.c. skinny wheeled single-seaters. This season there are umpteen FF championships but the one everyone wants to win is that sponsored by British Oxygen. Each round so far has been over-subscribed with entries, while the BARC organised Sunbeam Electric and the Daily Express Championship at Silverstone have also got off to a good start.

Tim Schenken was, of course, the first big name to emerge from Formula Ford and since then he has been followed, by Emerson Fittipaldi, with plenty of others in Formula Two and Formula Three on the way up. One of the attractions of Formula Ford is the fact that it is fiercely competitive, professional yet remains relatively inexpensive even for the best equipment. If you do not mind forgoing the big meetings and steer clear of the major championships then, if you have the talent, you can give a very good account of yourself in a three- or four-year-old car which can be picked up complete for £700-£800. For the man of lesser means there are Formula Fords available for half that price.

Schenken, it will be remembered, drove a Merlyn Mk. 11 in his tremendously successful period of Formula Ford and this firm, from near Colchester, still make one of, if not the, most competitive of all Formula Fords. The latest car is the Mk. 20 which still owes a good deal to the Mk. 11, particularly the chassis, which means the impecunious driver can pick up such a car and update without too much problem. A brand new car less engine sells at approx. £1,300.

Various different engine tuners have ruled the roost in Formula Ford but, so far this year, Scholar Racing Engines have had most things their way. This little firm is run by Doug. and Alan Wardropper, a father and son combination who used to be top Stock Car drivers. Now they operate out of premises on Martlesham Heath near Ipswich, less than a mile from where F3 specialists Holbay live. A Scholar engine, ready to win, will give just over 100 b.h.p. and will cost in the region of £350. In FF a good engine in an average chassis is a lot more important than an average engine in a good chassis, if there is such a thing.

As mentioned earlier a Merlyn chassis is a good bet but so too seem to be the latest Hawkes, the Eldens the Titans, and in the rain at the Oulton Park Formula Two meeting, a last year's car from the little firm of Dulon left everyone in its spray. Lotus have dropped out of the market but their 69 chassis is still very competitive.

There are quite a few tricks of the trade in Formula Ford which the beginner may take a little lime to find out. Tyres are a particularly important factor—road tyres have to he used of course. The "in" tyre for well over a year now has been the controversial Firestone Torino--controversial because you do not see very many road cars using them. The top line FF drivers know at exactly what tread depth the tyres give the best grip and carry a second set, in different condition, for when it rains.

Formula Ford is very much an international class of racing and gives plenty of chance for racing outside Britain although, sadly, the European Formula Ford Championship has been dropped this year in favour of a big race at Brands Hatch in October for the champions from many different countries. But, there are still plenty of FF races on the Continent open to British drivers, particularly in Sweden, Belgium, Austria and Italy. There has been a Brazilian FF series and for the past three years there has been the South African Sunshine Series, sponsored by BOAC, which accepts entries from Britain.

Undoubtedly Britain is the centre of this category of racing and drivers come from all over the World to race here. Last year South African Jody Scheckter won a trip here and was soon dusting up the FF brigade and now his brother, Ian, has come to do the same. Several Americans have also raced in Britain and of particular note is one currently resident—young David Loring. Last year he won the Canadian and American IMSA Championships and is now one of the leading contenders for the British. He, like so many others, hopes to spotted in Britain and given his big chance.

Both Scheckter and Loring drive the latest Merlyns as do leading British drivers Bob Arnott and David Martell, as well as the Belgian Jim Russell and pupil Patrick Neve, who is showing a lot of promise. Tony Brise, now in Formula Three, put the Elden firm on the map and now his 18-year-old brother Tim is continuing to keep Elden in the news, having recently switched from a unique side-radiator Merlyn. Brise presently leads the British Oxygen Championship and is sponsored, along with Elden team-mate Mike Catlow by Catnic Steel Lintels—whatever they might be.

Consistently one of the fastest drivers in the early season races has been a lanky lad by the name of Mike Taylor, son of Geoff Taylor, who designed the Alta engine. Taylor drives a two-year-old Palliser which is sponsored by none other than footballer George Best. Another Taylor in the news is Ian, no relation, a veteran of over three seasons of FF. He drives the Dulon mentioned earlier and looks, at long last, as if he has shaken off the misfortune that always seems to follow him. If he really has, then he could be the man to beat this year. The latest Hawkes from David Lazenby's firm are interesting because of their side radiator layout and certainly seem to work well. Geoff Close started the season in the works car but has now been replaced by veteran Sid Fox. Now that antique dealer John Trevelyan has retired from racing, no one seems to be giving an Irish Crossle much of a chance except in Ireland but Titan have staged something of a comeback and the Team Titan drivers, Ken Bailey and Derek Lawrence, have both stepped down from Formula Three and have bags of experience. There are literally dozens of others capable of winning Formula Ford races too.

However, any young aspiring Grand Prix driver will, I am sure, not be put oft by the above. In a few months time you, too, could be mixing it with the top drivers in FF.

Rondel Racing to turn constructor

One of the motor racing success stories of 1971 was the way that two former Brahham Formula One mechanics, Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle, set up their own Formula Two racing team, found the necessary financial support and went motor racing in a thoroughly professional and business-like manner. They ran Brabham BT36S for Graham Hill, Tim Schenken and promising Frenchman, Bob Wollek, a former ski-ing champion. There were disappointments, like when Hill and Schenken ran into each other at Albi and thus lost the race, and at Jarama where Schenken's engine blew up a couple of laps from the end. But there were the high spots like Hill's Thruxton win and Schenken's first ever F2 victory in the last race of the 1,600-c.c. Formula.

Bigger plans were made for 1972, again in F2. but this time with a four-car team of Brabhams for Schenken, Wollek, Carlos Reutemann and Henri Pescarolo. Sponsorship was obtained from the French Motul Oil company, and from other sources including Radio Luxembourg and the power-tool firm of Broome and Wade. As you will read elsewhere the team suffered an early set-back at Thruxton in practice when Reutemann's new Brabham crashed but it will only be a temporary one for during the Easter week-end big plans for Rondel were announced.

Basically the plot is that Ronde' have joined forces with Denys Dobbie, the wealthy Scottish enthusiast, to design, build and race their own Formula One and Two cars. Dobbie, it will be remembered, sponsored his own two-car Chevron B19 sports car team last year known as DART and, at the original announcement, said he intended to be in Formula One within three years. His sports car team cost a lot of money but John Miles did collect the RAC SportScar Championship for him. Over the winter there seemed to be so many changes of plan, first an F2 team for the Fittipaldis, then a Lola T280 sports car for Miles, that DART became nicknamed the Doubtful Automobile Racing Team. In the end it looked as if Dobbie was going to drop out of racing altogether but, just at the right moment, switched-on Rondel Racing made a proposal to him about assisting their intended, and highly secret plans to become constructors in their own right. Dabble accepted and now Ron Dennis and his team have the finance available and the cars will be called Rondel Dart.

Details of the car's designer, and whether the team will build both F1 and F2 for 1973, are to be announced in the future although the first car is promised for September. I could he wrong but I personally reckon that the designer will not be the obvious possibility—former Brabham boss Ron Tauranac—but could well be one of the present Brabham design team. Undoubtedly the team have the knowhow as well as the facility—an excellent and spacious workshop in Old Windsor—to make good as a constructor. Dobbie, Dennis and Trundle form the board of the new Rondel Dart Ltd. while shipping man, and sometime commentator, Tony Vlassopulos, who gave Rondel so much help in the early stages, continues as chairman of Rondel Racing Ltd. Naturally the team will continue to run their smart red, yellow and blue F2 Brabham BT38s for the remainder of this season.

The fire hazard

The one good thing that came out of Jo Siffert's tragic death at Brands Hatch last October was a much greater awareness that the fire fighting facilities at a number of circuits are totally inadequate and out of date. Thus, since the accident, we have heard of various schemes, from helicopters to 100 m.p.h. fire engines, to tackle the problem. At Brands Hatch recently there was a practical and more down to earth demonstration of fire fighting, which was organised by the RAC an, in particular, their Deputy Motor Sporting Director Basil Tye. Mr. Tye had arranged for a team from Pyrene to show how a racing car fire could be extinguished without the use of sophisticated helicopters but simply by three experienced men each using a portable extinguisher of some 48 lb. weight containing some 20 lb. of the latest Pyrene powder. Present regulations call for only two extinguishers at each marshals post.

The Pyrene team, led by their resident expert, Frank Dew, set themselves an extremely difficult task. A crashed March 721 monocoque. fitted with some makeshift tanks, was filled with 40 gallons of fuel while a further 20 gallons were slopped in trays around the car, as it might do in real life, and the whole lot was set ablaze. After it had been burning a few seconds Mr. Dew's team started to run from 40 yards away with their extinguishers and attempted to put the fire out by attacking it in ite best manner. After about twenty seconds they seemed to be on top of the fire, when it flashed back and they had to use three new extinguishers and finally had the blaze out in just under a minute. A second attempt proved even less successful and a fire truck with light water was called.

However, after the first attempt the well-known circuit medical officer, Doctor Ken Walker, said that, in his opinion, the driver's life would have been saved because the team had managed to keep the flames away from the cockpit. This is food for thought as the fire was as intense as Siffert's BRM in the opening stages of that inferno. The demonstration served to point out that three well-trained men with good and modern extinguishers do have a chance of putting out a vicious fire of this nature.

Obviously the real answer to this problem is to make the cars even safer. Recently there has been news of a completely new non-rupture-able tank successfully developed in the USA, for helicopters by the Uniroyal company, who are now being approached to develop a racing tank to a similar specification. This, by all accounts, could be a very big step forward. Obviously it will be a long time before such tanks are used in club racing cars and as Mr. Tye said at the Brands demonstration: "It must he stressed that the problems of racing car fires is not only confined to a handful of International events—the safety of a youngster in his first season of Formula Ford is just as important as that of an experienced International driver". Thus the training of fire marshals and the use of the best available extinguishers is exceptionally important.

Pit Stops

• The continued production of Lotus 7s has been somewhat in doubt since the closure, just under a year ago, of Lotus Racing Ltd., the subsidiary which made the cars. Now we are told 7s are being built in the main assembly factory of Lotus Cars. The Super 7, fitted with the big valve twin-cam engine, has been reduced in price to £1,195 in component form while, with the other engine option, the X-flow 1,300-c.c. Ford, the car continues to sell at £997. Further information from Caterham Car Sales Ltd. (Tel.: Caterham 46666). Also of interest to Lotus 7 owners is a revival of the somewhat dormant Club Lotus. The secretary is now Sandy Fowler, 14 Recreation Walk, Ramsden Heath, Essex and we understand the club would like to hear from any 7 owners interested in a trip to Le Mans in June. A National Rally is being planned for early September.

• Colonel Charles Barker has retired as General Secretary of the London Car Club and his place is being taken by Nigel Goode who can be contacted at 103 Elstree Road. Bushey Heath. Herts. (Tel.: 01-950 2096). The club's Oxfam race meeting at Brands Hatch on June 4th will feature,a unique long distance multi-pit stop saloon car event.

• Following our article last month, "How do you become a Racing Car Designer?" and the several references to the 750 Motor Club, vice-chairman Jeff Ward has written to tell us that aspiring teenage special builders can become Junior Members of the club for just £1. Further details from the club's General Secretary, David Bradley, 16 Woodstock Road, Witney, Oxon. (Tel.: Witney 2285).

• Wallace Windscreens, who have been making and fitting windscreens since 1920, and have given excellent service to stall members, have now formed a company called Acerace to carry out work on competition cars. They have also moved into the world of Formula Ford and are sponsoring an Elden Mk. 8 to be shared by Ray Spring and John Brick. Wallace Windscreens, who specialise in laminated glass, can be found at 98 Webber Street. London SE1 (Tel: 01-928 5228).

• World Championship engine constructors Cosworth have recently extended their premises at St. James Mill Road in Northampton, and have moved into a new building across the road. At the same time they have re-arranged the company structure so that Cosworth Engineering Ltd. deals with components and spares for engines which are not in current production while Cosworth Research & Development deals with complete engines, rebuilds and spares for current engines.

• The Jim Russell International Racing Drivers School, who operate racing driver training schemes from both Snetterton and Mallory Park, have now moved into the Hotel business. The school has purchased the Bunwell Manor Hotel, in the village of Bunwell, near Attleborough. Norfolk which is within easy reach of Snetterton. The school has a busy programme of pupils' races again this year at both Mallory and Snetterton. Further details of the training scheme from Jim Russell at Snetterton Circuit, Norwich NOR 1OX, Norfolk (Tel: Quidenham 451).

• Ford will be running another series of rally schools in association with Dunlop in May this year. This time the tour will cover Tunbridge Wells, Cambridge, Leamington Spa, Barnsley and Hull between May 1st and May 5th. As before the school will consist of day-long classroom sessions with Timo Makinen, Henry Liddon and Ford Competition staff on hand as the lecturers. In the evening there will be forums where questions can he put to a panel of experts including Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and the lady driver Gill Fortescue-Thomas