Junior jamboree

Formula Junior’s Golden Jubilee celebrations reached their zenith at the HSCC’s Brands Hatch Historic Festival
By Paul Lawrence

When a grand total of 102 Formula Juniors took to the Brands Hatch circuit across three qualifying sessions, Duncan Rabagliati and the Formula Junior Historic Racing Association had broken all records.

Never before had over 100 Formula Junior racing cars competed in a single event, making the HSCC’s Brands Hatch Historic Festival the absolute highlight of the global year-long Golden Jubilee celebrations for the category.

Introduced by Count Giovanni Lurani in Italy in 1958, FJ became the first racing category to be revived as a historic class in Britain. That was 33 years ago, and it is now more popular than ever.

“We had 102 cars start qualifying and there were seven more on display,” said Rabagliati, confirming this to be a record-breaking event, surpassing even the Monza Lotteria races in period as the greatest gathering of FJ cars.

Such a landmark event drew out some gems and the first appearance in nearly 50 years of the French-built Monopole was a revelation. This was the first known British race for the front-engined front-wheel drive car, handled by owner Gilbert Lenoir who had just finished a painstaking restoration of the 1959 Panhard-powered car.

Other rarities included an early De Tomaso, just back from the US, the last Tojeiro Formula Junior chassis and a rare Gemini Mk4. That particularly pleased three of the old boys on hand, for Howden Ganley, Syd Fox and Peter Proctor all raced Mk4s in period.

Four drivers who raced in FJ in period – 1958 to 1963 – are still active racers, and Tony Goodwin, Len Selby, Jeremy Bouckley and Chris Featherstone all enjoyed a blast around the Grand Prix circuit. Goodwin, now 71, bagged a podium in his Gemini, while Featherstone drove the Bond he has owned for half a century. Hugh Dibley, former airline pilot and FJ racer of note, was delighted to see examples of his Palliser racing car marque still active in other events.

Race winners on this day of days for FJ were Stuart Roach in his front-engined Alexis Mk2, James Hicks in the Caravelle and Benn Simms in Stuart Rolt’s Cooper T59. It was a memorable victory for Simms who saw off the challenge of category grandees Denis Welch (Merlyn Mk5/7) and Urs Eberhardt (Lotus 27) with some great four-wheel drifts through Paddock Bend.

Although nominally the feature races, the FIA Historic Formula One and Orwell Supersports events were rather outdone by the Junior celebrations, and the best racing came from a monster grid for two Derek Bell Trophy races.

Peter Sowerby bagged his second HF1 win of the year in his ex-Reutemann Williams FW07C, while Richard Piper dominated the Supersports races in his 8.1-litre McLaren M8F. But it was first F5000 wins for Stuart Tilley (Trojan T101) and Gregory Thornton (Surtees TS11) that made the frenetic DBT races more memorable.