Killarney; 5th – 6th February 2016
From Wednesday 3rd February, drivers started to arrive at Killarney race circuit to find some of the containers were missing. News was sought and came back that at 8am that morning the containers were still up country on the Zwartkops circuit which was slightly worrying as it was some 900 miles away!
Following a mechanical at Zwartkops Jac Nellemann had arranged to have his spare engine shipped from Denmark down to Cape Town and now needed to clear customs, so Jac, Erling Lindener, Richard and Karen Bishop-Miller went in search of both the shipping agent and lunch – duty was sorted on the engine and a promise extracted that both the engine and the containers would be at Killarney for Thursday morning – all was good.
An opportunity was taken to walk the track in the warm sunshine, which was a sort of J shape with two long straights that looked like they would be quick and even a banked hairpin.
Thursday morning and the first of the missing containers started to arrive. David Innes acquired first an engine hoist and then a dodgy pick up (that leaked fuel everywhere) to move it in. The Alfa Dana had been unloaded so team Formula Junior got stuck in to help remove the sick engine and found the Alfa Dana might be over engineered as it seemed to be held together with many many small bolts, whilst fitting in prepping their own cars ready for the off.
Greg Thornton took on the role of head master and marshalled both paperwork and drivers which may have appeared at times to be like herding cats!
The free practise sessions were fun with many of the drivers feeling their way around the circuit to find the limits and in some cases beyond them. Richard (BM) fell off twice in two corners so wisely came in to find a rear wheel, upright and spring loose due to a suspension issue. Andrea Guarino was having an annoying miss fire getting very little track time, generating Iain Rowley more work. For most of the rest it looked to be down to adjusting tyre pressures, maybe gear ratios where they could be changed, or just playing in the sun.
All of the international drivers had been invited that evening to a gathering in Cape Town’s Crossley and Webb classic car show rooms with the chance to drool over classic Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Morgans, Jaguars or Dorris the dodgy Dodge from the 1920’s, or even the very good BBQ and a glass of red.
Boxy, Nina Taivassalo and Colin Nursey’s pup was a hit and the centre of much attention but may well have been that Boxy was far more interested on what was going on around the BBQ and the vague possibility of a tasty snack.
Friday started early with more free practice, Iain had stripped Andrea’s Lotus 22 changing the head gasket but this proved to be of no avail and it was thought that either the crank or cam had broken. Which ever it was, it proved terminal and a disappointed Andrea was left sat on a rear wheel. Richard Smeeton in the Wainer set the pace in ahead of Greg Thornton, Lotus 22 and Chris Drake in the drum braked Elva 300, whilst the two Richards (Pugh and BM) propped up the field some 20 seconds behind.
Wishful thinking had suggested perhaps the late afternoon qualifying potentially had hinted at cooler conditions. In reality it was still very toasty when the whole field of all 19 Junior drivers headed out on to the track to qualify. Andrea was in the unfamiliar surroundings of Jac’s Volpini and showed an improvement on every lap as he made friends with the car. Duncan achieved an impressive 5 second improvement over practice due in his words to ‘putting more effort into cornering and less braking’ and was only just pipped by the Autosport with Richard a tenth of a second ahead. Richard Pugh found 3 seconds admitting that he should have done his homework – e.g. where does the track go! Greg had fitted new tyres to the Lotus and now set a blistering pace with three laps in the 1:23’s eight tenths ahead of Richard Smeeton and two seconds from Chris Drake. Roger Woodbridge having not run the Ausper for some considerable time had made a marked improvement on Zwartkops having got his mo-jo back and was definitely getting more comfortable in the car at this point. Hans-Jorgen Krag was not happy with brakes or the oil slick that appeared under the car, but at least this turned out to be just a sump gasket. Eric Justesen was reporting an untraceable misfire with his U2 Mk2 though it did not appear to slow him down much and he ended in front of a number of the rear engine cars. The two Lotusis (Loti?) of Alex Morton and Doctor David Innes were locked in a battle of the clocks being separated by only six, one thousandths of a second when the flag fell to close the session.
Heading home from the circuit the opportunity to watch the world kite surfing championships at Bloubergstrand over a fish and chip supper was taken, hundreds of brightly coloured kites with the pilots doing acrobatics off the huge braking surf was a sight to behold; the fish n chips weren’t bad either! (Iain the Delta suggested he might fancy a go?).
Race day. The Formula Junior garage received a visit from some important guests of the circuit – children from a local primary school in a deprived area that had been set up about fifteen years ago in a forty foot metal shipping container – a fact that highlighted some of the extremes in the amazing country.
However kids being kids all they really wanted to do was sit in a racing car which was something that we were only too happy to accommodate.
Back to the racing – Chris Wilks in the wonderful Deep Sanderson had been worried with oil pressure issues and had replaced the filter and oil which looked to resolve this. So nineteen cars headed out to the grid mid-morning for race one. The results suggest that this was not a great race and very similar to our modern F1 with everyone finishing in their starting positions – bar the two cars that failed to make it to the flag and Duncan, those 500+ races in the Alexis giving him the edge to get ahead of Richard BM and climb one place to finish fourteenth. However the results do not always give the full story and there were on going battles throughout the whole field. Richard BM had an atrocious start and was last into the first corner and had to work his way back on to the tail of the orange Alexis. Alex Morton and David Innes continued where they had left off in qualification and at the end the gap had increased to a whole five one hundredths of a second. Chris Merrick and Peter Plathinn continued the period dice of Cooper T59 versus Lotus 22 and crossed the line for a photo finish with Chris getting the nod. Richard Smeeton got himself down into the 1:23’s keeping Greg honest. All in all, a great race.
The U2 Mk2 had lost drive and so Eric pulled off the circuit. Richard Pugh felt the Stanguellini lose power and start to tighten up so wisely returned to the pits to find no water left in the cooling system. Jac had made it to the flag as first of the front engine cars but was not happy with the Alfa Dana which had lost power and was suffering with a worrying miss fire. Unfortunately on investigation the Alfa Dana’s second BMC engine had suffered terminal damage – valves and pistons had decided to occupy the same space at the same time leaving the push rods looking like spaghetti and that was that. It was decided to take the head off the Stanguellini as it was suspected correctly that the gasket had failed. Sadly the replacement head gasket did not resolve the water loss problems so Richard scratched. At least the U2 was repairable, the diff and drive shaft had broken up and whilst removal proved to be a challenge the car would run again in South Africa but it was not to be at Killarney.
If race one could have looked to be processional and un-exciting from the outside, race two proved to be action packed from the first set of lights. Roger Woodhouse unfortunately had suffered in race one being burnt on the… well being burnt and was unable to take the start (though we are pleased to report that after medical treatment a week of recovery and the fitment of a different seat Roger returned to the fray at East London). With Jac having lost the Alpha Dana, Andrea gave up his temporary custodianship of the Volpini so we were down to fifteen.
As the lights went out Han-Jorgen found the Lola Mk3’s gears were all jammed up, leaving those behind to take some interesting evasive lines. On the run down to the first corner Greg chewed up a gear in the Lotus 22 and practically stopped dead which left Chris Drake who had had a cracking start nowhere to go, sadly resulting in quite a lot of damage to the Elva. The red flag was deployed and the remaining cars sauntered back to their respective grid slots to wait the recovery of the stricken Lola and the clean-up of the track. The Lola proved stubborn to remove and after failing to be towed away was eventually man handled to the pits on a trolley jack.
So for race two start two we were now down to just twelve cars for the shortened seven lap outing. As the lights went out there were no major dramas, even Richard in the Autosport got away cleanly for the first time in South Africa. Andrew Beaumont had the best seat at the circuit to watch the close race between David and Alex that continued where it had left off in race one, but was unable to join it. Mike Gregory in the gorgeous De Tomaso ISIS had had a bit of lonely time at first running just ahead of Richard in the Autosport and then just ahead of Jac in the Volpini after the Autosport’s clutch broke up jamming the car in 4th gear for the final 5 laps. Duncan coasted to a halt with points failure with a couple of laps to go but conveniently for recovery purposes just at the end of the pit lane. The incredibly tight Cooper/Lotus dice of race one continued, however this time around Peter in the Lotus took the nod less than four tenths ahead of Chis in the Finnish liveried Cooper this time – Fantastic!
The Formula Junior paddock split up to head off for more racing at the East London Grand prix circuit the following weekend. A number opted to drive the 650 miles of the Garden Route along the south coast over to East London. Mike and Jan Gregory’s home in Knysna became a stopping off point on route. After a coffee in the café below their home at the bottom of the cliff, Mike took the chaps on a tour of the local restoration garages including the wonderfully named Bodge Engineering (Jaguar E type race prep workshop). A look around a private car museum followed with the owner taking time out to be our tour guide and insisting Iain R trying out an Austin special for size – a very interesting collection.