Oulton Park Gold Cup; Rear Engined Race; 27th – 29th August 2016
HSCC/FJHRA “Silverline” Historic Formula Junior Championship
For Rear-Engined Cars
The 62nd Gold Cup meeting at Oulton Park in Cheshire was the venue over the August Bank Holiday weekend for four Formula Junior races. Separate races for front and rear engined cars were held in dry and warm conditions on both the Sunday and Monday for the Silverline Championship. The Oulton Park circuit with its long history going back to the 1950’s, including many Formula Junior races in period, is always popular with the drivers as the undulating track offers constant challenges all-round the lap.
The rear-engined entry included an excellent variety of cars with eleven different manufacturers represented in the field of eighteen cars that arrived in time for practice on the Saturday morning. Unfortunately, two further entries, both with additional different makes of car were unable to make the trip to Cheshire. Australian Bill Hemming, with his Tojeiro, broke down on the journey north. He unsuccessfully tried to hire a replacement tow car but when that fell through, he flew up on his own to make a welcome appearance at the track to meet up with the Formula Junior troops. John Chisholm with his Gemini was the other entry who was unfortunately unable to be there due to back trouble.
A few Formula Junior drivers were able to take the opportunity to run their cars in the testing session on the Saturday morning and without incidents. Qualifying then took place at the end of Saturday afternoon with Andrew Hibberd in his Lotus 22 fastest in 1 min 53.123 sec, closely followed by Benn Simms guest driving the Merlyn Mk5/7. Nick Fennell was next in his Lotus 27 with John Fyda in his Brabham BT6 only 0.2 seconds behind. Unfortunately, the donut on the Lotus 27 right drive shaft broke and the resultant damage to the top suspension link and mounting made a quick repair unrealistic so Nick would be a disappointed non-starter.
Next up came Robin Longdon with an excellent time of 2 min 1.831 sec in his elegant Lola Mk3. Robin had brought the car back from France a couple of years ago and had completely restored the car to the immaculate condition it is in now. The ex-works 1961 car, chassis no BRJ-31, is one of only eleven Mk3 Lolas made. It was Eric Broadley’s first rear-engined design and was very advanced for its time. It has a well forward driving position similar to the later formula one cars of the 1980’s and futuristic aerodynamics. It also incorporated the first transaxle designed and built by Mike Hewland who went on to become one of motor racing’s most successful gearbox suppliers.
In period the Lola Mk3 design, even though it lacked development, had a number of good results including a win on his first time out for ‘Dizzie’ Addicott in Hugh Dibley’s car, BRJ-38. At this Goodwood FJ race in July 1961 he drove through from the back of the grid to win. The cars would have had even greater success if Lola had been able to obtain the Ford Cosworth engine used by Lotus rather than the less powerful Ford engine tuned by Super Speed Conversions of Ilford.
Close behind the Lola was Peter Anstiss in his ex-Bob Anderson Lotus 20/22, followed by Rudolf Ernst in his early Brabham BT2, John Rees Lotus 22 and Jonathan Fyda in his U2 Mk3. Chris Merrick was next in his ex-Curt Lincoln Cooper T59, despite a difficulty selecting second gear, followed by the first of the C2 cars and championship leader Chris Alford in his Elva 200. Next was Australian Kim Shearn in his Lotus 18, followed by Gil Duffy in his Kieft, Andy Harrison, Envoy and Chris Wilks in his Deep Sanderson. Of the remaining three cars, Gregan Thurston only managed 5 laps in practice while Malcolm Wishart failed to complete a lap in his Cooper T65 after a drive shaft broke.
The unique North Star Ford was also making a welcome return appearance to Oulton Park after many years. The car, which had been driven in period by Bill Belcher at venues including Rufforth, Mallory Park, Oulton Park and the Goodwood TT meeting, was beautifully prepared by its new owner Martin McHugh. Martin was having only his second outing in the car, having raced at Croft earlier in the month, but was hindered throughout the meeting by ignition problems.
After post qualifying fettling of the cars, the Formula Junior drivers, families and friends spent Saturday evening at an excellent Silverline Social barbeque in the paddock where the fortunes of Formula Junior and many other topics were freely discussed. Many thanks must go to Sue and Robin Longdon for organising and hosting the evening as well as to all the others who contributed to the food and refreshments.
Race 1 – Sunday
The sun came out on Sunday, though the rear-engined FJ cars had to wait until the last race of the day for the first of their two Silverline Championship races. Fortunately, there had been no major delays during the day so the 6.30 curfew would still allow for a 10 lap race. Seventeen cars were readied in the holding area but unfortunately a drive shaft donut broke on the Merlyn of Benn Simms on the way to the start so the field was one short when the cars accelerated away from the grid. Andrew Hibberd made the best start and without Benn Simms for company he gradually pulled away from John Fyda for an impressive lights to flag victory.
John Fyda drove a controlled race in second place throughout with son Jonathan in the family U2 Mk3 making a great start and following him in third place for the first couple of laps. Robin Longdon also made a fine start and was initially in fourth place but by lap 3 he had overtaken the U2 and moved up to third. Robin was getting more used to the good handling Lola and consolidated his position in third place and class D2 winner with a Lola Mk3 performance which surprised the experienced race commentator Ian Titchmarsh.
While Jonathan Fyda drove a fine race in fourth, Peter Anstiss had to keep an eye out behind for Rudolf Ernst who was battling through the field. After a poor start Rudolf worked his way forward from eleventh place on lap 2 to sixth place by lap 8. He then closed in on Peter Anstiss and passed him on the last lap to finish fifth and was delighted to take home his first ever Class E trophy. John Rees kept Peter Anstiss in sight and finished seventh with Chris Merrick eighth having resolved his qualifying gearbox problems. Ninth was class C2 winner Chris Alford who consolidated his Silverline championship leading position in his Elva 200, followed by Gil Duffy, Kieft and Andy Harrison in his Envoy.
Chris Wilks in the Deep Sanderson DS104, which was returning again to the venue of the car’s only FJ victory in period when driven by Chris Lawrence in August 1960, came next. Chris was ahead of Malcom Wishart and Martin McHugh, who continued to have ignition problems with his North Star Ford. On lap 9 Kim Shearn had the water pump drive belt brake so retired his Lotus 18 before any serious damage could be done. Gregan Thruston, however, unfortunately spun out on lap 7, though he would be fine to run again in the race on the following day.
Race 2 – Monday
The second rear-engined race took place in the middle of the afternoon on the Bank Holiday Monday. Again the weather was dry and warm as the cars took their place on the grid for the 20 minute race which would last for a full 11 laps. Alongside Andrew Hibberd on the front row this time was Benn Simms, whose broken drive shaft donut on his Merlyn had been replaced. From the start Andrew Hibberd was headed by the fast starting Benn Simms with John and Jonathan Fyda in third and fourth places.
Behind them unfortunately Robin Longdon’s Lola Mk 3 jumped out of gear at the start and he was last away. He set off after the rest of the field and by lap 8 he had the Lola up into sixth place when a rear shock absorber broke and he was pitched into the barriers exiting Cascades. The damage appeared to be confined to the right rear suspension but this was the end of a Lola Mk 3’s welcome return to Oulton Park after many years away.
At the front the battle between Benn Simms and Andrew Hibberd continued and it was not until lap 4 that Andrew could establish himself in the lead. Behind the Fydas, who were largely untroubled throughout in third and fourth places, Peter Anstiss, Rudolf Ernst and Chris Merrick had a race long dice. Peter managed to hold on to fifth until the flag but was only just ahead of Rudolf although Chris Merrick did drop away a bit towards the end but was still well ahead of John Rees who finished eighth.
Chris Alford again drove well in his Elva and after a very good start, he battled for a while with John Rees’ Lotus 22. Chris managed to maintain his class C2 lead through to the end although Andy Harrison was only 2 seconds behind at the finish in his Envoy. Gil Duffy in his Kieft had also been in close attendance with Chris and Andy until he spun at Druids on lap 7 and dropped back behind Kim Shearn. Chris Wilks and Malcolm Wishart circulated closely together with Malcolm overtaking the Deep Sanderson on lap 5 and finishing just ahead at the end. Martin McHugh was running much better in the North Star Ford and exchanged positions a couple of times with Gregan Thruston before dropping back near the end with recurring engine problems.
At the front Andrew Hibberd managed to keep ahead of Benn Simms who would have finished much closer in the Merlyn if he had not had to take avoiding action from the spinning Lotus 18 of Kim Shearn on the last lap at Cascades. Although the cars seemed to touch gently there was no damage and both cars continued with Benn Simms finishing a fine second behind Andrew Hibberd with Kim Shearn twelfth a lap down.
On the podium Andrew Hibberd, Benn Simms and John Fyda were deservedly presented with their trophies. Andrew Hibberd not only thanked his competitors for a great race but also remembered Urban Fassler who had sadly passed away the previous day. Urban had been a great friend and racing companion of Urs Eberhardt and will be much missed by all the Formula Junior community.
Two good races on this wonderful Oulton Park circuit were a fitting continuation of the Formula Junior Diamond Jubilee Tour. As in period Formula Junior provided competitive racing alongside the HGPCA Formula One cars which were competing for the Gold Cup this year. It was fitting also that the Gold Cup was won this year by Peter Horsman in the Lotus 18/21 that Tony Shelly had driven into fifth place in the 1962 Gold Cup which was won by ex-FJ and World Champion Jim Clark.
Graham Rabagliati 31 August 2016