FJHRA/HSCC “Silverline” UK Championship Round 7; Brands Hatch GP – 1st July 2017

Twelve months ago, the Brands Hatch Superprix was the scene of the superb Diamond Jubilee celebration, so ably organised by Sarah and Duncan when 100 FJ cars gathered. This year the meeting was simply a one-day round of the Silverline Championship, and it was Historic Formula Ford that were the headline with the 50th anniversary of the first FF race. More on this later….

There was a very decent entry of 31 cars with Cameron Jackson making his first appearance of the year, his Brabham BT2 now immaculate in black with an orange nose, the livery of “period” Anglo-Dutch driver Klaas “Jimmy” Twisk. This was much to the delight of commentator Ian Titchmarsh who had accompanied Twisk on his Continental forays in 1963 to such diverse venues as Helsinki, Vienna, Chimay and L’Aquila. Others racing for the first time this year included Anthony Binnington (Cooper T67) and Robin Lackford (Elva 100). The only non-appearance was Colin McKay, presumably still waiting for engine parts as at Cadwell, and Robs Lamplough had withdrawn before the programme was finalised as the car was still in bits and there was an issue with a damper problem. Unusually, there were only six Class E cars, counting Tom de Gres’ E2 Cooper, but no less than 12 in Class C, of which four were in the 1000cc class. Championship leader Crispian Besley was absent due to a clashing personal commitment.

The star of the paddock was Alvin Davies’ Cooper T18 Ford. For those unfamiliar with early Cooper type numbers, this is a 1952 500cc F3 more often called the Cooper VI. The car went to Southern Rhodesia – or Zimbabwe for the younger generation – when new, and “in period” was converted to Ford power by Ray Reed, builder of the RE Ford that ran in South African national Formula 1 in the early sixties. It seems probable that this was the “Cooper Ford” driven by Reed in the 1961 Rhodesian GP. Alvin is to be congratulated on bringing out such an unusual machine – very much in the spirit of FJ. He commented that it is very overweight at 480 kg and under-powered; certainly it was visibly lacking in “go” on the straight although he reported that he had an unsolved misfire.

Qualifying was a very disjointed affair. Most people had got in two or three flying laps and were settling into their rhythm when the safety car came out, unnecessarily in many peoples’ opinion, as Stuart Tizzard’s Lotus 18 had come to a halt on the run up to Druids due to the throttle being stuck open, a problem that was to eliminate him on the first lap of the race too. Stuart commented “I may not have won but I was fastest by miles through Paddock Hill bend!!!” At this point Cameron Jackson had set fastest time with 1’42.018”, from Michael Hibberd (Lotus 22) 1’44.089” and Mark Shaw (BT6) 1’44.270”. Mark had been entered in Class E1 but he was transferred to H (Invited) as the Brabham had not yet got its FIA papers. After three laps, the safety car pulled in but this only gave time for one or two more flying laps. The driver who made the most of the remaining time was 17 year old Benn Tilley in the light green Paul Smeeth Lotus 22. He knocked four seconds off his time to take second on the grid. Hibberd also improved to retain third with Shaw fourth. Next was Iain Rowley, flying in the Lola 5, then Laine Martin (Lotus 20) who was quickest in Class D.

The race was held in pleasant, warm, conditions. Cameron Jackson made a blatant jump-start to lead from Hibberd and Tilley – there was no doubt that a 10 second penalty was coming his way and it was duly announced after about five laps. As the cars streamed into sight at Clearways, Jackson had a 2.9 second advantage over Hibberd, who had Tilley on his tail, then 0.9” to Shaw and a further three seconds to Rowley, Martin and Chisholm. Tilley passed Hibberd on lap two to lead on corrected time, but he was losing time to the flying black Brabham on every lap. After six laps, approximately half-distance in the 20 minute race, the gap at the front was 7.2” so it looked like Cameron would make good his penalty and on lap eight the scales tipped and the on-the-road difference was 11.9”. The race ran out with Jackson 3.3” to the good after the penalty was applied, his best lap being 0.754” faster than Tilley. In third place, Hibberd dropped away from Tilley but had Mark Shaw harrying him. Mark was briefly in front on lap five but the order was restored before the end of the lap, then on the final lap the ex-F3000 driver managed to get by to take third.

Fifth and sixth was contested between Rowley and Martin, but they were a long way further back. On lap eight Laine Martin slipped passed Rowley but John Chisholm (Gemini 3A) was closing on the pair of them and attacked around the outside of Clearways on lap ten. Sadly the Gemini’s race ended on the next lap. Richard Utley, in the Caravelle 1, spun on what felt like oil leaving Druids and ended up on the grass on the outside of the circuit half way between Druids and Graham Hill without any damage. Richard restarted the engine and was looking to rejoin the track but John Chisholm’s Gemini found the same fluids, and spun backwards on the grass. The Gemini’s offside front wheel hit the off side rear of the Caravelle between the wheel and the body severely damaging the suspension assembly and body work. The Gemini ended up across the track on the grass at the entrance to Graham Hill with damaged front wishbones. (With thanks to both Richard and John for their detailed – and similar – explanations). All this left James Hick (Caravelle 3) to come home a lonely seventh and second in Class D ahead of Robin Longdon (Lola 3) – third in D  –   and last unlapped runner Anthony Binnington, who had made a good start but fell back a little as the race progressed.

Looking at the other classes, A was an unopposed win for Nick Daunt (Taraschi). B was an easy win for Justin Fleming (Lola 2) from James Owen’s Gemini 2 and Roger Dexter (Elva 100 DKW). Robin Lackford had a short race; he said later “Coming into Dingle Dell I was forced onto the rumble strips and the vibration caused a cable on the fuel pump to break so I parked on the grass the other side of Stirlings – just a racing incident but the car is all fixed now! Just happy to be back in FJ.” Class C2 was led initially by Ian Simmonds from Nick Finburgh, both in Envoys, but Nick went ahead at two-thirds distance; third was John Lord (Lotus 18). The well-supported C1 fell to Simon Durling (Lotus 18) who set a new lap record. With Simon Hewes retiring in addition to the previously mentioned Richard Utley, it was a delighted Alvin Davies who ended second in class, albeit several laps down. Alvin posted on Facebook – Having fixed a misfire at Cadwell we found ourselves chasing a different one. In qualifying I completed my necessary 3 laps and pulled in, and we set about fixing it – electrics/carbs/jets etc etc. As I set off from the rear of the field, although I was able to pass people right away, the misfire was clearly still present. It was pretty nasty and I debated whether to pull in or not. With the blue flag marshals and my new mirrors doing a solid job of seeing people coming through I elected for perseverance… Amazingly it kept going, and with each lap I came across stricken cars – accidents, breakdowns and one guy even ran out of fuel. Afterwards I was told that the spectators at Paddock Hill Bend were concentrating most on my progress and cheering as I shuffled backwards and forwards in the seat going up to Druids – so as to encourage the car on! It felt euphoric to get the car home and pretty humbling to be honest. With others dropping out I finished 24th of the 30 starters and came home a surprising second in class!! I guess sometimes just being in it pays off. Just maybe those points at the championship close will make sense of the crazy decision to press on…If the racing was somewhat subdued the Formula Junior paddock was certainly enjoyable – great folks always up for helping out with parts and advice. Great chatting with racers and visitors alike. Tom de Gres won E2 despite a couple of spins but set a new lap record for the class 5.8” faster than Malcolm Wishart’s previous mark.

Unfortunately, none of the first three made it to the end of race podium presentation. Mark Shaw drove straight to the paddock and Cameron Jackson and Benn Tilley were out in the next race, which brings us neatly onto the Formula Fords. Although, strictly speaking out of scope for this report, there was a strong presence of “Juniorists”, including Cameron, Benn, Westie Mitchell and sons, Rudolf Ernst and Robs Lamplough. In Saturday’s main race, won by Ben Mitchell, Cameron retired when in the leading pack. That meant that on Sunday he had to start from 25th on the grid in the qualification race. On lap two he was seventh and on lap four he took the lead to win by 9.5”. However this only gave him position 13 on the grid for the main event as the top twelve from Saturday went straight through to this race. An excellent first couple of laps saw him picking off cars at every corner to be sixth on lap two. The first three had broken away a little, but once clear of the second group, Cameron closed the gap and took third on lap seven, second on lap eight and first on lap ten! A sensational drive reminiscent of Johnny Herbert’s Formula Ford Festival win in 1985. What is more, Westie Mitchell won class OF, which we were assured stood for Over 50s, rather than something less polite.

by Richard Page

Photos by Chris Dicken

Photos by Charlie Wooding