A brief history of Formula Ford in Australia

Motorsport started a few weeks after the first bunch of cars rolled off the production line. Two blokes looked at each other over a beer at the pub and simultaneously said “I’ll race ya!”. Bare seconds after they started racing they crashed. Again, they looked at each other and said: “ We don’t know how to race!”

Yes, that statement is essentially a bald faced giggle but you get the idea. That’s where categories that are seen as feeders into the big ones, like Formula 1, come into play. Step up, Formula Ford.

The cars are “simple”. Open wheeler, no wings, a tiny tub for the driver to lever themselves into and out of, and a basic four cylinder engine. Then there’s the organic component. It’s proven to be an ideal combination and here in Australia many, many, drivers in Formula Ford have gone on to compete in the top tier categories.

Formula Ford in Australia celebrates fifty years of the small cars pounding out thousands of kilometres worth of track time this year. The category itself was born in the UK just two years before. It was at Sandown, the famous Melbourne based circuit, that stakes its claim as the first track to see FF cars duke it out. 

A national series was first put forward to drivers in 1970 but it wasn’t until 1993 that the Confederation of Australian Motorsport awarded it their official status to make it known as the Australian Formula Ford Championship.

Formula Ford has been raced at a state level too, with the majority of the cars using the “Kent” engine. This is an iron, not alloy, block engine. The origins of this go back to 1959. It’s also opened doors for chassis manufacturers. Companies such as Van Dieman, Lola, Elfin, and Mawer have designed cars to fit within the FF guidelines.

Along the way, Formula Ford builds into drivers a knowledge of racecraft. There are aspects of engineering that are taught, chassis setup, and the technicalities of tyre pressure for the racing conditions. It’s these kind of aspects that teams use to expect feedback from a driver to enhance a car’s setup.

In 1971 a young chap called Larry won the championship, and would be sent to Europe to race. The Formula Ford Driver to Europe series would see Mr Perkins make his way into V8 Supercars and build his own engineering business. He can see his name alongside Mark Webber as racing in Formula 1 thanks to  being involved in Formula Ford.

Names such as Mark Larkham, Russell Ingall, and Cameron McConville head to the bright lights, whilst locally Leanne Ferrier, aka Leanne Tander, Garth Tander, and Jamie Whincup would become the big names in this talent driven category.

Formula Ford hasn’t run without hiccups though. CAMS effectively discontinued their support for Formula Ford in 2013 however the category did run a national series after and continues to do so. 

Have you ever driven a Formula Ford car? Or do you have any memories of big name drivers racing the tiny open wheelers? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us all about it in the comment section below this article! 

Adelaide 2019 Race Report - Adam Marjoram

Adelaide is now done and dusted we had our best overall result yet and below is how it unfolded.

Wednesday 27th February

I arrived in Adelaide on Wednesday morning for the usual day of set up, scrutineering, track walk, team meetings and review data and vision from previous years. Now for the un-initiated in Supercars or Motorsport, I will use these race reports to take you behind the scenes of Supercar racing as understanding some of the intricacies of the sport will make the race reports more interesting.

Although I am still racing for image Racing this year, the support from Erebus Motorsport this year has stepped up to another level. Combine that with the fact that Dunlop Super 2 Supercars and main game Supercars are now identical except for main game will use a soft tyre at some tracks where we are restricted to hard tyres at most events (2 events will be soft tyre).

Just to cover the track walk and why we do it, every driver walks every track before practice to make their driver notes as things change from year to year, track surfaces and grip levels change, bumps in braking zones, curbs, even track signage or other landmarks that drivers may use as a pointer as to where to brake for a corner may move. Can you imagine if last year’s track notes tell you to brake at the Fosters sign and this year they moved it 20 metres closer to the turn, it would get ugly very quickly. Once the track notes are made the engineer and driver use them as a guide during the meeting combined with the car data to quantify if the driver is actually braking and accelerating where he should be or whether he can gain time by braking later and accelerating earlier. Everything done it was time to have dinner and get an early night. 

Thursday 28th February

Today I get to drive the car in anger for the first time at a race weekend this year. The format for Adelaide is two practice sessions on Thursday, qualifying and Race 1 on Friday, Race 2 on Saturday and Race 3 on Sunday.

For Practice 1, we elected to put on a very well used tyres as being a street circuit the track was dusty and dirty, and the first session is really all about getting you eye back in and finding out how well balanced the car feels so there is no point wasting a new set of tyres. With that said numerous teams actually bolted on a new set which are obviously faster so we finished well down the order in P12 about 1.5 seconds off the pace. The car had a fair bit of understeer during the session, so we made some adjustments before practice 2 to find more balance.

You will hear the word “balance” used a lot in Motorsport as that’s what every team and driver is chasing, the better the balance, the faster the car. A car that is well balanced will brake in a nice straight line, transferring weight to the front wheels to aid in turn in without trying to swap ends, it will then rotate when steering input is made, and will then squat down and transfer the weight to the rear wheels as you accelerate off the turn giving you great drive. 

A racecar that wants to go straight when you turn the steering wheel has understeer, a car that slides in the rear when the throttle is applied has oversteer. Too much understeer or oversteer will be slow, as you can’t direct it and transition the weight perfectly through the different zones of a corner .  With some set up changes made it was time for Practice 2. We started the session on the same old tyres we used for practice 1 and the car felt instantly better. Half way through the session we elected to put on a green set (new) tyres to see how the balance is on new tyres as this is what we will qualify on. On the first flyer we were in the top 3 in times, however the end result was not that good p15 as we went early on the new tyres and the track got faster and faster so those that left it later to put on greens were rewarded with better times. We used this to make sure the car was good for Qualifying rather than set a good lap time.

Just talking tyres for a second, depending on the track surface and the track temp a new set of tyres will only produce their fastest times for between 1-3 laps, after that they drop between 2 tenths to half a second a lap. After that they level out a bit and slowly lose time over the next 20-30 laps. So if you have not set a good time in qualifying with two flying laps you may as well pull in and save the tyres because you will not go any faster as the tyres have lost their best bit.

After each session we viewed the data, debriefed with the engineer as to what changes we need to make to go faster.

At 7.00pm I was a guest speaker along with Steven Johnson at a corporate function held in the city, where I was interviewed on stage and did a question session with the audience and shamelessly dropped some great sponsor plugs. It is always good fun being able to share my stories and experiences with guests, and love meeting new fans! 

Friday 1st February

Qualifying was scheduled for a 12.30 start, with the ambient temperature being 40 degrees and inside cabin temp being about 20 degrees hotter than ambient it was going to be a tough session.  Regarding tyres, each team is allocated 3 new sets of tyres to use through practice, qualifying and three races, so tyre conservation is always part of the strategy, otherwise by race three you have nothing good to race on.

We rolled out on our best used tyres to set a banking lap just in case a red flag is pulled ending the session. Our strategy was to do two flying laps on our two remaining sets of race tyres and sit out the rest of qualifying. With the first set, the car felt great and I had lit up two green boxes on my second flyer only to brake a little too deep in turn 14 locking the rears costing me about three tenths and that would have put me in the Top 5.

I then boxed and sat in the pits for a few minutes counting the clock down before my last run. With new tyres on I set about ragging the hell out of the car to put me further up the grid. Unfortunately as the track temp was still rising not many went any faster so my qualifying lap was the one set on the first set of tyres. As the chequered flag waved I had Qualified 9th for Race 1. Although not a bad result if I had not made the mistake in turn 14 I would have finished 5th fastest.

Race 1 was scheduled to start at 5.40pm and it was still close to 40 degrees so 19 laps in this heat was going to be gruelling. As a driver we have a few driver aids to help us deal with the heat stress from the high in-cabin temperature. We have a cool shirt that pumps coolant through an ice box and then through capillaries in the fireproof undershirt we wear. We also have a helmet fan that forces cooled filtered air through a tube connected to the top of our helmets onto the top of our heads and via a manifold on the helmet for us to breathe. 

The problem for me was that on the roll around lap before the start of the race my helmet fan decided it was way too hot to work so it gave up.

As the lights went green, I did not get a very good start, I simply did not hook the car up properly and lost two positions before the first corner. It was then “elbows out” to get those positions back which I did by going around the outside of cars on the first lap. We had two safety car periods during the race due to accidents, but in the heat this only makes the inside of the car hotter as you get heat soak from the engine and brakes but very little air flow to remove it. 

After the second safety car period the gap I had made had disappeared and I had to fight for the rest of the race to rebuild the gap behind me. My brake pedal had got so hot that it had burnt and started to blister the bottom of my foot through my race boots.  The final few laps were quite painful as you can imagine applying 100kg pressure on a burn each time I hit the brake pedal. By the time the chequered flag waved I was 7th across the line, a great way to open the account for the year!

Saturday 2nd February

Our race start today was not until 3.30pm so there was plenty of time between corporate box visits, driver signing sessions and pit tours to review the data and race set up from race 1. To alleviate some understeer problems I had in race 1 we decided to change the rear roll centre, and put on our other set of new tyres.

Race 2 Starting P7, this time I absolutely nailed the start, as I went to pass the car in front down the middle, he blocked me, so I flicked it left and passed him on the inside and made it 3 wide into the turn 1-2 chicane. The set up changes we had made had still not fixed the understeer problem which made me very vulnerable to dive bombs at turn 9 as I could not hold mid corner speed through turn 8. The cars behind me were putting immense pressure on, so I backed them up a little into each other working their rear tyres harder than they wanted also whilst they were fighting each other it gave me a bit of a break.  At the end of 19 laps I crossed the line in 6th, with a nice straight car – more points for the championship.

Sunday 3rd February

Once again only one race today with Race 3 starting at 2.00pm, after reviewing the data, my engineers decided to change front springs and rear anti roll bar to fix the understeering problem I had had during the last two races. This has been a problem we battled all weekend, and to move forward we needed this fixed. But at least the weather today was a bit cooler – a nice change, but it became very humid!

I again got a good start, but by the end of the first lap I knew we had gone a little too far with the changes and my understeering car was now oversteering quite badly. As a drivers we can trim understeer or oversteer by stiffening or softening the front and rear anti roll bars. As a general rule if you soften the bar you give more grip, if you stiffen the bar you lose grip.  By about quarter race distance I was maxed out on bar adjustment and still oversteering to the point of having a couple of scary moments through the high speed turn 8 that ended my race last year. I tried everything I knew to keep my position but unfortunately lost three positions during the race to finish 9th.

All in all we had a great start to the Championship with me taking 6th overall for the round and Championship.

I would like to once again take this opportunity to thank all my sponsors, Penrite Oil, Rare Spares Fabcon, Altrex, Carplan, Little Tree’s, Industrial Chemical Supplies, Bremtec Brakes, CoolDrive Ultima Shock Absorbers, Supercharge Batteries, Wesfil, Tridon, PK Tools, Nova and DB Connect.

Until next time.

Adam Marjoram 

 

 

 

Top 5 Australian Touring Car Drivers

Motorsport in Australia is, it’s fair to say, in a state of flux right now. There are new cars, new championships, and new drivers. It’d also be fair to say that the new crop of drivers would all want to be seen, be remembered, in the same category as those regarded as Australia’s best and legendary touring car heroes. Although the Australian Touring Car Championship effectively lives on in name only, as the award for the winner of the Supercars championship, it’s still an honour to be listed as a winner.

In no particular order, here are the five drivers we reckon will be remembered.

Peter Brock.

Any list of Australian motorsport drivers that doesn’t include Victorian born Peter Geoffrey Brock A.M. isn’t worth considering. Brocky, Peter Perfect, “God”, PB won a record nine Bathurst 1000 races, Sandown nine times, the Australian Touring Car Championship three times, and engendered an aftermarket car company that is synonymous with motorsport.

Brock was known for racing with Holden, but also saw his name on the side of BMW cars, Ford cars, Volvo, Porsche, and Peugeot. He even lent his name to a brief flirtation with Russian car company, Lada.

PB made his Bathurst racing debut in 1969, muscling Holden’s HT 350 Monaro GTS around Mount Panorama alongside Des West, with the 24 year old partnering West to a third position that year, an impressive debut. 

Brock raced in a number of categories including Formula 2, the Australian Super Touring Championship, and Le Mans. His record of 37 wins from 212 starts in the ATCC and V8 Supercars would stand until 2007. He also scored 57 ATCC pole positions and won from pole 22 times.

PB would have turned 74 on February 26, 2019. 

Jamie Whincup

36 year old Whincup has the dubious distinction of somehow being the most polarising driver in Supercars. Irrespective of how he’s perceived, there is no doubt that he has talent, talent that has given him a record seven (V8) Supercars crowns, four Bathurst 1000 wins, and a Bathurst 12 Hour hat in 2017.

Whincup has raced in Australia’s two main brands in the Supercars, being Holden and Ford. In 2016 he became just the second driver, alongside long term team mate Craig Lowndes, to have won 100 Supercars and ATCC races. Throw in 73 pole positions for good measure.

What’s impressive about Whincup’s record is simple: he didn’t start in V8 Supercars until 2002.

Craig Lowndes

Like pizza and garlic bread, you can’t have Whincup without Lowndes, Craig Lowndes. He’s retired from full time racing and leaves behind a fantastic CV. 42 pole positions, 3 championships, over 100 race wins and almost nose to nose as his former team mate in that respect. There are over 250 event starts in those numbers too.

With a background in small open wheeler racing and including a win in the Australian Formula Ford Championship, Lowndes started his V8 Supercars career alongside Brad Jones in the 1994 Sandown 500 and clocked up his first ATCC in 1996.

Mark Skaife

There’s a birthday coming up for our number four driver. Gosford born Mark Stephen Skaife was born on April 3, 1967, and cements himself in Australian Touring Car Championship history with 90 race wins. Factor in 41 pole positions, 220 event starts and 479 races for 87 podiums, international exposure, and clinically oriented driving style and it’s clear that Skaife is in the upper echelons.

1990 was the year Skaife started as a full time driver and 1991 saw three ATCC wins under his tyres. It was also the year that he, Jim Richards, and “Godzilla” worked together to win the Bathurst 1000 and inspire many to boo at the podium presentation. Skaife would finish his full time career as a driver with five championships to his name.

Dick Johnson

Our fifth grid position goes to Dick Johnson. DJ may have finished with a few less pole positions than others (28), a few less race wins (30), and a few less event starts (202), but the burly, genial, Queenslander did finish with five ATCC crowns, equal to Skaife and 1960s legend, Leo Geoghegan.

Much like Brock, the Johnson name is synonymous with one brand, yet Johnson started his career with the red lion against his name. FJ, EH, and Torana, including one previously raced by P.G. Brock. Johnson moved to Ford in 1977 and became a household name in 1980 thanks to a football sized piece of rock at Mount Panorama.

2001 and Johnson was inducted into the Supercars Hall of Fame. With 3 Bathurst wins to his name as well, along with co-running the DJR-Penske team, Richard Johnson gives us our top five ATCC drivers. Say happy birthday to Dick on April 26.

Who are your top five ATCC drivers? It’s a question sure to raise debate so we’d love to get your thoughts via our blog and social media pages. 

 

 

 

 

Best Australian Motorsport Liveries

Imagine, if you will, sitting in the grandstand at your favourite motorsport circuit, and watching a field of cars, all black, racing. Or all white. Or all blue…you get the picture. Yes, it may sound great but gees, it looks pretty boring seeing unidentifiable cars circulating.

Graphic designers and teams spend a lot of time designing the look of a car in order to do two main things: make the car look visually appealring, and to promote the sponsors of the team racing the car.

Sometimes though, it’s not the range of colours applied that have a car stand out, it’s how they’ve been applied. Here’s a few to consider.

Craig Lowndes AU Falcon

Holden, Ford, Holden. Craig Lowndes has stamped himself as a legend, however it was his 2001 AU Falcon that quickly captured attention. With a body scheme of black and silver, the rounded AU Falcon made itself a a car that took easily to being a team and sponsor billboard. But it was the lurid green appliqué to the headlights, a colour that somehow burned its way through any lighting conditions, that had eyes on it. The rest of the car was a mix of simple and elegant curves, with a large silver and black Ford logo on its rear flanks, a rare occasion of not seeing the Blue Oval in blue. 

Kevin Bartlett Channel 9 Camaro

“KB” is a lovely and genial bloke. Always with a ready smile and an anecdote from his extensive racing career in the back pocket, Bartlett took a metaphorical back seat to one particular vehicle.

Rule changes were under way for Aussie tin top racing in the latter part of the 1970s, and some American muscle found its way to the tarmac. Bartlett was handed the keys to a 1978 Camaro, and it would be painted in a simple combination of yellow icons over a blue base.

It was an immediate success in garnering attention; the massive front air dam had a television network’s name prominently displayed  in the centre, their logo in broad swathes on the right and left hand sides, and the station identifier on the landing pad sized bonnet. Front and rear bumpers had generous applications of yellow to provide some horizontal relief. Eye catching? Most certainly.

John Bowe Touring Car Masters LX Torana

A more modern entrant but with history on its sides (literally) is the LX Torana as campaigned by Rrare Spares brand ambassador, John Bowe, in the Touring Car Masters category.

The initial scheme is simple. A banana yellow base has acres of a light blue on the sides and a strong front to rear presence. That in itself looks fine, but it’s the subtle splashes of red, along with the careful placement of the numerous sponsors that somehow manage to be readable in a crowded canvas, that have Bowe’s “Torrie” in the list.

Dick Johnson Tru-Blu/Greens-Tuf Falcons

Sometimes a monochrome canvas can be hugely effective in standing out. Dick Johnson, a legend in Australian motorsport, kept things “simple” with his XD and XE Falcons.

Using the ethos of “KISS”, or Keep It Simple, Stupid, Johnson painted his XD Falcon in one shade of blue, and his XE in green. No fancy pants extra colours for the bumpers, or bonnet, or roof. They were kept free for the placement of the sponsors on the vast, flat, surfaces of the blocky Falcon’s bodywork. The basic design of the XD and XE made for excellent opportunities to place sponsors in strategically and highly visual locations, with the huge doors and bonnet seeing the main sponsors in pride of place.

It’s perhaps the Greens-Tuf car that has more of a place in history. The car hit a rock that had been accidentally dislodged by a spectator during the 1980 Bathurst 1000, with the end result seeing the bright green machine, complete with faux Ch7 logo on its flanks, reduced to a smoking shell.

Mark Skaife HRT Commodore

Evolution is a slow progress. But side by side a change in look can be plotted, and one line of change came to fruition on Holden’s Commodore in the early noughties. Again it was a duo of colours that made the car stand out.

The VY Commodore was a somewhat jarring mix of a rounded, organic, middle section, bracketed by a nose and rear that had defined angles. It was the smooth rear door section that lent itself best to Holden Racing Team’s logo; a combination of Holden’s lion and HRT’s helmeted race driver with an almost satanic glare inferred.

The slope to the bonnet allowed designers to front and centre a reverse colour image of the famous Holden lion as a visual counterpoint to the white outlines of the flank’s images. And, as we all know, a red car goes faster.

 

Rare Spares would love to know what you think is the best livery on a race car, be it a Mini from the 1960s, a Charger from the 1970s, or even a Formula Ford seen on track in 2018.

Drop us a line on our social media pages and keep in touch via our blog site.

History of the Ford Falcon in Supercars

Born in the early 1990s, the category originally known as V8 Supercars (and now Supercars) came from a decision by CAMS to revamp the Australian Touring Car Championship. 

One of three classes originally put together was Class A, which comprised 5.0L V8 powered Ford and Holden cars. The first Falcon to take part in what would become V8 Supercars, was the recently released EB Falcon. This model in road going trim, was the first to feature what were called “cannon barrel” headlights for the sporty XR6 and XR8 variants. Officially known as Group 3 A, Glenn Seton would take out the 1993 championship. The updated version, the EF Falcon, would take John Bowe to the championship in 1995. 

1996 saw the Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company, AVESCO, come to life. This was a joint venture organization and effectively formalized the category as being the V8 Supercars. 1996 had Ford producing the EL Falcon, the last version of the fifth generation Falcon.

Ford Australia moved into the short lived AU Falcon. Perhaps best described as a failed design study, the AU would quickly be redesigned into the BA Falcon. Wins for the Falcon in the V8 Supercars championship would be sparse between 1997, with Seton again taking the championship in an EL Falcon, to 2003. Tasmanian born Marcus Ambrose piloted his BA Falcon, under the Stone Brothers umbrella, to the flag in that year.

It would also see a “threepeat” for the team with Ambrose repeating his win in 2004, followed by Russell Ingall in 2005. Ford revamped the BA into the BF in October of 2005. However it would not be until 2008 that Jamie Whincup would bring one to the forefront of the championship with the Triple Eight Race Engineering team.

A substantial facelift for the Falcon would bring the FG series into the championship. The road going versions had a streamlined model range and a raft of under the skin improvements. The road going FG range also saw the deletion of the 5.4L V8 that was part of the engine range and was replaced by the 5.0L “Coyote” engine. In a twist that brings in the future, that engine is the one to be found in the Ford Mustang, the body shape that will take over from the now discontinued Ford Falcon in the Supercars series.

Whincup would take a FG Falcon with Triple Eight to the championship in 2009, with the Ford “Blue Oval” also winning the championship in 2010 in the hands of James Courtney and Dick Johnson Racing.

The next generation of Supercars brought in a chassis specific design from 2013, meaning Holden and Ford would build to a base design, not off a production car. Since that era started, and finished in 2018, a Ford Falcon has won the Supercars championship just twice, with Mark Winterbottom and Prodrive Racing partnering in 2015 whilst Scott McLaughlin wrapped up the championship in Newcastle in the final FG X Falcon with Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske just a few weeks ago.

The Falcon is now replaced by the incoming Mustang and will be missed on the grid by the blue-oval enthusiasts. What was your favourite Falcon Supercar racer? The Green Eyed Monster or maybe one of the many iconic Shell Racing DJR liveries? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below this blog!