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Meet Jamie Vinall-Meyer

Historic Formula Ford’s newest upstart almost walked away from motorsport; what is it about old cars that’s brought him back?

The young Jamun driver has previous experience in a Classic Team Merlyn car at the 2020 Walter Hayes Trophy and was soon right near the front at Silverstone. He was completely unfazed by going up against the likes of Cam Jackson and Tom McArthur, with whom he tangled in Race 2.

“I was supposed to be racing in something else and that fell through” explains Vinall-Meyer. “I did a bit of Britcar and this year I was supposed to be racing in Pragas. But that…”

Here, he tails off. A possible drive with Classic Team Merlyn had also been shelved and Vinall-Meyer, still only in his early 20s, was getting disillusioned with motor racing.

A chance meeting with Pete Alexander changed that.

“I met Pete at the start of this year doing some instructing at Brands Hatch.

“It’s lucky I’m not doing that (the Praga series) because I’m now racing with Pete. Back doing this.

The rare Jamun T3 he is racing this year often appeared on entry lists last year alongside Shaun Hollamby’s name, but the BTCC racer only made one actual outing in it.

“It’s Pete’s car. Shaun Hollamby raced it at the Festival last year. It’s been stored and not touched until we took it out a few months ago. Today we decided to go racing with it, see what happens.”

As he only has one weekend’s racing in a Merlyn Mk20 and one meeting in the Jamun under his belt, Vinall-Meyer is still learning about the world of historic Formula Ford and how the different cars compare. He is full of admiration for Alexander’s Jamun, however.

“It’s a really lovely car and Pete has done the nicest job of getting it all ready. He’s worked really hard. It’s only been a few months, and he’s bascially turned it into a usable car, which is fantastic.

“There’s still a few things we need to do here and there to get it properly quick, but considering all that, we did fantastically. I can’t thank Peter enough.”

Now back on speaking terms with racing cars, Vinall-Meyer plans to contest selected rounds this year, with a view to a full season in 2023.

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Classic Formula Ford Features HSCC

Meet Philip Senior

This Classic Formula Ford newcomer finally got to make a proper debut at Snetterton and he’s hoping for many more outings to come.

“I think Richard and I have got over that,” says Philip Senior of the crash that ended his Formula Ford debut last year before it even started. His Royale RP24 had a coming-together with Richard Yeomans’s Crossle at the Silverstone Finals, but the two now share paddock space happily.

Senior was a relatively late starter in motorsport, having only ever done arrive and drive karting before his 2021 debut, and he got support from another late starter via a coincidence.

“I work with Sophia, Jordan Harrison’s wife,” he explains.

“She overheard a chance conversation saying that I was going to do my ARDS test, and I should talk to Jordan. He convinced me to do a test, which turned into a race and buying my own car.

“For years, I’d talked about going up into cars from karts. I thought about doing the Ford Ka endurance series.”

As a London dweller, Senior had a logistical problem with beginning a career as an owner-driver.

“I’d got nowhere to store a car and nowhere to work on it. But I decided to do my ARDS test and get it over with.”

His goals for the season are modest: top-ten finishes would represent a goal achieved.

He will not be out at Silverstone, as he is expecting to become a father very soon, but he will be back later in the year.

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Classic Formula Ford Features HSCC

Champion’s chat: Jordan Harrison

Jordan Harrison started his Classic Formula Ford title defence with a pair of wins at Snetterton. Vintage Formula Ford spoke to him and asked about the keys to his success.

Harrison is modest about his domination of the Snetterton races, quick to point out that his rivals’ problems and mistakes contributed to his wins. Tom McArthur suffered a damaged wheel hub, dropping him to sixth, while others tripped each other up.

“I was fortunate because I had a bit of a race with Tom {McArthur} at the start, but I got a really good tow and a good couple of laps, then they were squabbling. I don’t really know whether they were showing their true pace, because they were swapping places.”

He also credits the Shaws Motorsport team that looks after his car for getting it how he likes it and allowing him to challenge so strongly.

“We’ve made the car a bit more pointy and I can cope with it better. It is faster, even though it isn’t quite as comfortable.”

He has also improved as a driver. Harrison is actually quite inexperienced, with only four seasons of racing under his belt, usually in the Lola T540E that he races alongside his father, Mark, who has raced a Royale RP21 since 2021.

“We pulled the car out of the garage in 2015 and we first tested it in ’16, and then we went racing in ’18. I did a couple of races and we shared the car in ’18 and ’19. Then 2020, I raced the Royale RP21 for half the year and last year I raced the Lola.”

31-year-old Harrison did not have a typical motorsport childhood of karting either, despite having a father who was active in the sport.

“I did a little bit of karting at university, but I played rugby and other stuff.”

He still works with his father on their cars.

“He’s retired now, so he’s got more time!”

Both Jordan and Mark Harrison will be racing all season in the Classic championship.

Image courtesy of Andrew Ellis

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Features FF2000 HSCC

A new formula for Souley Motorsport

The Souley Motorsport team is a familiar presence in the modern Formula Ford 1600 paddock and is active most weekends during the season. This year, it takes on a new challenge in the shape of Historic Formula Ford 2000.

VFF spoke to team principal Brian Soule at Brands Hatch, his first weekend working with both a FF2000 and a historic car, in the hands of driver Ollie Roberts.

The two go back a long way. When Roberts was racing Formula Ford 1600 in the 2000s, Soule was an engineer working on his car.

“Back when I was working for another team, Ollie was one of the drivers, so that’s how we knew each other.”

Soule goes on to explain how the new deal took shape.

“It was literally just a couple of phone calls. He rang me and said ‘I’m thinking about coming back and doing something’. He said he didn’t really want to go over old ground by driving another 1600, so he said ‘what about the two litre stuff?’ and I said, yeah, we can do that.”

The team isn’t having too much trouble adapting to a FF2000, despite being FF1600 specialists since 2008.

“It’s quite a similar car to a 1600 in the way it’s put together. Obviously, a different engine and with the wings and slicks on it, but it’s not dissimilar to what we’ve done before. It didn’t feel like it was going to be too much of a jump for us.”

Although the basic workings of the two Formula Fords are quite similar, the addition of slicks and wings makes setting up a FF2000 car rather different.

“From a mechanical, sort of getting the car to run properly side of it, I don’t think my boys who do the spanners for me are going to find it that different. But from an engineering point of view, I think it will end up being quite a different car.”

The slightly slower pace of the historic paddock, compared to the National scene, is helping.

“It’s a bit more laid back. There seems to be more time between each time we’re on the track, so that’s quite nice, especially when we’re running a new car. It gives us more chance to get everything organised.

“We’ve still got some time to find, which will come from Ollie and the car, I think. We’re looking forward to getting our teeth into it over the course of the year.”

It’s a challenge that Soule is glad to have.

“We’ve only run 1600 Kent cars since 2008. I think we feel like we’re probably totally on top of that now, and find it not boring, but we can do it without thinking so much now. So we thought we’d give ourselves something more of a challenge.”

Roberts is planning on keeping his Reynard for at least a few seasons and Soule isn’t in a hurry to move up the historic single-seater ladder yet.

“I always feel that I want to try and master something before I move on to the next step.

“Once we get to the end of those first two seasons (with Roberts), if we’re really on top of something, then we might look to move on. But I’d like to master this first.”

Roberts will be in action again at Snetterton with Souley Motorsport, the third of six consecutive weekends on track for the team, which is also running cars in the Castle Combe, United and BRSCC Northern championships.

(Image courtesy Souley Motorsport)

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BRSCC Northern Classic Formula Ford Features Historic Formula Ford Opinion Uncategorized

How many is too many?

The Historic and Classic Formula Ford 1600 season is almost upon us. James Beckett’s new United Formula Ford championship and the BRSCC’s Northern and Superclassic series have already had their opening rounds, as well as the National championship.

All of these championships are open in some way to pre-1982 machinery, with pre-1972 cars being theoretically eligible for all of them. This begs the question: are there too many championships for older Formula Fords?

The idea for this article came soon after United Formula Ford was announced late last year, replacing the Heritage Formula Ford series which was primarily for pre-1993 cars. There was a degree of anger from some commenters, who saw the multi-class United championship as potentially diluting existing grids and weakening the existing historic series. A few others also expressed disappointment that a dedicated race series for pre-1993 cars was being superseded.

Enigma Motorsport boss and Historic competitor Linton Stutely has a good perspective on this issue, as he is running cars in both the HSCC Classic and United championships for different drivers this year.

“I don’t think there are too many series,” he said, adding that he does not think that the HSCC ones are in any danger.

“We aren’t interested in racing anyone other than the best drivers in their respective classes.

“We don’t turn up to get a trophy, we turn up to try to beat the best.

“And historics can’t compete with modern cars.”

HSCC Historic FF1600 championship co-ordinator Ted Pearson does understand some of the criticisms and makes a comparison with the HSCC’s successful Formula Ford 2000 championship, which regularly has over-subscribed grids.

“If you’ve got a Formula Ford 2000, where else can you run it? Monoposto?

“In our world, 1600s, you can run it in the HSCC championship, or you can run it in Classic Formula Ford as well. Or you could run it with James Beckett, or with the BRSCC in the Northern championship. You can do one-off races with it here and there, and you can do Monopostos. You can do anything with it.

“There’s a lot of choice for people, particularly with a historic car or a classic car.”

Numbers at the opening BRSCC and United meetings this weekend suggest that numbers of pre-’82 cars will be fairly low in both championships, but some commenters are still worried.

One way round this issue would be for Formula Ford championship co-ordinators to work together more, agreeing on a balanced calendar with the minimum of clashes, allowing entrants to make guest appearances at their local or favourite track without interfering with championship commitments. Those who would benefit most from this are drivers like United racewinner James Hadfield, who is normally working on customers’s cars during HSCC race weekends.

There is also a case for regional championships like BRSCC Northern, which cater to racers who prefer not to use their budget on extensive travel to southern England, or work long hours and find it hard to travel.

Pearson goes on to say that clubs like having Formula Ford at their meetings too.

“It’s the best racing.”

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Peter Drennan gets back on track

2020 HSCC Formula Ford 2000 champion Peter Drennan (81 in the pic above) has been missing from the circuits for over a year, but now he’s racing again.

After successfully predicting a red flag to the second during a Roadsports race, he spoke to VFF about what he’s up to.

The Irishman had bought a new car after his 2020 win and planned to defend his title, but Covid put paid to that plan, meaning that the Brands Hatch season opener was the first time he had driven the car in anger.

“The goal changed last year. After the win in 2020 we sold the winner car. We took a trade-in of another car to try to bring it up the grid a bit.

“It didn’t suit for me to race in 2021 after Covid and all that, so we decided to get it going now for 2022.

“I don’t know how I didn’t get ill as I was away as much as I could, but so far I haven’t caught the pox!”

Drennan’s title-winning car was a Reynard SF79 and despite being of average height and build, it wasn’t always the most comfortable for him to drive.

“The chassis was actually quite small. Before Covid we were supposed to go to Spa. Obviously I ended up in another Reynard chassis which was actually a little bit bigger and really comfortable to get in straight away. I ended up getting into that ’79 one and I was cramped as hell.

“You were driving by your backside, which is what I like, but the Reynard was never comfortable.”

His new Royale RP27 seems a better fit.

“I can kind of throw it about a bit, get it out of shape. I’ve got a bit more confidence in the car.”

The question remains how much of the season Drennan is going to do, but he has been in this situation before and ended up winning a championship. If he racks up a win later on, then plans might change.

“For 2020 I’d no intention of doing the whole season either, and somehow how we ended up doing the whole season. I don’t think it’s going to happen this year though.”

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Features FF2000 HSCC

Champions assemble

The HSCC Historic Formula Ford 2000 championship gets going this weekend at Brands Hatch, with four champions in action.

The series is starting how it means to go on, with big grids and fierce competition at the front. Reigning champion Graham Fennymore will be out in his rapid Reynard SF81, with his predecessor Peter Drennan hoping that his Royale RP27 is as quick as the Reynard SF79 that took him to the 2020 crown.

Four-time series winner Andrew Park only did a part-season last year. Although he won once at Cadwell and usually had the pace, his SF81 misbehaved at least once. Having had time to work on the car, he should be back in the mix.

The final champion out to play is Mr 2014, Benn Simms, who was the early leader in 2021. His SF77 was normally the closest car to Fennymore’s whenever the two were on track together.

The 33-car field expected at the Indy circuit will be split into two groups for qualifying, with heats and a championship race each day. This format is an unforgiving one; any serious mistakes made during qualifying may have to be rectified on-track not just once, but twice over.

Of course, other drivers will be looking to muscle in at the front. Molly Dodd (Royale RP27) starred in a qualification race at Donington, only to lose places due to a faulty transponder. This format has worked for her before and she comes into 2022 a much more experienced driver.

Ian Pearson was third last year, with one win at a very slippery Mallory. His Royale RP30 was normally snapping at the heels of the leader and he should never be counted out.

Andrew Storer missed a lot of 2021 but did reach the podium last year at Brands, driving his famous Pukka Pies SF79. He cannot be disregarded either, especially with Stephen Glasswell (SF79) and Graham Ridgway’s SF78 not being present.

Each season brings a few new driver and car combinations and 2022 is no different. Ollie Roberts is hoping to be competitive from the off in his new SF79, despite not having raced for a while. 2021 Class B champion Fraser Collins will also be debuting a new car, a Class A Royale RP30.

The weather will also be a factor this weekend, with changeable conditions perhaps favouring the more experienced competitors.

(Image courtesy of Richard Towler)

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Meet Ollie Roberts

There’s a new face on this year’s Historic Formula Ford 2000 grid, and he’s waited a long time for the opportunity.

Ollie Roberts will be taking to the track in a Reynard SF79 run by Souley Motorsport, almost 15 years after he last raced at the 2007 Walter Hayes Trophy.

Following a real hero drive in the Walter Hayes – he came through every consolation race to reach the final after breaking down in his heat – a sponsorship deal to run in Formula 3 and Radicals fell through and that phase of his motorsport career ended.

Lockdown was one of the catalysts for getting back into a car.

“I was having a conversation with loads of old racing mates over lockdown,” he explains.

“They’d all said, when are we going to see you back in a car? And then my parents in law, when I spoke to them about it, they said the same thing. So I started looking.”

The next step was to acquire a car and he was drawn to FF2000.

“It seemed like the best category to go into, other than 1600s, without treading on old ground.

“I was looking at the value of the cars and they were very reasonably priced.

“It’s a very busy formula with very good grids in a really pretty car.”

The Reynard itself was formerly owned by Matt Wrigley and the two made a deal after the car was advertised online. With a car in his garage, it was now time to find someone to run it. Enter Brian Soule, more often found in the FF1600 paddock.

“The engineer at the time for the team I was racing with (Kevin Mills Racing in 2007) has his own team now. I rang him and said ‘if I bought a race car would you run me?’ and he was like, ‘absolutely'”.

Roberts will be supporting himself this year, having used his time away from the track to develop a career and make his own money. He sees this as a positive thing, having “whole-heartedly” been a spectator for so long.

“This will be the first season that I really get to enjoy it.”

He is not rash enough to think he is a championship contender in his first year, especially not in such a competitive series.

“I think I would like to get a couple of top-threes, if not a win.

“There are some good guys in there. You’ve got the current champion Graham Fennymore, Andrew Park, Benn Simms – it’s a strong grid, and they’re big grids. The bigger the mistake, the larger the overtaking manoeuvre you’ve got to make.”

He rates his chances highest at Donington and Silverstone National.

“Silverstone National is just a great track, because it’s short and fast. I would have said Snetterton, but Snett’s changed since I last did it.

“The thing with Donington is, I don’t think I’ve ever been there dry. That’s why I’m so confident round Donington.”

Since our conversation, Roberts has finally fitted a seat and undertaken testing. This was the first time he drove the car, in preparation for the first round at Brands Hatch on Saturday. He will be out in Group B.

(Image courtesy of Ollie Roberts)

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Keeping it in the family: the future of Formula Ford, Part I

Formula Ford in all of its forms has flourished since 1967 and some of the original cars are still competitive now, but how will historic racing look in the future?

Vintage Formula Ford will be looking at how the category will stay around throughout the season.

Motorsport tends to run in families and there is no shortage of teenagers who have grown up in the paddock, waiting for their chance to get behind the wheel of cars they’ve seen parents and other family members race.

Ian “Parky” Parkington debuted a Crossle at last year’s Oulton Park Gold Cup, finishing second in the second Classic Formula Ford race of the weekend.

Formula Ford regular Parkington was quick in the car himself, but he’s really developing it and another Crossle for his daughters to race in a few years’ time.

The car itself has some history.

“It’s Tiff Needell’s ex Crossle 25F. It was owned by Richard Peacock, Anglesey Circuit, and restored by Dave Hart about five or six years ago.

“It didn’t come as a buy, it came as a project, if you would, then we ended up doing a deal to own it. It came with another Crossle for restoration, so there’s a couple of them at home.”

Parkington competed in Northern Formula Ford for about ten years and only races occasionally now, but the family legacy continues.

“I have a 14-year-old daughter, almost 15, who races go-karts. Grace has raced go-karts for a few years. And Scarlett, the youngest one, she’s 11, races cadet karts,” he explained at Oulton.

“I can’t wait for Grace to move up into Formula Fords. We’ve a few (cars) at home, so we can all come racing together.”

He is not overly worried for her safety, as some fathers might be.

“I think they’re relatively safe. If you abide by some rules and don’t be too stupid.”

He is not worried either about her being quicker than him.

“I fully expect her to beat me, and I hope that she does.”

(Image copyright Rachel Bourne)

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The brotherhood of the travelling March

Ross Drybrough fired up his turquoise March 709 towards the end of 2021, but not before it had made its way through a couple of other drivers’ hands first. 

The March is perhaps one of the most travelled and shared cars in Formula Ford, at least in recent years. Like the Traveling Pants shared by five girls in a 2005 film, it has worked for several different drivers.

Drybrough made his return in it at Silverstone after missing most of the season with a serious hand injury sustained at Brands Hatch, an incident that put his usual smart Merlyn Mk20 out of action. Prior to that, he had loaned it to Max Bartell for the first two rounds of the 2021 championship, giving him two top-ten finishes at Snetterton. The pair made a deal that they would share Bartell’s Elva in the Guards Trophy in return, which they did at the International Trophy in May.

The car’s recent past also encompasses a season with multiple Historic Formula Ford champion Cam Jackson in 2020, who described it as a car that “drives itself” telling Vintage Formula Ford:

“It’s just one of those cars where it feels too easy.

“Essentially, it’s a really tidy, fun car to drive. Really responsive.”

Most old racing cars have a story or two attached, but there’s only a little digging to do to find the 709’s. It came from Canada and was bought on Drybrough’s behalf by a friend of his from dental school, Tony Cove.

Cove was instrumental in getting his friend started in motorsport, taking him to a meeting during a visit to Canada in 2014. He had only ever done karting and track days previously.

“I thought, ‘I can do that.'” says Drybrough. “The next thing I know, I’m looking at Merlyns.”

“I rebuilt it myself,” he says of the March. “The engine was illegal so we left it in Canada and I just got a rolling chassis and gearbox.

“Tony came across and raced it in the Silverstone Finals in 2018, and then he came and raced it again at the Gold Cup in 2019”

Anything rebuilt has its share of problems and it was when Drybrough first raced the car itself that they arose.

“I raced it at Cadwell and an oil line came off, and everyone spun off on my oil,” he admits.

“I put the car straight in the trailer and buggered off before anything else happened.”

One of the advantages of loaning it to Jackson was that he and car preparer Neil Fowler were able to work on it and develop it into a competitive prospect. When Jackson approached Drybrough about it at the end of 2019, this was one of the reasons he agreed.

Jackson in the March

There have been some questions around eligibility, as the car’s previous owner Richard Forrest had been running it with 712 bodywork. However, extensive records from its build in 1970 onwards, including the original Bill of Sale for the car, show the paper trail of additions over the years. Incidentally, the March cost £1530 new, and a set of gear ratios was £49.

The 709 did not set the Formula Ford world alight in period, but Drybrough appreciates its curiosity value, describing it as “a bit of an oddball” that stands out from the ubiquitous Merlyn Mk20s and Elden Mk8s. I first spoke to him before his Brands accident and he talked about how it was good to have a spare car, should his Merlyn be out of action, which proved prescient.

Cove is planning a return to the UK to race the March again, as his own story repeats with his son now studying dentistry in the UK. Where the Travelling March ends up next and who it will be travelling with is yet to be seen.

(Images courtesy of HSCC, Cam Jackson and Paul Lawrence)