Features Historic Formula Ford HSCC Uncategorized

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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Historic visitors prevail at Pau

A sizeable contingent of Historic Formula Ford competitors were in action at the Pau Historic Grand Prix this weekend, with Callum Grant securing a win and second place in his familiar Merlyn Mk20.

He was joined on the podium over the weekend by Matt Wrigley, on his way back from Moanco, and National championship star Rory Smith.

Grant qualified second behind circuit specialist Alain Girardet, who was also driving a more recent car, then started his charge with a win in Race 1. Smith was second in another Merlyn and Girardet was third. Wrigley was the next British challenger, finishing seventh in his Merlyn but third in the class for older cars, behind both Grant and Smith.

Other HSCC drivers in action included Ian Parkington who was eleventh and Brian Morris, who brought his Lola home in 14th despite a broken clutch pedal in qualifying. George Ditchfield finished 28th in his Elden.

The second race was a scrappier affair with three safety car periods, interrupted by a red flag. Smith was the winner this time, followed by Grant and Girardet. Wrigley was third in class, completing an all-British class podium.

Morris was tenth and Parkington 16th this time. Ditchfield was 22nd.

(Image courtesy of Callum Grant)

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Simms shuts down Fennymore’s challenge at Silverstone

Benn Simms has added yet another Historic Formula Ford 2000 win to his tally at Silverstone, brushing off polesitter Graham Fennymore to speed away into the distance.

Simms, who was never challenged during the race’s nine laps, credits his win to his Reynard SF77’s ability to power off the line and to his rivals getting into their own rivalries and holding each other up. In this case, it was the SF81s of Fennymore and Andrew Park who got caught up with each other.

Park got an absolutely spot-on start, having lined up sixth due to car trouble in qualifying. He was third within a corner, deposing Graham Ridgway’s SF78 and the Royale of Drew Cameron. Park did get past Fennymore for a lap or two mid-race, but although Park was gaining on him again on the final lap, Fennymore held him off for second.

Ridgway was a solid fourth, although some way behind Park at the end. Cameron had a less straightforward run, with serious trouble downshifting causing him to drop from third to twelfth, then the lower reaches of the top ten. The quickest in a straight line, he got on top of his troubles towards the end, passing Adrian Reynard’s SF79 and Lee Bankhurst’s Royale RP30 in quick succession. Bankhurst had his own scuffle going on with Ollie Roberts, whose SF79 sat in fifth for most of the race. Bankhurst was gaining on him, but Cameron effectively towed Bankhurst past him on the final lap, meaning Roberts had to settle for seventh. Reynard was eighth. Peter Drennan had also been sparring with Reynard in his yellow Royale RP27, but he had to retire with a mysterious electrical problem.

The twin SF79s of Brian Morris and Andrew Storer made up the top ten. Storer had been passed by both Bankhurst and Reynard on their way up the grid.

Full results at TSL Timing

Classic Formula Ford FF2000 Historic Formula Ford HSCC Uncategorized

More champions return: Silverstone International Trophy preview

If Snetterton was all about new leading packs in the HSCC Formula Ford championships, the Silverstone International Trophy is all about previous winners coming back to claim their positions at the front.

Cam Jackson is due to make his Formula Ford 1600 debut for 2022, bringing out his Winkelmann for both the Historic and Classic races after experimenting with Formula Ford 2000 power. He will be renewing his rivalry with Tom McArthur, who will also contest both championships. In Classic, he will be up against another returning winner from last year, Henry Chart, who is also making his first appearance of 2022. Both Chart and 2021 champion Jordan Harrison were able to give Jackson a run for his money in 2021. Richard Tarling will be hoping to have got on top of the teething problems with his Royale that meant he was not able to keep up with Harrison. His Engima team-mate, Joe Ahrens, will be close by, waiting to capitalise on any mistakes.

As well as a confident McArthur, with his Snetterton wheel hub woes firmly behind him, Jackson will have Samuel Harrison to deal with in the two Historic races. Now driving a Classic Team Merlyn Mk20, Harrison will be able to put up a consistent challenge this year. Another Merlyn driver, Ben Mitchell, is coming back to Historics after a break. He took the title battle down to the line against Jackson and Callum Grant in 2018 and always runs well at Silverstone. Having posted top-ten finishes against modern cars in the Castle Combe championship last week, he is not lacking in practice.

With Danny Stanzl’s Elden absent and Matt Wrigley racing in Monaco, Brian Morris’s likely second-group sparring partner will be his Over 50 championship rival, Rob Smith. Simon Toyne’s Lola will likely be joining them.

Newcomers include Britcar racer Jamie Vinall-Meyer in a Jamun T3. Vinall-Meyer showed great pace at the Walter Hayes Trophy a couple of years ago and he could well challenge for podium places.

Dominik Jackson, brother of Cam, will be doubling up in both championships like his brother and McArthur, driving a Crossle 20F. Other double entries for Historic and Classic include Freddie Lillingstone-Price in a Merlyn Mk11.

Andrew Park is back in action in FF2000, meaning that Benn Simms and Graham Fennymore will be looking over their shoulders again. Simms has seemed invincible so far, but the season is still in its early stages and one slip-up can change the direction of any meeting. Fennymore has had time to smooth out new-season issues with his Reynard and will want to make up for his Snetterton troubles. Park, who is not doing the full season, is under less pressure to perform and will perhaps be more relaxed at the start. Without the axle failure that dumped him out of the second Snetterton race, Drew Cameron will not be far off.

It will be an almost all-Reynard grid for the first time in a while, with Cameron among four Royale drivers. Geoff Pashley’s T81 is the sole Delta out and there is one Merlyn Mk28, driven by Antony Raine.

Historic Formula Ford HSCC Uncategorized

New challengers and returning regulars for Historic Formula Ford

The first Historic Formula Ford races of the year will have few new faces, but some likely new combinations at the front and some familiar names on the grid.

Defending champion Cam Jackson, Silverstone winner Linton Stutely and 2021 championship contender Horatio Fitz-Simon have all decided to sit out the Snetterton races at least, meaning that the leading pack might look a little different this year.

Tom McArthur was up there with Jackson and Fitz-Simon for most of last year and he is having another go in 2022. The Cheshire-based FF1600 specialist will be taking on both the Historic and Classic championships in Mandie Hadfield’s Merlyn Mk20, a car he has driven before.

His most likely sparring partner at the front will be Samuel Harrison, now a Classic Team Merlyn driver in the Mk20 that Fitz-Simon used in 2021. Although still in his teens, Harrison showed increasing maturity towards the end of 2021 and got his CTM career off to a great start with a historic win at the Walter Hayes Trophy.

Callum Grant is only making a few appearances in 2022 but he will almost certainly add another Merlyn Mk20 to the mix at the front at Snetterton. He had a terrific scrap with McArthur at Oulton Park last year and a repeat of that would make a great curtain-opener for the season.

Over 50s frontrunner Rob Smith is racing again for the first time since Brands Hatch in 2020, having been caught out by travel restrictions due to mostly living in France. He was easily the quickest in the class until his enforced hiatus and his Merlyn Mk20 will be a welcome addition.

Keeping an eye on him, Over 50 champion Brian Morris will return in his Lola T200 and regular challenger Ross Drybrough is racing his March 709, as driven by Cam Jackson in 2020.

Morris, Matt Wrigley and Danny Stanzl were a common combination in the chasing pack last year, with Wrigley sometimes managing to break free in his Merlyn Mk11A/20. Stanzl, with a little more reliability, could be joining him this year.

Other returnees include Alexis driver Cormac Flanagan, who missed most of 2021 after crashing out at Snetterton. Flanagan has already made his return to the circuits, but Scott Rawlinson will be out this weekend in his Merlyn Mk11A for the first time since a big accident in practice at Cadwell.

Championship co-ordinator Ted Pearson has stood down from driving his Merlyn Mk11/17 this weekend in favour of son Tom.

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Classic Formula Ford preview: McArthur sets up Harrison showdown

The 2022 Classic Formula Ford season is just about to begin and there is a new name on the enry list. Tom McArthur, who pushed Cam Jackson so hard last year in Simon Hadfield’s Titan, is launching a combined Classic and Historic campaign in a Merlyn Mk20.

McArthur will be hoping to emulate Benn Tilley, who won the Classic championship in 2018 in the very same car, which is run by Hadfield and owned by his wife, Mandie.

This sets up the exciting prospect of a lead battle between defending champion Jordan Harrison and McArthur. Both are committed, uncompromising drivers, and two of the few Formula Ford competitors to have got the better of Cam Jackson.

Harrison has always had the speed to win in his green Lola T540E, but a more measured and tactical approach really paid off in 2021.

They are likely to be joined at the front by Richard Tarling, driving a Royale RP26 run by Enigma Motorsport. The 2017 Historic champion has always known when to use his aggressive side and when to go with the flow. He will be looking to make his mark again after an enforced lay-off due to complications arising from Covid.

Classic regular Ben Tinkler has finally decided against selling his Van Diemen RF80 and is another capable front-runner. We cannot rule out 2019 champion Rick Morris either, although he struggled with setup on his Royale RP29 all last year.

Running as a team-mate to his erstwhile driver coach Tarling this year, Joe Ahrens is out again in an Enigma-run Van Diemen RF80. He showed promise in his first year of racing and may be able to fly with the leading group in 2022. Jake Shortland, another younger driver, is also set to appear at Snetterton, having impressed at the circuit last year. He will be driving another Lola.

Not a new driver by any means, CFF President Stuart Kestenbaum will be debuting a new car, a Van Diemen RF81 that has been a “project” for a while.

Notable absentees include Henry Chart, who is doing a part-season this year due to other commitments, and 2020 champion Cam Jackson, who is taking a step back from full-time FF1600 this year.

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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.”

Features FF2000 HSCC Uncategorized

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.”

Classic Formula Ford Features HSCC Uncategorized

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)