I have been very slack with keeping up posts on my blog. There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly I have been very busy at work and Tandy and I have been away in Italy for a short holiday. Secondly I have had a bit of a mental block as to what to write about. I have decided to write a bit about myself so that people who read the blog will know a bit more about me.
I was born what seems an awfully long time ago in Durban. I was too young to remember living in Durban and the first house I remember living in was in Craighall Park in Johannesburg. In 1957 the family moved to Honeydew and that is where I grew up. Junior school was an 8 kilometer drive from where we lived and I spent 7 years at Northcliff Primary School and then went on to Roosevelt High School for the balance of my school career.
I was fortunate in that living on a small holding there were no tar roads and very little traffic so by the time I was 14 I was driving my mother’s car all over the place – don’t let her know that as she still thinks I was a good boy who could do no wrong.
I learnt to ride a friend’s motorbike when I was 14 – it was an old Yamaha 250. That was a great learning experience and I managed to fall off a few times fortunately with no serious damage to me or the bike.
When I was 15 – almost 16 – I was allowed to buy a 50cc motorbike of my own but was not allowed to ride it until my 16th birthday and until I had been to get a learners license. I spent the next year and a half riding that bike to school and back and anywhere else I needed to get to and managed to spectate at almost every race meeting at Kyalami during that time. I used to spend a lot of my time trying to make the bike go faster and managed to blow it up a few times. Fortunately spares were cheap. I do not think a 50cc bike can be made to go very fast anyway and certainly not one built with the technology available in the 1960’s.
At 17 I finished Matric and went into the Navy in Simonstown for my National Service of 1 year and was 18 when I completed that year. I had a great year in the Navy and was fortunate to be stationed on a Frigate for 6 months which I enjoyed immensely.
On returning to Johannesburg in December 1969 the first thing I did was go to get a learner’s license for a car and unlimited motorcycle. A week later I got a test booking and passed the test for a car driver’s license and so was given the old DKW 850cc 3 cylinder 2 stroke which my father bought in 1958.
I bought a 100cc Yamaha and rode that for about a year and half and then it got stolen so I bought a Triumph Bonneville which I rode all over the country – the longest trip being to Kei River Mouth. It used to shed parts all over the place because it vibrated such a lot but it always got me home. After a few years I bought a 750cc Honda K1 and owned that until I went racing in the UK in 1980.
After driving the old DKW for a few years I sold it and bought an old Alfa Giulietta Sprint which needed some fixing and got that to go quite nicely and then sold it to buy a Sunbeam Tiger. That was a great car but had no brakes worth mentioning.
About 1975 I was earning enough money to consider buying a race car. I weighed up all the options including a formula vee and a modified escort but fortunately common sense prevailed and I stuck to my first choice and bought a formula ford. I have written previously about racing experiences so will not write more about it now.
I think next time I will write about my school career and how much motorsport has influenced my life.
Until next time
We all got back safely from Port Elizabeth after a very eventful race weekend. My weekend started badly when I got to Cape Town airport on Friday morning to discover I had incorrectly booked a flight for Saturday morning. Fortunately I was able to change the flight and got to Port Elizabeth at about 2:30 on Friday afternoon.
While at the airport Nick called as his car had stopped. There was not much I could do but suggested to him that it may be the ignition coil based on the symptoms he was describing. When I arrived at the track the car was running again and several people had helped him with the main suggestion being it was related to the crank angle sensor. I was not sure about this but the car was running so assumed all was well.
I did a few laps late on Friday just to get the feel of how the car was and we packed away for the night and went to the B&B and relaxed for the evening.
Saturday morning came and Nick went out for the first sprint race and after a few laps the car stopped again. It obviously was not the crank sensor. Some quick checks indicated it was the coil and we swopped it for the coil from Arno Church’s broken car and all went well after that.
Unfortunately there were a lot of car failures in the 2 sprint races for the Sports and GT cars. Arno had broken a conrod on Friday so his motor had a new vent hole. He did not have a spare motor so was out for the weekend. In the sprint races the failures include Ray Farnham (Clutch), Hennie Trollip (Flywheel Bolts), John Amm (Apex seal on Mazda Rotary) and Steve Humble (bent valve on warm up lap).
I was only taking part in the 90 minute endurance race and we checked the car after the sprint races to make sure all was well. The race started with Johan Engelbrecht in his Porsche leading but chased hard by Francis Caruthers in his Juno. Louis de Jager and Clinton Thorne were 3rd and 4th and having a good race until the rear seal of Clinton’s car started leaking on the clutch and this put him out of the race.
I took over after 90 minutes and at the same time Eric Salomon took over from Louis. The 3 cars ahead of us were a lot faster than Nick’s Lotus 7 with its little 1600cc Toyota motor so I just tried to match his times a closely as possible and not go too fast so that we could do well in the Index competition. I saw Eric standing at the pit wall as I went past so knew they had had a breakdown – 3rd overall now. A few laps later the Juno was parked at the side of the track so we were now in 2nd place. Hennie Trollip was holding out a lap board for me so that I could try to monitor my times and at the end we finished 2nd overall. A bit of good fortune but I have written about preparation before and the first thing to achieve is safety and then reliability – it worked for us last Saturday. We stayed at the track for the Braai and prize giving and were really pleased when it turned out we had come 1st on index as well as 2nd overall.
It was a good weekend.
Matt Nash sent me an e-mail asking if I could write a story about the race of my life. This is not easy as there are so many to choose from – in fact the next race is probably the race of my life as there is a lot of anticipation as to how well it will go. Everything else is just history.
Back to the request – I guess that I have to choose from my Formula Ford racing career as the story is for Matt Nash and his passion about Kent Formula Fords. Two races spring to mind. The first was in 1979 Roy Hesketh. I was in my Royale RP21 and had a really fantastic race with Ian Robinson in the Crossle 25F which I later owned and have written about. We started together on the grid I suppose in about 5th and 6th position and proceeded to swop positions for the whole race. There was never any space of any significance between us and I do not even remember who beat who.
The second has to be one of the races at Goldfields where we always had great slipstreaming duels with several cars involved. On the most memorable occasion I remember there were about 6 cars involved for the whole race with a different leader each lap as it was possible to go from 6th to 1st down the long straight due to the tow you could get in a Formula Ford. On this particular occasion I was in a 1989 Ray and managed to get the last lap perfectly correct for the entry to the long straight and arrived at the end of the straight on the inside with Pierre Luigi Ferro behind me. My thought was I had the race wrapped up until there was a huge bang as I was rammed from behind straight off the track and only came in at the back of the leading group. It did not matter as we had all had a great and enormously exciting race.
I have found it difficult to choose these 2 races as there have been many races I have really enjoyed. On one occasion I chased Basil Mann in the rain in Cape Town for most of a race before going off at Damps and losing touch with him to finish 2nd. We had many great races in East London with its exhilarating long straight with flat out (with a prayer) Potters and Rifle corners in the middle of it. The original Kyalami circuit always produced a group of cars racing for the lead due to its long straights and the slipstream effect making it almost impossible to break away from the following cars.
I hope this will do Matt. As you can see – what is the greatest race? I cannot choose as there have been many which I enjoyed enormously and some which although I did not even finish or had accidents or broke down which have been memorable. I think every time I have driven a race car it has been a great race.
Until next time
As I have said before I first bought a Formula Ford in 1976. The car was a Lotus 61M. I first went out to Kyalami on a test day to try out the car. At that time I had never driven a single seater car of any kind so this was a pretty daunting experience. Time came for the Formula Ford session and after letting all the hotshots of the time leave the pits I ventured out onto the circuit.
Everything was different. The seating position, the firmness of the ride (although soft by modern standards), the gearshift in a very unusual position, the tiny space available to sit and drive in (huge by comparison to a modern car) and the sheer thrill of finally driving a real race car.
I managed to get through the gears and then got to the end of the straight and put on the brakes at what I thought was a reasonable distance from Crowthorne corner and almost had to accelerate again to reach the corner the car slowed so quickly compared to any car I had driven previously.
After a few laps I was settling down and feeling I was going respectably quickly when I was overtaken by 2 cars around the Kink so quickly that they still had time to slow down and go into the pit entrance in front of me. My achievements that day were that I did not crash the car and that my very first flying lap in a race car at Kyalami was under 2 minutes.
At that time Formula Ford was (and still is) a National racing category and so I could not compete in Formula Ford races until I had done 3 regional category races to get my National license. Accordingly, I then entered the Castrol Clubman race for the next race day at Kyalami. This was not very pleasant as most of the cars were really big compared to a Formula Ford and I was not even sure if they could see me at all. Fortunately rules have changed and racing is now only allowed with similar types of cars competing in each race.
In order to get my National License I entered the next club race day at Goldfields Raceway in Welkom. The racing there on club days was very relaxed and I was able to take part in the 2 single seater races as well as the all comers handicap at the end of the day. This gave me 2 more races completed so I was then able to get my National license and I was relieved to not have to do the Castrol Clubman race again.
The old Lotus 61 served me well as a car to start out in and I learnt a lot about racing in general while driving that car. During the next 2 years I took part at Kyalami, Goldfields and Aldo Scribante in Port Elizabeth. I managed to blow the motor and built a new one in my bedroom at the commune where I lived and also managed to put the car side wards through the catch fences at Sunset corner at Kyalami as well as destroy the nose and radiator by running wide coming out of the long sweep at Goldfields and hitting an anthill. There were plenty of those around the circuit at Goldfields.
I eventually sold the Lotus to Andy Jarvis and bought the Royale RP21 which I raced until the end of 1979. The Lotus was very robust and served me well as it turned out to be a very simple and strong car. It had to be as I seemed to do my best to destroy it but it just carried on.
It is quite interesting to me now when I look at the Lotus 23 of Eric Salomon’s how the design of the space frame and suspension on the Lotus 23 was carried forward to the Lotus 61.
Until next time
The last 2 weeks I have written about the car lent to me for the race meeting last Saturday so I will finish the story off this week with a report on how the race weekend went.
Last Friday was a public holiday which suited me very well as I could spend the day at Killarney trying to sort the car and get it usable. As you will have read over the last 2 weeks we had done a lot of work on the car so to finally get to test it was very important. I was confident that the car would be reliable but had no idea of how quick it would be.
The first thing that was a problem was that I had got the seating position completely wrong and could not get my feet onto the pedals without bashing my knees to bits on the chassis tubes. I managed to complete about 5 laps like this but only using 3rd and 4th gears without using the clutch. I could not get my feet onto the clutch and brake pedals at the same time so decided the brake was more important. After the first session I checked the car and there was no oil or water loss and everything was still secure so there were no repairs to be done. I was pleased about that. The motor was not very good but was at least running so I just decided to leave it alone and live with what I had for the weekend.
I ripped out the seat we had made and found some pieces of foam rubber and with the help of Arno Church and some duct tape made up a seat which I thought would give a better driving position.
The next session proved a marginal improvement so used some more foam rubber and duct tape. That was the end of the day so the next drive would be Saturday morning for qualifying. In this session I at least managed to get a bit of a feel for the car and it nearly scared me death when it started weaving like a mad thing at the end of the back straight. I did not know why so went home and decided to think about it overnight and then do something in the morning.
My thoughts on the instability led me to put a little more toe in on the back wheels early the next morning. 3 laps in qualifying showed I was wrong and nothing had changed so I set the toe in back to where it had started out. The next thing I did was start thinking about the tyres so before the first race I increased the rear tyre pressure. I also did more work on trying to fit into the car properly.
The first race showed that increased tyre pressure solved the instability – thankfully. I could still not use the clutch properly so drove the first race using only 3rd and 4th gear again. At least I finished the race without any mechanical problems and without embarrassing myself too badly.
I found a thick foam cushion and put it in the bottom of the car so that I could sit further back and this felt much better. Unfortunately I never got to test it as the next race was cancelled when one of the competitors dropped a whole lot of oil on the starting grid.
I have spoken a lot about race preparation over the last few weeks and unfortunately a bit of incompetence on someone’s part led to the second race being cancelled. This is really disappointing for the rest of the competitors as they have all put in a lot of time, effort and money to race and this all comes to nothing due to a simple mistake by one person. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to make a race car safe and reliable before even thinking about how to make it go quickly.
That is the story of my first single seater race in 14 years. It was a great experience and I am looking forward to driving the car again on the 18th of October. In the meantime I will be sharing a drive with Nick Morgan-Wilson in Port Elizabeth on the 7th September in his Birkin 7.
Until next time
I have written a lot about the Ray RF89 in the last few weeks but please understand that racing this car has now become a very important thing in my life at the moment. I actually felt quite despondent last week as it really looked as though I would not be able to get the car ready. The list of faults was much longer than previously mentioned.
During this week we have worked nonstop on the car and the car is now back on its wheels needing only a set up and seat to be ready to go testing tomorrow. I now feel a lot more enthusiastic about it all and am really looking forward to going to Killarney to test it.
Since the last blog we seem to have been fixing an endless list of errors on the car. Most are really minor but would have been sufficient to stop the car so I am now hopeful of being able to do a few laps tomorrow without any errors – I have been involved with race cars long enough to realize that there will always be something which will need to be fixed but we have done all we can even to the extent of fitting a new accelerator cable and adjusting the pedals to as close as I can determine to my satisfaction. I am sure they will need some altering once I have done a few laps.
The biggest remaining problem is that the distributor is locked at full advance so getting the car to start from cold is very difficult. Once it is warm it is not a problem so we will make do with a push start first thing in the morning.
From a driving point of view I have not driven a single seater car since 1998 or 99 but fortunately have driven Eric’s Elf on several occasions so feel that I will not have much trouble adapting to the car. The Elf is very similar to a single seater in driving position and uses the same gearbox.
Unfortunately I have not been able to get hold of the correct tyres for the car so will be driving it on a set of NA Carrera Slick tyres. I have never driven a Formula Ford on slick tyres in the past so am quite keen to see how it will feel.
It is really nice to have friends who step up to help when help is needed. I do not have a car trailer or tow vehicle so when they heard about the car Hennie Trollip immediately offered me his trailer for the weekend and Alex Wheeler is lending me his Land Rover to tow it. Eric offered use of his pit at Killarney and to come to the race on Saturday to help me. This all meant I could concentrate on getting the car ready and not have to worry about getting there and back and where to work from at Killarney – Thanks all.
I will report on the race and what happens next week. Hope it will all be good news.
Until next time
Last week I wrote about the Ray RF79 (RF89 – thanks Robbo) which has very kindly been lent to me by Reg Anderson. I know that over the last few years he has allowed various people to drive the car on the understanding that they looked after it and made sure it was always ready to race.
Unfortunately the standard of preparation on the car was way below safe to race levels and did not even approach any standard at which I would have been prepared to drive it. We have now been working on the car continuously for over a week and are still finding things which need to be rectified. I think that a lot of the faults lie simply in the fact that whoever was working on the car did not know any better.
Here are some of the faults we have found together with the solutions and possible reasons –
The left front wheel bearings were about to collapse – solution was to fit new ones and the reason is nobody ever checked.
The left front drag link which is 25×25 tube had been tightened onto the rod end with no spacers fitted and the tube was bent and crushed to fit the rod end – nobody knew any better – we had to repair the drag link and then fit the rod end correctly with suitable spacers to make it work properly.
One of the wheel studs on the RH rear wheel was bent and had to be replaced – I have no idea how this could not have been noticed when the wheel was last fitted. We had to remove the hub to fit a new wheel stud and fortunately in doing this discovered that the caliper mounting bracket was cracked and the caliper on the verge of falling off. This took a bit of welding after removing the upright from the car and then a coat of paint and reassembly. Nobody ever checked.
The pinch bolt holding the steering column to the rack was stripped and could not be sufficiently tightened to secure the steering universal joint – that would have been exciting if it had come off – solution was a new bolt and nut.
The upper wishbone outer rod end was completely worn out – fortunately Reg had a good one which we have now fitted.
The brake balance was turned fully to the front and had jammed in that position so tightly that it could not be moved by means of the dashboard adjuster – it had to be freed up and lubricated to get it working again.
On trying to set the valve clearances I discovered that the No2 exhaust valve was barely opening. We had to remove the engine to get the cam out and discovered it was badly worn – the solution was a new cam and set of cam followers.
I still have to refit the motor, check the wheel alignment and do a final check on the car as well as make up a seat as the seat in the car was simply a pile of bits of foam rubber and not very suitable at all.
All of this is not meant to a criticism of those who have worked on the car but more a tale of the errors that can be made when the people working on the car do not have the experience, knowledge or perhaps desire to do any better. I am really glad I had the opportunity to check the car and hope it performs well on the 10th August.
Unfortunately the car should not have been racing in the condition it was and it is perhaps fortunate that nothing broke and caused an accident.
Until next time