I have been fortunate enough to have driven a lot of different Kent Formula Ford cars. One of my favorite cars is the Royale RP21.
I started racing in 1976 with a Lotus 61. This was a great car but after 2 years with it I wanted something more competitive so bought the Royale RP21 which had belonged to Clive Cook from Natal. This was early 1978. I drove to Umhlanga Rocks just north of Durban to have a look at the car and arranged to buy it. The car came with an old Continental truck which was equipped as a transporter so I then arranged to fly to Durban the following week and drive it back to Johannesburg. I left Durban at about 10.00am thinking I would be back in Johannesburg in the early evening but after the Truck broke down several times and consumed petrol at an alarming rate if I drove at anything over 100 kilometers per hour I eventually only got back some time the next morning. This did not detract at all from the excitement of now owning a competitive Formula Ford and I could not wait to get to Kyalami and test the car.
I raced that car for the next 2 years and then sold it to Barry Neunborn when I decided to go and try my luck racing in England. At that time Graham Duxbury won the Championship driving a similar car. It was a great car and I had a lot of fun and gained a lot of experience driving it. It was a sad day when Barry collected the car and it was no longer part of my life. Or so I thought!
15 years later I retired from racing single seater racing and thought that was that but not so. Nino Venturi offered me the use of his Royale RP 21 for the first race at Kyalami in 1995. This was in fact the very same car so after 15 years it was a pleasure to be driving my old car once again. I was not intending to compete for the whole year in 1995 but when Nino said I could use the car for the season I quickly changed my mind. Together with Bruce Stradling who had been helping me quite a bit we went to all the races in 1995 and I won the class B championship that year.
I had 2 accidents with the car that year. The first was at Kyalami on the Friday morning of the first time I drove it. The RH rear stub axle broke at turn 2 and I was then a passenger. Fortunately I had an old stub axle from a PRS which I was able to modify and fit in time for the race the next day. The second was at Zwartkops later in the year. I spun in the middle of the drive in sweep and was hit by Ian Shrosbree who just had nowhere to go with me in the middle of the road. This time I was not able to repair the car in time for the race the next day but was fortunate that Ian Smith gave me his Van Diemen to race the next day. Most probably if Ian had not given me his car to race I would not have won the championship that year. Thanks Ian if you ever read this.
That day in 1995 saw one of the most amazing drives I have witnessed in Formula Ford when Reghard Roets in his Gestetner Van Diemen drove from the back of the field after having to start last on the grid and came through to win the race.
Until next time
I have been very fortunate in the last few days as Tandy and I were in Italy on holiday. Most people go to Italy to look at old buildings and various forms of ancient art. We find this very interesting but sometimes there is just too much of it so we always ensure that we fit in a couple of visits to motor museums of any sort we can find. We managed to visit the Ferraricasa Museum in Modena as well as the Moto Guzzi Museum in Mandello del Lario on this trip. Both of these are very worth visiting.
The Ferrari Museum is not only about Ferrari but is about the history F1 racing. The displays include most makes of F1 cars from the last 70 or so years and especially examples of the championship winning and technically advanced cars of their time. The building itself is very futuristic and impressive but the collection of cars and engines is truly amazing. I really enjoyed the visit there.
The Moto Guzzi Museum in Mandello del Lario is an absolute must for any motorcycle enthusiast and for most Motorsport enthusiasts. The collection of motorcycles on display range from the very first Moto Guzzi ever built up to the current production bikes. In between are numerous examples of the competition GP bikes built and raced by Moto Guzzi. These include many layouts and configurations which I did not even know had been made or raced by Moto Guzzi. There are inline four cylinder, transverse 3 cylinder, vee twin and single cylinder GP bikes of all sizes from 75cc 2 stroke to 1000cc 4 strokes. The absolutely most amazing bike is the 500cc Vee 8 Grand Prix bike from the late 1950’s. It is incredible how compact the engine and gearbox is and the entire unit with 4 overhead camshafts and 8 carburetors fits inside a fairing no wider than the 2 cylinder bikes in the museum. I think the fairing width is determined by the width of the rider more than by the engine and bike. To top it all, Mandello del Lario is north of Milan on Lake Como and the area is really breathtakingly beautiful and well worth a visit. We managed to stay in a b&b called Antica Officina which is run by the grandson of the town blacksmith who helped with the production of the very first Moto Guzzi built and it was built in the cellar of the present guest house. Gianni is very enthusiastic and we had a great time talking to him and hearing all the history of the town and the history of Moto Guzzi. The guest house is very nicely laid out and is immaculately clean. I would recommend this guest house to anyone visiting the area. In my next post I will get back to writing about my Motorsport experiences.
Until next time Dave Sinclair
I had a very nice but unexpected comment posted on the blog by Matthew Nash a few days ago. He has started a Facebook Page (I do not know if that is the correct term) about Kent Formula Ford in South Africa. He suggested that I join and share some of the stories on Facebook. As I replied to him, I do not do the Facebook, twitter social media thing at all and am really pushing the boundaries of my internet information sharing by writing this blog. Matthew if you would like some stories please make some suggestions and I will write them here and you are very welcome to copy them to facebook. I can even scratch for old photos and post them here and you can use those as well.
Matthew did remind me of a trip I did to Cape Town with Alistair Gibson. The important part of the trip was actually the return from Cape Town. We were using my old 3 l Cortina bakkie and towing the race car on a trailer and all was going well until we got to about 300 km from Johannesburg. Suddenly the engine went from being a V6 to some configuration of V5. We stopped and found the culprit cylinder but could not do anything about it so took off the tappet cover to find there was a bent pushrod. We took the pushrods out of the culprit cylinder and decided to press on with 5 cylinders running – only 300 km to go after all!!!!
This all went well for about 100 km at which stage the engine started to tighten up so we stopped to let it cool down for a bit and then got going again. After a few km it started to tighten up again and shortly I had my foot hard on the gas but we were going slower and slower. At this stage I said to Alistair it was the end of the road and selected a lower gear and full throttle to keep going. After about 100m there was a loud bang and everything ground to a stop. Alistair ran back down the road and collected a con rod cap off the tar. We thought this all very hilarious until we started to think of a way to get home.
Fortunately Steve Roussouw was behind us on the road towing his son Mike’s car. He stopped to see what was going on and no problem to him simply tied a tow rope from the back of their trailer to the front of my bakkie and off we went with a promise from Steve to keep the speed down. No chance.
We were soon doing about 120 Kph with a really out of control combination of car – trailer – bakkie – trailer making a total length I would guess of about 30 m. This was all pretty scary especially when Steve started overtaking cars on the road and then forgetting about us behind him and pulling in front of the cars he had just overtaken. At one stage Alistair was hanging out of the passenger windows shouting at unsuspecting drivers to get out of the way.
We all made it safely back to Johannesburg after a rather tense 200 km of driving. Out of all the trips I have done towing race cars I think those 200 km were the most dramatic by far.
This blog all started with Matthew’s facebook page of Legends of Kent Formula Ford. It is well worth having a look at some of the photographs there. I cannot advise how to find it but am sure it cannot be too difficult. I simply got my wife to look for it – very easy.
Until next time
Over the last few years I have been amazed at the amount of ignorance shown by people in motorsport of the term compression ratio and how to measure it correctly.
In a piston engine the compression ratio is the ratio between the volume of the cylinder and combustion chamber when the piston is at the bottom of its stroke and the volume of the combustion chamber when the piston is at the top of its stroke.
The volume at the top of the stroke is made up of the combustion chamber in the head, the volume contained in the head gasket and the volume (either positive or negative) in the crown of the piston when at top dead center. This will be referred to as the combustion chamber volume from here on. The volume at the bottom of the stroke is all the above with the swept volume added on.
The swept volume of a 4 cylinder engine is the engine displacement divided by 4 or in other words 400cc for a 1600cc engine. I should point out that this may not be accurate and this volume should be checked by measuring the bore size and calculating the swept volume. The reason for this is that the swept volume will change each time the engine is rebored or modified for oversize pistons. It is a simple bit of arithmetic to calculate the swept volume once the bore and stroke dimensions are known.
The calculation for compression ratio now becomes very simple and is as follows:
Compression Ratio = (Swept Volume + Combustion Chamber Volume) /Combustion Chamber Volume.
All that remains is to get accurate measurements for the 3 components making up the Combustion Chamber. The only way to this is by using a burette to measure the volume in the head and in the top of the piston. The procedure is as follows:
Cylinder head – Remove the valves and lightly grease the valve seats and refit them. Carefully clean off any excess grease in the combustion chamber. Fit the spark plug. Lightly grease the face of the cylinder head and place a flat glass or perspex plate over the combustion chamber. This plate must have hole in it of about 8mm. Using a burette fill the chamber with a suitable fluid until all the air is excluded through the hole in the plate. The volume contained in the combustion chamber can now be read off the burette.
Piston – With the crankshaft, conrod and piston fitted to the block turn the crank until the piston is about halfway up the bore. Grease the bore and then turn the crank until the piston is at TDC. Clean off the surplus grease and measure the volume using the same procedure as for the chamber in the head.
Gasket – measure the head gasket diameter and thickness and then calculate the volume contained in the head gasket.
The total combustion chamber volume is the total of these 3 measurements all added together.
On some engines the piston protrudes above the block when at tdc. In this case use a dial indicator and do the measurement with the piston sufficiently down the bore that the top does not protrude. Calculate the volume of the imaginary disc created by turning the piston down the bore and subtract this from the burette reading. This may result in a negative value which is quite common and makes no difference to the way the calculations are done.
I hope this clarifies the procedure.
Until next time
Over the years of racing Formula Fords I always did my best to comply with the rules – especially the technical rules. I did not always manage to be perfect and for various reasons I did contravene the rules on 2 occasions and was once excluded from the results.
The first time this happened was in 1978 in the first race after I bought my Royale RP21. After the race at Kyalami the first 6 cars were impounded. We were asked by Geoff Hills (The AA scrutineer at the time) to remove the engines from our cars and load them on his bakkie. We were told to be at his workshop the next morning to strip the engines for checking. One of the rules at the time was that the valve rockers were not allowed to be modified in any way at all. Unknown to me as I had not even opened the engine at the time, the valve rockers in my engine had been refaced by the previous owner of the car. Geoff knew this and told me to get the problem rectified. I was not penalized in any way as he said there was no advantage and he knew that I had not done it.
The second time I ran into a technical problem was on my return from racing in the UK. I purchased the ex works Royale RP31 and the first time I raced it here I was hauled in by Maurice Rosenberg and again together with a few other competitors was required to strip the engine. At this time the rules had been changed and the valve rocker faces were allowed to be worked on but a maximum valve lift was specified. The Minister engine in the Royale had 2 valves which exceeded the legal lift by about 3 thousandths of an inch and for this I was excluded from the results. The engine at this time had not been opened since being built by Minister in the UK. The rules were changed before the next meeting and if the check had been made after the next race day I would not have been illegal.
The only other close call I had was when the cars were weighed after a race meeting and my car was underweight. I had had a minor incident during the race and one of the radiator side pods had been damaged. Fortunately I had a spare side pod and was able to show that with an undamaged side pod fitted the car would have been within the minimum weight limit. This was a bit too close for my liking and after that I always carried a bit extra ballast just in case.
Several years later Graham Blankfield was excluded from the results when the engine I had built was found to not comply with the rules. On this occasion I had slipped up and the bowls in the pistons had been machined too deep. The piston bowls had to be machined to achieve the correct compression ratio but I had simply made them deeper than the rules allowed. Most probably there was no performance gain but the pistons did not comply with the rules. I was extremely embarrassed about this but could not do anything other than machine a new set of pistons to correct the error. Graham was pretty understanding about the whole thing and we just had to put it behind us.
One thing I have always done is accept the decisions of the scrutineers and stewards (perhaps some discussion took place each time) and not carried the matter forward to protests and appeals. I just feel it is much better to get on with things and try to learn from the errors made.
I think that each of these infringements was pretty minor and do not feel that it constituted an attempt to cheat in any way at all unlike occasions where I have seen modified camshafts, stroked crankshafts and offset bores used to try to gain more power.
Until next time
This topic has been suggested by Nick Morgan-Wilson – thanks Nick. The other topics he suggested were –
The satisfaction of getting it done right the first time lasts longer than the memory of the bill.
Heat cycles in tyres, when do we take the dip and splash out with a new set of slicks?
These topics are all pertinent to Nick’s case. He started racing a Seven in Sports and GT races at Killarney I think in late 2011. The car was a standard Birkin with a Toyota 4AGE 16 Valve motor. He blew and damaged his 2 motors on several occasions. I discussed the requirements with him and we did some improvements – a nice alloy radiator solved the overheating and an oil cooler helped with the very high oil temperatures. Neither of these changes helped with the ratty old carburetors or the oil surge experienced with the standard wet sump – they were not expected to!!
Nick then decided to go all the way and convert the car to a reliable race car. After some discussion we decided to fit a Toyota Black Top 20 valve motor with all the engine management, dry sump, light flywheel and front pulley required to make it a reliable runner.
Being the way he is, once we started on the job Nick kept coming in with more and more changes he wanted so that in addition to fitting, wiring and plumbing the motor we ended up rebuilding the gearbox, fitting better front brake calipers and discs, modifying the fuel tank and tail lights (purely cosmetic), fitting a proper race seat and making lighter engine mounts. I am sure there were more changes along the way but these were the major changes made.
The end result has been a really nice car which he has now been racing since October 2012. He has now taken part in 3 sprint race days at Killarney and the 3 hour race in Port Elizabeth in November last year with no problems at all other than a broken gearbox – selecting reverse while racing tends to do that.
So back to the topic- the car is now nicely prepared – I need to start work on the driver. I have spent some time with Nick analyzing his data logger information and making suggestions on where to improve his performance and the nice thing is he has listened and is starting to drive better and better. I can only suggest to him that he improves his fitness and physique to save about 20 kg on the all up weight of car and driver. Hope he listens to that bit.
The whole exercise cost a lot of money but still works out cheaper in the long run than blown motors and repeated failure to finish races. Let’s hope the satisfaction outlives the memory of the bill.
Heat cycles in tyres – difficult to give a finite answer as it all is dependent on the performance level sought after. There is no doubt that race slicks are quickest when new and deteriorate all the time with usage. What is needed is to know at what point the deterioration becomes unacceptable and then fit new tyres. This could be every race in a serious national category such as Formula Ford and Production cars or could be 6 or 8 meetings in Sports and GT club racing where the rules are such that the cars are not equal in the first place and most people are there to have as much fun as possible.
I think I have touched on all the topics Nick suggested and hope that someone somewhere gains some useful information from this story I have written. Good luck.
Until next time
I really enjoy almost any form of motorsport and have had enormous fun over the last few years driving cars in endurance racing with friends and even driving Eric’s Elf in 2 sprint race in East London but Single Seater racing is to me the purest form of racing and the one most important to me. When I get into any race car it is a thrill but getting into a Single Seater brings on a change and focus which cannot be compared to any other form of racing. That is my opinion anyway and I am sure a lot of people will not agree with me.
Anyway, this is the reason that when I moved to Cape Town and was asked by Armein Levy to help start Formula Libra racing here I agreed to do so. Between Armein, myself and a few others we managed to get Formula Libra racing going and well supported in Cape Town. This lasted for several years and provided quite a lot of good racing. One of the good things about Formula Libra is that there are no technical rules and the cars compete in classes based on the lap times they manage to achieve. This makes it unnecessary to have any technical scrutineering for compliance with rules and keeps everything very simple.
Formula Libra in Cape Town eventually fell apart when the Formula Vee competitors wanted their rules and the Formula Ford competitors wanted their rules and so on. I was very much opposed to this as I felt it would only complicate the class. When I brought up the issue of having to strip engines after the races to ensure compliance with the regulations I was told it would not be necessary as the drivers all said they would not cheat. Believe that if you wish.
Sadly it all fell apart and there has been no single Seater racing in Cape Town for several years now.
I was delighted to see in the race program on Saturday that there is a new Single Seater category being introduced. I do not know many of the people involved but wish them all the best and really hope they create a strong class and get lots of support in this new class.
For anyone who wishes to get more information the contact given in the program is Sean le Rice and his number is 0836510832.
I have known Reg Anderson for many years and it seems he is putting one of his cars on the grid. Reg has several cars all in pieces but is very capable assembling a nice race car. I am not sure that he even knows how many cars he has.
All the best to a new category in the Western Cape
Until next time