Last weekend – 2nd December 2017 was a really special occasion at Kyalami. Formula Ford celebrated 50 years of racing in South Africa!! Quite an achievement!!
My story goes back several months to when I was first told this was going to happen. I told a few people I would attend if I could find a car to compete in. Reg Anderson jumped in and delivered a part built Royale RP24 to me and said “It is ready to race. Just check it over and race it.” This was a really generous offer but the car needed too much work and I just did not have time to complete it. Thanks Reg for the offer – very much appreciated.
After this I told Matt Nash I would not be attending the event. He did not like that idea and about an hour later called to say he had a car for me. I was not that keen so he said he also had a sports car for me for the 1 hour endurance race. My reaction was that he was playing dirty and I told him so. That was not the end of his devious behavior – he then sent a text message to Tandy and told her what he had organized and that took all the decisions out of my hands – thanks Matt for persevering. We all had a great weekend and I would have regretted it if I had not been there.
Seeing as I had the use of one of Matt’s cars for the endurance race I called Eric Salomon who I have raced with in his car this whole year and offered him a share of the drive for the endurance race and he jumped at the opportunity.
On to the story of the weekend.
Tandy, Eric and I caught an early flight to JHB on Friday morning, collected a hire car and arrived at Kyalami at about 10.00am. All the Formula Fords were parked in the pits when we arrived and made a really impressive as well as emotional sight – about 40 old and new cars as well as a lot of people I had not seen for years including Piet who worked for me in JHB at the time I relocated to Cape Town. Piet had the car all ready to go so I jumped in and headed off for the first practice – bad news as the car had a serious misfire. This carried on for the rest of Friday, Qualifying and the first heat on Saturday. Fortunately for me Alan Grant had run bearings in his motor and was unable to take part in the racing so his car became a source of parts for me. First the carburetor – did not help! And then after the first heat the distributor – solved the problem. I had a great if not very competitive drive in the second heat and that made the whole weekend worthwhile. Thanks Alan for your generosity.
In the meantime the sports car took a bit of a backseat and the first drive I had in it was the warm at about midday on Saturday – 4 laps. Eric took on the task of practicing with it and doing the qualifying. Eric did the first half hour and we changed drivers and I did the second half hour. I was quite glad when the flag came out as the last 3 laps were totally in the dark. The car ran like a clock all weekend and was easy and relaxed to drive. A few more laps and some setting up would probably have helped but it was a great end to the day’s events.
Thanks to all who helped organize the event – no names in case I forget someone. It was fantastic to meet a lot of my fellow racers from years gone by.
An especially big thanks to Matt Nash for all his organizing of the event as well as the cars for Eric and I to drive.
Maybe there will be a next time
The first regional race meeting of the year took place last weekend in Cape Town. It seems to have been a long break as I was not able to compete in the Historic meeting at the beginning of February.
As seems to have become normal I was only able to collect the Ray RF89 Formula Ford 2 weeks before the race and once again due to work pressure did very little to it for this event. If I can just improve the car a little for each time I drive it then that will have to do.
For this event I managed to remove all the Barge board which was fitted to the underside of the car and this certainly made it look a lot better and much tidier – it looks like a Formula Ford again.
The other thing was to make a seat which worked. I did this in the traditional way wearing old clothes and using a plastic bag and expanding polyurethane foam. The foam is very sticky and if it gets on your clothes it never comes off again. I have never had a wax for hair removal but if the foam gets on your skin then removing it takes the hair with it so I would imagine it is something similar. The bottom line is you do not want the bag to leak foam on you or your clothes. Anyway it went well and I now have good seating position and can finally drive the car in relative comfort.
The third thing I did was to remove the gears to see what was fitted in the gearbox. The ratios fitted were no good at all and so a call to Reg Anderson resulted in a far better set of ratios and the gearbox was reassembled. This also cured the gearbox oil leak!!
I drove the car in Qualifying on Saturday morning and all went well. As I had not done any work on the engine it was still as slow as ever but quick enough to have a lot of fun.
I started 7th in the first heat and ended up 4th so was happy with that result. In the second heat the car developed fuel starvation to such an extent that if I ran full throttle down the straight it would cut out so I used only 3rd and 4th gears and just nursed the car to the end of the race. Not sure where I finished in the 2nd heat but at least I finished.
The onset of the fuel starvation has got me thinking that perhaps the poor engine performance has been due to fuel starvation all the time so my plan is to go to Killarney next week and check the fuel pump and filter and see if I can locate the fault and then do a few laps and see what happens. Hennie Trollip has said he will come with me as he is very keen to try the car having driven only his Lotus 7 up to now. Should make for a good afternoon one day next week.
Until next time
The year has started out incredibly busy and I have not had much time to do a new post for my blog so thought it about time seeing as last weekend was the historic Race Meeting at Killarney.
The whole day provided some great racing and there were some truly spectacular vehicles there.
Some of my favorite vehicles are the old race bikes and there was a superb collection there of old Isle of Man bikes from the Paddy Driver AJS to a 250 4 cylinder Honda from about 1968. Among the others were a Lola T70, Chevron B19, Ford Galaxy and more.
As usual my favorite form of racing is the single seaters and there were 2 categories on the day. The first was called Wings and Slicks and was aimed at attracting the Formula Atlantic cars. Unfortunately to make up the numbers it was necessary to invite the Western Province Formula Libre cars to race with them. It did make for good racing and well done to Reg Anderson for winning one heat in his Swift Formula GT1 car.
The second was for Historic F1 cars as well as Historic Formula Fords. In fact it was probably for almost any Historic Single Seater of any description. The racing again was superb with tight groups of cars providing several good races in the field.
The best car of the day to me was a Lotus 61. The car as regular readers will know was the first race car I owned. I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend of mine, Alan Grant, who bought the car and then rebuilt it. I do not know how long it took him but the end result is a truly beautifully rebuilt car as close to the original specifications as possible. Some things that were done in the Sixties are no longer allowed on safety grounds but these necessary changes did not detract from the car at all.
The car is painted orange which is the colour my first car was so it really appealed to me. The question of course asked of me was if it was my old car or not. I can adamantly state that it was not. I know this because I put my car through the catch fences at Sunset bend at Kyalami and damaged the frame on the LH side in the cockpit area and this car showed no sign of any repairs having been done.
I have been asked to go and look at a car John Amm has bought to see if that is my old chassis. I will do that in the next few weeks.
The first race for Formula Libre is at the beginning of March so I have collected the Ray 89F from Killarney and am now deciding what work I need to do on it. That will be my race car project for the next few weeks.
Until next time
I come from a family who were not supporters of Motorsport at all and yet despite this I know – but do not remember – that I was taken to Gunners Circle in the early 1950’s to a race meeting. I know this because my father used to take 16mm movies of most family events and there was some footage of me with race cars circulating in the background. I suspect we went because my Uncle John who lived in Cape Town was a car enthusiast.
The next incident I recall was in junior school drawing pictures of racing cars which by my recollection looked like old front engine Ferrari’s and Vanwall’s. I guess I was in about grade 3 at the time. There was a travelling library bus which used to visit Northcliff Primary school once every week and I used to always look for stories and autobiographies of the race drivers of the time and so read about Mike Hawthorn and Manuel Fangio amongst others. I also read autobiographies of several of the WW2 fighter pilots.
All through my junior school years I followed as much about motor racing as possible – it was not as easy then as it was not really a big international sport as it is now. I do remember building a plastic model of the Lotus 25 driven by Jim Clark and Lotus and Jim Clark were my favorite team and driver for many years. I was a big Lotus fan up until they discontinued participation in F1.
The second time I remember going to a race meeting was at Killarney. My mother, brother and I were staying at my Gran’s house in Kenilworth and I used to get really bored there so one Saturday morning I decided to go to the races and dragged my brother out. We walked to the bus stop, caught a bus into Cape Town and them a bus to Milnerton which was as close as we could get to Killarney by bus. There must have been a bit of a panic in Kenilworth as when we got off the bus in Milnerton my cousin Michael was waiting for us with a car and he took us to Killarney and then back to Kenilworth later.
The next time I went to a race meeting was the Kyalami Autumn Trophy in 1964 and the 9 hour endurance race also in 1964.
At the same time I was learning to drive on the back roads of honeydew and together with a school friend Walton Imrie I built a Go Kart and managed to get some old dilapidated motorcycles running to bash around in the veld. The motorcycles were never kept at my house but always stayed at Walton’s house. I must have been 16 by then as I used to go there on my first motorcycle.
Every year from 1964 to 1968 I went and camped at Kyalami for the 9 hour endurance race. This was always great fun as there were a group of us from school who did it together. We had to take turns in persuading one of our parents to take us there Friday afternoon and collect us on Sunday morning. Several of my school friends failed Grade 11 and stayed back for a year so when I went to camp at the 9 hour in 1968 they did not join me. I went despite being only a few weeks away from writing my Matric exams. I suppose that shows one of 2 things – how mad I was about motorsport or how disinterested I was about school – or maybe both.
My Mother’s middle name is and my grandmothers maiden was Serriet and despite being told they were related to Doug Serrurier who built the LDS race cars in the early 1960’s I have never met him and to the best of my knowledge nobody in my immediate family knows him at all. At times I was tempted to go to him and introduce myself and find out if the relationship was in fact correct but somehow just never plucked up the courage to do it.
Have a great Christmas and New Year and I will be back next year with more stories.
Until next time
Linda Doyle says:
December 13, 2013 at 11:57 pm (Edit)
Hi, I am really enjoying your blog. I grew up next to the racing tracks, as my dad was Matt Keyser, and would love to read more about the era. As a child you make up a different sense of things…. And I do remember hearing your name dropped in conversations.
This comment was really nice to receive and unfortunately Linda I did not even know Matt had a daughter. Hope all the times you heard my name dropped it was only good things. I will try to write more about that era.
I was going to write more about my life this week but decided instead to write about the Formula Libre race at Killarney instead. Probably more interesting anyway.
I was fortunate enough to again have the use of Reg Anderson’s Ray 89F. Since I last raced it the car has stood at Killarney and had no work done on it at all so I went to fetch it about a week before the race to give it a bit of a check over and to do some repairs and maintenance.
One of the weakest points on these cars is the top front wishbone outer rod end. When we raced in Nationals with these cars we replaced the rod end regularly and I had no idea of how long the ones in the car had been used for so I imported some new ones and this was my top priority to get done before I raced the car again.
The list of repairs I did was as follows:
New top rod ends left and right
Modify the steering rack to give more steering lock
Remove the diffuser fitted under the gearbox and correct the installation of the rear pull rods so that the rear springs had some clearance to the CV joints
Replace the broken LH CV joint boot
Set the wheel alignment
Try to improve the seating position.
We had been very busy at work and I was trying to get all this done between customer jobs which had to be given priority but eventually by Friday morning the day before the race all was done. Hennie Trollip was kind enough to assist by using his bakkie and trailer and we took the car back to the circuit on Friday afternoon and left it there ready for qualifying on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning Tandy and I left Gordons Bay early and got to Killarney about an hour before Qualifying. The car ran fine and seemed to handle a bit better but the seating position was still very uncomfortable. I had managed to get the back support correct but had not had time to do anything about the leg support at all so was sliding forward in the cockpit and my legs were banging from side to side against the chassis tubes. It was good enough for the day and I decided to just put up with it.
Formula Libre had a reasonable field for the end of year race and put on a pretty good show. Well done Reg and Sean for winning heats one and two respectively and well done to all those who entered and took part. Let’s hope for more support next year. I was pleasantly surprised to find I won 2 trophies on the day as it was not expected.
The poor seat support resulted in me having very bruised knees on Sunday morning and so it took a couple of days to get over that but all is well again. The hammering taken in the car seems much worse than it seemed 20 years ago – Cannot think why !!
Reg has promised me the car for next year so I need to get the engine rebuilt as it is a bit of a donkey and find a proper seat to put in so that I can drive properly. Hopefully I will have time before the next race to get this done.
Until next time
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.