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50 YEARS OF THE FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL

by Alan Bowles & Darren Banks

2022 review by James Loveridge

“50 Years of The Formula Ford Festival” by Alan Bowles & Darren Banks is the story of the late-season race meeting that has traditionally crowned the Formula Ford series of races each year.

Motor racing has always been a pretty expensive pastime. If you were wealthy then there obviously was no problem. If you were a skilled mechanic like the RAC Tourist Trophy-winning Freddie Dixon with his Rileys then you could probably manage to keep the costs down. If you were neither some other way of participating had to be found.

In the 1920s and 30s one such way was to race mildly tuned production sports cars although these became increasingly sophisticated, culminating in the rapid Murray Jamieson supercharged Austin Sevens.  After World War Two the motorcycle-engined 500cc Formula was created as an attempted low-cost entry into “proper” circuit racing, and Count “Johnny” Lurani followed this well trodden path with the invention of Formula Junior in the late 1950s.

These efforts did not, of course, totally satisfy the demand so in 1967 Geoff Clarke and John Webb of Brands Hatch fame together with the help of the Ford Motor Company devised the Formula Ford 1600 class. The object was competitive but low-cost, or at least lower-cost, motor racing. The initial intent was to find a suitable car for use in Clarke’s Racing Driving School. The specification was the least number of restrictions and “fancy” bits on the car, and a large number of the components were standard production items. As long as the car had the appropriate, in the 1967 Regulations, Ford Cortina engine and was built to the then RAC racing regulations it was acceptable. Interestingly the regulations stipulated that the car must not cost more than £1,000. This new class was also intended as an entry-level formula between Karting and Formula 3.

The success of Clarke and Webb’s concept was soon proved but whether they imagined Formula Ford would be the worldwide success it has been, with it still being run today, is questionable.

As part of its success the Formula Ford Festival was organised in 1972 and the Golden Jubilee event was held in 2022. This book celebrates that achievement. It has always been held towards the end of the season so usually presents some interesting conditions to the drivers. Over the years several constructors have built cars, amongst them being Lola, Lotus, Van Diemen, Royale, Reynard, Merlyn and Crosle’; even Dan Gurney made one in the USA, the Eagle, though clearly the maximum £1,000 cost was soon abandoned.

Many later successful drivers drove Formula Fords, amongst them Michael Schumacher. The names of Johnny Herbert, Roland Ratzenberger, Eddie Irvine, Jan Magnussen, Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson appear in the list of Festival winners.

This book is a collection of memories, reminiscences, and tributes with 52 of those involved at one time or another making their contributions. Graceful tributes are given to some drivers who sadly lost their lives.

Whilst this book may seem to be of somewhat limited appeal it does give a fascinating picture of what it was and is like to be involved in such a well supported and successful part of motor racing. It is well worth reading.

Publisher:Douglas Loveridge Publications, Moss View, 85 Warburton, Emley, Yorkshire, HD8 9QP

Price: £35.00 plus £5 p&p directly from the publishers.

Description:   175  pages, Hardback with dust jacket.  Photos in black & white and colour.

ISBN: 978-1-9001 13-19-9


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