... they still don't carry the same mystique and aural impact of a brightly colored field of Formula Juniors.

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"The track is my canvas. My car is my pencil" - Graham Hill.

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The History of Formula Junior
The right place at just the right time
© for most parts by Kevin Clemens


Sometimes things just line up perfectly, and, without explanation, everything goes right. Such was the case in the late 1950s for a racing class called Formula Junior.
Between the adoption of the class in October 1958 by the CSI (Controller of International Motorsport; now the FIA) and its demise in 1964, Formula Junior changed the face of racing. But it also led a revolution in car design and technology that ushered in a new era in Grand Prix competition. All of this arose from a class of racing that was initially intended to provide an entry level of competition, using the reliable mechanical components from ordinary automobiles. That so many seemingly unrelated factors combined to create such extraordinary success is one of the great tales in the history of motorsports.
Setting The Stage
The highest level of motorsports in the 1950s, as it is now, was Formula One. Grand Prix drivers were the racing heroes of their day, and hairy-chested, front-engine machines from Ferrari, Maserati, Vanwall, Mercedes-Benz and Lancia waged epic battles at circuits like Monaco, Spa and the Nuerburgring. Hairy-chested men like Fangio, Moss, Brooks, Hawthorn, Salvadori and Behra controlled these machines, sliding them on their skinny tires in perfect four-wheel drifts. As early as 1957, Jack Brabham had debuted the rear-engine Cooper-Climax. By 1958, the delicate rear-engine cars were beginning to win races. The handwriting was on the wall, but only a few manufacturers looked up long enough from their drafting tables to see it.
New Drivers Needed
During this same period in the late '50s, motor racing was proving to be an extremely hazardous occupation. For example, within a two-year period Ferrari lost de Portago, Castellotti, Musso and Collins, all from deaths on the racetrack. In Italy, Count Giovganni "Johnny" Lurani recognized that there was a real need for a class of single-seater racing car that would teach young, aspiring hotshoes how to race. Because Lurani was well connected in the motorsports world, his opinions held considerable sway, and his rules for a "Junior Formula" quickly became those for the new international class called Formula Junior.
A Tight Set of Rules
The original Formula Junior rules called for the cars to be powered by production-based engines of 1000cc with a 360kg (792-lb) car or 1100cc with a 400kg (880-lb) car. The block, head and cylinders had to come from a production car; single or twin overhead camshafts, limited-slip differentials and a modification to the number of main bearings were all forbidden. The brakes and transmission had to be production based, although the number of gears could be changed inside a production gearbox casing. Roll bars were also mandatory; this was the first racing class to require these safety items.
The rules were ideal for the Italians, with their popular Fiat 1100 engine. In 1958, there were few other possibilities, except for the 1000cc engine that would be introduced in the new Mini and both the DKW and the Saab three-cylinder two-stroke engines. In England, entry-level formula car racing had been taking place under the Formula III rules for 500cc motorcycle-engined machines, whose development costs for their Norton and JAP engines had skyrocketed. Italy also already had an entry-level series for single-seat racers, and for racers in that country it was a simple matter to convert production over to the new Formula Junior concept. It is not surprising then that the first Formula Juniors came from manufacturers with names like Stanguellini, Volpini, Taraschi, OSCA, Moretti and Bandini.
Front-engine Juniors
The earliest Formula Juniors mirrored the Grand Prix machines of the day, with front-mounted engines and rear-wheel drive. Stanguellinis were particularly attractive, reminiscent of a Grand Prix Maserati 250F. The cars had been tested by Fangio at Modena during its development, and they quickly dominated the first year of Formula Junior competition. Other manufacturers in other countries such as German makers Mitter and Hartmann, both powered by DKW engines, and the French Ferry and DB cars, powered by Renault engines, entered the competitions. Swiss driver and engineer Michael May won the first International Championship for Formula Juniors with his Stanguellini in 1959.
The British were slow to join the move to Formula Junior, but when they finally woke to the possibilities, they did so in a big way. Frank Nichols, builder of Elva sports cars, was one of the first to recognize the impact that Formula Junior would have on the world of racing. He produced the Elva 100 series, a lovely front-engine machine powered by either a BMC A-Series (Sprite and Mini) engine or a two-stroke DKW engine tuned by Mitter in Germany. The Elva was the first Formula Junior to start a British Race (April 1959) and became the first mass-produced British Formula Junior. Other British front-engine machines of the early period included the Gemini, which started life as the Moorland, and the Lola Mk 2.
Cosworth Engineering
At this same time, Keith Duckworth, founder of then tiny Cosworth Engineering, had taken an interest in the new Formula Junior class. Today, we think of Cosworth Engineering as one of the titans of the automotive industry, but back then it was just a couple of talented but broke engineers working in a drafty shed. Duckworth began by looking at the Fiat engine in the Stanguellinis. This interest was immediately redirected when one of his customers, who worked for Ford Motor Company and who was also interested in Formula Juniors, mentioned that the company was about to launch a new short-stroke, small-displacement four-cylinder engine in the new Anglia in the fall of 1959. Duckworth managed to obtain two of the new engines from Ford and was on his way to fame.
Cooper Cars
Because Cooper was already constructing rear-engine Formula One machinery, it made sense that its entry into Formula Junior would have the same configuration. The Cooper T52 first ran at the end of the 1959 season. The cars ran with BMC A-series engines but just didn't seem to have the speed of the fastest front-engine cars. In 1960, it had an even bigger threat from another small but determined British company.
Lotus Blossoms
Colin Chapman got serious about Grand Prix racing in 1958 and '59 with the Lotus Mk. 16, a front-engine car that looked like a smaller version of the Formula One Vanwall. Unfortunately, the Mk. 16 was relatively unsuccessful and unreliable, and even a driver the caliber of Graham Hill was unable to win races.
Meanwhile, Cooper had grabbed the World Championship for Jack Brabham by 1959 with its rear-engine machine. Chapman was desperate and needed something new. The answer was the first rear-engine model for the company, the Lotus Mk. 18. What's more, the resourceful Chapman figured he could build the 18 in three versions: an 1100cc Formula Junior, a 1.5-liter Formula Two and a 2.5-liter Formula One. The Lotus MK. 18 Formula Junior made its debut at the end of the 1959 season and proved successful.
Throughout 1960, Team Lotus led the rear-engine revolution with drivers like Jim Clark and Trevor Taylor taking on all comers in European Formula Junior competition. With a 2.5-liter Coventry Climax engine, the Grand Prix Lotus Mk. 18 was victorious in places like Monaco and Riverside with Stirling Moss driving. The Formula Junior Lotus 18 was powered by the Ford Anglia engine that had been developed by Cosworth Engineering, and suddenly Keith Duckworth had all the orders he needed to keep his fledgling company afloat. The Mk. 18 was so successful that Colin Chapman sold 125 of them, thereby assuring the future of his company. Over the next several years, Lotus built several other successful Formula Juniors, including the 20 and 22 with conventional tubeframe construction and the revolutionary Lotus 27 in 1963 with monocoque configuration.
Front to Back
By the middle of the 1960 Formula Junior season, it was clear that the only way to win would be with a rear-engine machine. Elva and Lola quickly designed rear-engine cars, and others joined the ranks of formula car constructors. By the end of 1960 there were more than 100 manufacturers of Formula Junior racing cars worldwide, and by the end of 1963 this number had increased to close to 500. Cars from Ausper, Merlyn, Brabham, Cooper and Alexis each had their moments in the sun alongside Lotus, Elva and Lola as the fields became more competitive and Formula Junior grew.
The End Is Near
By the end of 1963, whatever stellar alignment had caused the success of Formula Junior began to fall apart. Formula Junior was largely a victim of its own success. As the class grew more competitive, the costs of pulling 85, then 100, and then 120 hp out of an 1100cc engine grew prohibitive. The class ended in England after 1963 and stayed around worldwide for another season or two. It was replaced by Formula 3 for a brief time, but the 10,000-rpm 1000cc engines in that class were even more expensive and less reliable. Ultimately, the more affordable Formula Ford, along with Formula Vee in the U.S., would take Formula Junior's spot as the place to learn about racing a single-seater.
Vintage Formula Juniors
Because Formula Juniors were once so popular and then ended so abruptly, a reasonably large number of them remained stored away in nearly original condition. When vintage racing became popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s, one of the only groups of single-seat racing cars that was eligible to compete were Formula Juniors. For a time, fields of front- and rear-engine Juniors could be seen at most major races.
These are not cars that are inexpensive to race. A typical Formula Junior engine is now pumping out around 120 hp at engine speeds of 8500 rpm and more. Although the block and head is basically a production item, the crankshaft, pistons and rods are all special to withstand those speeds and power outputs. Engines need to be rebuilt every 25 hours of racing, about two seasons for most competitors. Still, owners of these jewel-like racers talk about the sound and feeling the car returns as being well worth the investment.
Driving Impressions
There are really three types of Formula Juniors, each with its own driving experience. The front-engine cars are not as quick as the later rear-engine cars but are very attractive to look at. The classic front-engine, rear-drive layout makes the cars incredibly forgiving and easy to drift on their skinny tires. Driving a front-engine Junior makes anyone look like a hero, allowing long, satisfying four-wheel drifts as the car slides masterfully through the corners.
Early rear-engine Formula Juniors such as the Lotus 18 combine the best parts of the front-engine cars with the advantages of a compact, rear-engine design. These cars change direction almost instantly and are supremely neutral right up to their limits. The older cars provide plenty of space, even for somewhat larger drivers, and the extremely light quick-ratio steering means that no more than a half-turn of steering input is ever required. Oversteer and understeer can be regulated in mid-corner with the throttle. The engines are powerful and sing lustily above 7000 rpm. The Hewland gearbox that most Formula Juniors run is actually a five-speed unit built into a Volkswagen case to meet the letter of the rules. The non-synchronized gears slide easily together and don't require the use of the clutch, except when starting or stopping.
For the last versions of the Formula Junior in 1962 and '63, designers were faced with trying to make their cars even faster. The engines were already stressed to their limits, and the wheels and tires were restricted, so the only solution was to create a more aerodynamically slippery package. This was accomplished by laying the drivers down onto their backs to greatly reduce the car's frontal area. Unfortunately, this also limited the amount of space available, and larger drivers usually have problems fitting into later Formula Juniors.
The Future
The future of Formula Junior in vintage racing lies to a great extend in the hands of the FJHRA. The FJHRA today provides one of the most desirable racing calendars in Vintage Racing with fields of 50 cars and more at their events. The history of racing is filled with false starts and mistakes, and the evolution of Formula Junior represents the essence of motor racing's most interesting period. At this time, Formula Ford and Formula Vee enjoy increased popularity, however as appealing and affordable as those formula racers may be, they still don't carry the same mystique and aural impact of a brightly colored field of Formula Juniors.

Racing 2012

F.I.A. Lurani Trophy

* March 24th-25th Monza
* April 14th-15th Hockenheim Historic*
* June 22nd-24th Dijon*
* June 30th-Juy 1st Brands Hatch
* Aug. 10th-12th Nuerburgring*
* Sep. 1st-2nd Red Bull Ring
* Oct. 6th-7th Mugello

Non-Championship

* March 31st Donington
* May 5th-6th Pau
* May 29th Bergamo Historic
* June 11th Snetterton
* July 20th-22nd Silverstone Classic
* Sept. 14th-16th Goodwood
* Oct. 18th-21st Algarve


We plan to visit the marked events.


Visit: "www.formulajunior.com"




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