Five New Zealand motor racing circuits will feature in a world-wide celebration of historic racing when the Formula Junior Diamond Jubilee reaches our shores in January and February 2017.
More than 50 historic Formula Junior single-seater race cars from overseas are expected to be shipped to New Zealand as part of the international 50th anniversary celebrations of the motor racing formula that started in Italy in 1958. The international competitors join around 30 locally-owned Formula Junior cars to race at the north Waikato’s Hampden Downs, Taupo, Christchurch, Timaru and Invercargill racing circuits.
Terry Collier, who will compete in the New Zealand Formula Junior Diamond Jubilee races and is acting as spokesperson for the group of Kiwi Formula Junior enthusiasts helping organise the New Zealand leg of the celebratory world tour, says: “Formula Juniors were basically scaled down Formula One cars of the period from 1958 to 1963, but built from easily available production car components such as Fiat, Saab, Ford Anglia and Austin A40.
The ‘junior’ positions these cars in reference to the ‘senior’ Formula 1 cars of that era. As well as being miniature Formula One cars the Formula Junior class also straddled an important time in terms of technological changes, in particular, the move from drum to disc brakes and from front to rear engine designs.
“Many well-known international drivers and others including Formula 1 drivers Dennis Hulme, Jim Clark and John Surtees and film actor Steve McQueen competed in Formula Juniors in Europe and the USA.”
Collier notes: “The first two Formula Junior cars to appear in New Zealand in late 1960s were the Cooper BMC T52 imported by Denny Hulme, and raced by Roly Levis, and the Lotus Ford 18 imported by George Palmer for Jim Palmer to drive. Both debuted at the 1961 NZIGP but neither was fast enough to qualify.
“We had and still have a good number of Formula Junior cars in New Zealand; large numbers were raced in the early Tasman Championship era, but fitted with larger engines – a typically Kiwi response!”
As a historic racing category, Formula Junior has a huge following globally. In New Zealand, the Formula Junior Register details the vehicles and tracks the often impressive provenance of the cars.
“Fans can see many, many cars with fascinating pedigrees at the New Zealand races, such as ex-Dennis Hulme Cooper T51 being raced by Kevin Anderson of Christchurch and a Brabham BT2 being driven by John Rapley of Paraparaumu, which was once raced by ‘great train robber’ Roy James.”
The Formula Junior Diamond Jubilee celebrations began earlier this year with races in South Africa then moved to Europe over the past few months with several New Zealanders transporting their cars to race at prestigious events such as the Historic Monaco Grand Prix.
The celebratory world tour reaches Australia in October and November this year before moving to New Zealand in January and February 2017, then going on to North America and finishing in Europe in 2018.
“We’re expecting around 90 Formula Juniors to compete in the events scheduled at Hampton Downs, Taupo, Ruapuna (Christchurch), Levels (Timaru) and Teretonga (Invercargill). These events will also include races for other historic and classic classes featuring local cars and drivers, and we suggest classic and historic racing enthusiasts keep an eye on the circuit websites and social media channels for more information about these events.”
Collier says the New Zealand organisers are delighted that famed New Zealand driver Howden Ganley, who raced for BRM and Williams in Formula 1 in the early 1970s, has been recognised with the invitation to be the international patron for the Formula Junior Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The New Zealand races are supported by Toll Logistics.
“Competitors in each national location will race for a trophy named for a prominent Formula Junior figure from their country. Europe’s is ex-world motorcycle champion and F1 driver Mike Hailwood, Australia’s is Brabham designer Ron Tauranac and New Zealand’s is F1 Champion Dennis Hulme.”