John Morrison’s HARDDRIVERS….

SCRAPBOOK

WELCOME to this, my extreme auto-enthusiast’s blog site …

1973 to 1976

Perhaps these were my most formative years as a reasonably serious on-track competitor. I see so little record of what went on in the UK as part of Volkswagen GB’s motorsport history about this time. So this will bore the pants off you! Of course, again these are my views so accuracy is at a premium. Nevertheless …

1973

Around 1969, after working as a junior car salesman, a few years having just left school, I moved from Moores of Brighton (1924) Limited to Malaya Garage, Billingshurst. During my time in Brighton, I had met and raced for FRC Boothby who had a pair of tatty Lotus 17 Coventry Climax sports racing cars which were actually very sweet competitive little cars. I had enjoyed my first few outing in Private races at Motor Racing Stabled at Brands Hatch where I had made good progress and competed well. However this was paid for my Birthday & Xmas presents from my family so could not continue. In the Lotus, we won a few races (including an event on the Brands Hatch mini-circuit!) and secured some new lap records all which fired Fred Boothby up to the extent we looked at going Formula Three. This was such an ambitious step as we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but nevertheless, we managed a couple of season’s learning just how competitive this junior international formula was but without any success. Again, the money ran out and the F3 Tecno was sold on. This left us nothing to race so my best friend Bruce Croskin and his Dad and my Dad went 50/50 on a really terrifying Modsport Spridget & also the setting up of a private race school at Goodwood. More on that saga here … My first race car experiences.

Malaya Garage was a small multi franchised site owned by Malcolm Bridgeland and run by Ian Williams with a Mercedes showroom and secondhand centre in the pretty Sussex village. Interestingly, it was my first brush with used Porsche (911T) & Ferraris (Lusso) too. There was a fairly strong racing pedigree being created with a Ford GT40 being run from there. They made it clear though, that I was wasn’t going to be any part of that programme, so in fact I returned to Moores of Brighton and the selling of Jaguar, Rolls & Bentley and latterly, West Brom’ Jensons as well, for a few months before leaving for the little business created at Goodwood called M&S International. We had a workshop and a couple of Lotus FFs and then a couple of Merlyns and ran what i still think was one of the earliest race hire businesses in the small formula theatre. What this did enable me was to start to really use some of that early race experience and simple mileage, setting up and preparing the cars we were hiring out.

So in late 1972, Ian Williams contacted me to suggest that he had a VW race engine & gearbox lent by the FV Associaton’s Jan Bannochie. Volkswagen Racing’s Jan was promoting after many years of Formula Vee, a new formula called Supervee. Ian had secured strong interest from an American race car importer and needed to produce a production line of Supervees for the US market. Ian & Malcolm and bought the remains of Alan McCall’s excellent Tui race team (after the death of their star driver, Bert Hawthorn in F2 & subsequent withdrawal) and redesigned it around the 160 bhp VW flat four which was the basis of the formula. What he needed he felt, was someone in the UK who could run a car for a race or two who could give them some useful design feedback and put them on the map. They also took off on an ambitious move into Formula 5000 with a Len Terry design called a Leda, but that’s another story …

The route to the top of racing was still via Formula three, then Formula Two and if you were top flight Formula One and the Grand Prix circus. Volkswagen however give that route a major diversion particularly in the States where F1 hadn’t really cottoned on and VW were very happy to step in and assist in that huge market place. At the time, VW were in a hurry to internationally pinch market share from Ford & Toyota. VW had enjoyed strong showings with their Formula Vee series and many of their top drivers (Lauda, Rindt,) needed a further stepping stone on to the world stage. Rather like Porsche today, VW did a cracking deal with F1 organisers, F2 and world sports car people to provide a strong back up race so we did see some real stars for the future blow through our ranks at some wonderful race events. They organised two major series, the European Gold Cup series and the Castol GTX Cup series, both with real start & prize money available, stringing a strong self supporting year together looked almost a reality. They same applied to the US where US VW’s Joe Hoppen had them enjoyed a top notch Gold Cup series again with super strong prize monies. Important for the as it lead top the US equivalent to our F1 & F2, USAC & Formula 5000 …

But at the time, we were still thinking locally; fact was we had a great engine which paraded itself as a ‘Broadspeed’ unit but in fact was a really good Schrick development unit. Another ace up our sleeve turned out to be the driver of the Malaya GT40 was an ace engineer by the name of Mac Daghorn. We gave Mac the job of looking after our engine and he kept it in fine fettle. Total super guy & experienced racer too from Peter Westbury’s Dorking team of Felday Engineering featuring Westbury himself and Derek Bell …

The Tui chassis was pretty good too with the latest single seater thinking involved as much as regs allowed. A number of UK manufacturers like Lola, Royale, Hawke, Elden & Modus were alive to the size of the growing market so local race driver support was available from most of them. In Europe, Kaimann was the backbone having shown strongly from Formula Vee days. Lola had some great agent representation with a couple of promising Swedish/Finnish makes also intruding like Veemax & Bror Jacklund’s RPM. So having learnt some basics with Formula Ford/F3 Tecno/Modsport Spridget, we appeared to have an opportunity to strike out for the big time, but also some serious international field single seater RACING taking in top European events & circuits …

Well this is how we did the second half of the year. Trusty 2 litre Transit which also served to learn more about the Nurburgring, that’s it’s Fahrlager 3 Paddock area where we scored a top ten finish in the F1 GP support race, before setting sale with all the other FSVee competitors to the next round at Karlskoga in Sweden supporting F2. That’s the great Sam Beale in the hat, me and 2nd driver Saunders full of mischief …

Image taken with Worthing’s early techo Ian Cross at Snetterton having the previous day raced at the German Nurburgring supporting international sports cars, travelling back over night … the money was good you see … It bears relating that all this was in the days before many motorways, mobile phones, internet & the like …

Brands paddock for a UK Silver Cup round. Note the Maserati Sebring in the background belonging to our rent a car driver Toby St George Matthews.
Thruxton Easter Monday 1973 supporting F2 Championship & our first experience of the strength of Europeans in FSVee.

Think we had a top ten finish but a few development issues surfaced with the new car. But there we were, next race Zolder Belgium … & then the fabulous Nurburgring!

One of my most prized images as I follow future F1 star Gunnar Neilson and his Lola. Think we fought over 10th place but this my first taste of the ‘Ring and the other 50 or so FSVee competitors in Europe which you see at the head of the page. Very proud of the fact was that the pic was taken by successful UK racer & journo Tony Dron. We shared race cars in later years (because we were both over 6’3″)
And this the gang to beat in ’73 with Freddie & Gunnar in Lolas & Kennert, Tommy and Helmut in Kurt Berman’s Kaimans. Helmut & Gunnar both progressed to F1 the following year, Helmut with a Porsche sports car contract too …

Dovetailing European Gold & the UK Silver Cup series for 1973, we concentrated more upon the UK series which we ultimately won.