Tag Archives: Geoff

Flower Power – Lotus 51A

Conceived by Geoff Clarke, manager of the racing school at brands Hatch, Formula Ford was introduced in 1967 for novice drivers as a means of getting a start in racing at an affordable cost.

Lotus 51A, Prescott

The original Formula Ford cars were based on those used at the racing school but fitted with a stock 1500cc / 91.5 cui pre crossflow Ford Cortina GT motor in place of the much more expensive to maintain Formula 3 race tuned motors.

Lotus 51A, Prescott

Brands Hatch played host to the very first Formula Ford race on July 12th, 1967. The race was one by Ray Allen driving a Lotus 51 similar to the one featured in todays blog.

Lotus 51A, Prescott

The first batch of Lotus 51 frames, including Ray Allen’s car, were actually welded up as Lotus 31‘s for use in Formula 3 but were retrospectively given the Lotus 51 tag when built to Formula Ford spec.

Lotus 51A, Prescott

Differences between the Lotus 51 and later 51A, seen here at Prescott, were minimal. For example brackets for an oil reservoir were not required on many 51A’s, if they ran with wet sump motor’s.

Lotus 51A, Prescott

Of the estimated 251 Lotus 51’s built, one, known as the 51R and unofficially as the Flower Power Lotus, was built as a road legal car complete with lights and mud guards.

Today’s featured Lotus 51A is driven by hill climber Briony Serrell.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Flower Power’ edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Gould Charge – Penske PC10

For 1982 Roger Penske had his manufacturing team in Poole, Dorset, England, where all his open wheelers were made, build 6 Penske PC10’s designed by Geoff Ferris. The cars were ready in October 1981, drivers Rick Mears and Kevin Cogan completed 3000 miles of testing during the off season.

AJ Foyt said of the legendary Penske preparation “The rest of us are trying to do as much in six days as Penske took six months to do.”

Penske Cosworth PC10, Rick Mears, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Photo by Ed Arnaudin.

Rick Mears, took pole at with a record 207 mph average speed in the #1 Gould Charge seen here on the warm up lap for the race, and Kevin Coogan started 2nd with a 204 mph 4 lap average. The first two spots on the grid were sown up just 9 minuets after qualification had started on Pole Day. AJ Foyt filled out the front row.

The 1982 is best remembered for an accident at the start that took out Kevin Coogan, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Dale Whittington and Roger Mears.

Blame for the incident was placed on the inexperienced Penske new boy Kevin Cogan, though the cause of the accident has ever been satisfactorily explained, it came to light many years later that Rick Mears had a similar incident in another PC10 during private testing that was kept out of the media at the time.

AJ Foyt managed to get out for the second attempt to start the 1982 Indy 500 but neither the repairs to Foyt’s #14 March nor the months of preparation at Penske were enough to keep Gordon Johncock, driving a Wildcat, from taking a photo finish victory in which Johncock held off Mears by just 0.16 secs.

During a 15 year Champ Car Career Rick Mears won 3 CART Championships, a record equalling, with Foyt and Al Unser, 4 Indy 500 victories and an unequalled six Indy 500 poles. Rick also took the most CART Championship race wins during the 1980’s.

While Mears and Penske lost the battle at Indy in 1982, they took a second consecutive championship in 1982.

The following season Al Unser Snr won the championship driving a Penske PC10B after the intended replacement PC11 proved unequal to the performance of the older car after the 1983 Indy 500.

Those interested in what lies beneath the super streamlined body of the PC10 might be interested to see a series of photos, taken by the extraordinary cutaway artist Tony Matthews, posted on The Nostalgia Forum, see post three and down of this PC10 thread.

My thanks to Steve Arnaudin for the scan of his Dad’s photo.

Thanks for joining me for this Gould Charge edition of ‘Getting a little psycho on tyres’ I hope that you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


What to do if your Mini Cooper S isn’t fast enough ? The Castle Combe variations.

Although designed as a motorised shopping basket on wheels the Mini platform provided incredible handling characteristics and soon became the target of highly respected performance companies, none more so than John Cooper who’s cars Jack Brabham had taken to successive Formula One Championships in 1959/60.

John Cooper was friends with Mini designer Alex Issigonis but still had to go behind his back to appeal to the BMC management direct inorder to get the go ahead to develop the Mini Cooper into an extremely popular performance model. It was also extremely competitive winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 ’65 & ’67 and was famously disqualified after winning in 1966!

Budding entrepreneur and custom car aficionado Geoff Thomas thought he could improve the Mini Copper S by producing a lighter Mini Cooper variant with a seemless body 3 inches shorter than the original.

One day in 1965 Geoff was at Castle Combe Circuit and met fellow racer Neville Trickett who prepared his own lightweight Mini racer with extensive engine modifications, impressed with the quality of Neville’s work Geoff discussed his idea for manufacturing the Minisprint and after a ‘ridiculously brief discussion’ Neville agreed to work for Geoff and the production of Minisprints began eventually settling at Rob Walkers Garage Nr Warminster, Wiltshire.

The model shown above is registered in France, and might possibly, with the emphasis on possibly, belong to Normandy resident Neville Trickett himself ? Notice this vehicle is fitted with highly unusual triple screen wipers.

I am not sure where the square headlights idea came from nor where they were sourced ? They were not part of the original spec, but seem to have been introduced before production of Mini Sprints moved from Wiltshire to Stewart & Arden in London.

Like Cooper, ERA came form a racing background, primarily known for it’s pre WW2 voiturettes powered 1.5 litre 91 CUI supercharged Riley 6 based engines. By the late 1980’s ERA were primarily engaged as consultants to the motor industry.

In 1989 The ERA Mini Turbo, ERA type M (?) was conceived as a replacement for the Mini Cooper S which was out of production between 1971 and 1990. The interior of the car featured unparalleled levels of refinement including Connelly hide seats.

The fastest ever production Mini ERA Turbo used a 1300cc /79 cui Mini Metro Turbo engine capable of being serviced at regular Austin Rover Mini dealers. The suspension and brakes were also upgraded using many parts from the Metro, surprisingly the cars handling characteristics were first tested and tuned at Castle Combe prior to going into production.

Finally I’d like to welcome all new readers to this blog who are now coming from UK, USA, Canada, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Croatia, Saint Kitts and Nevis (!) and Sweden.

Wishing you all a fabulous day where ever you are, ‘don’t forget to come back now ! Hear !’