Formula Vee and the Summer of ’79…

Posted: October 6, 2016 in Icons & Iconoclasts
Tags: , ,

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Lordy that’s a big grid! Its the Formula Vee race which supported the 1967 German Grand Prix, the Nurburgring of course. I’ve no idea who won the race or the names of any of the competitors but that’s not really the point of this article. Mind you, if any of you do know get in touch and I will add the details.

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FV served a useful function by providing entry level racing for future world champions Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg. Emerson was the first FV graduate to win a world title, for Lotus in 1972. That wasn’t really the point of the class which was fundamentally to provide thousands of enthusiasts globally the chance to compete cost-effectively. Me included.

Formula Vee gives me ‘Summer of ‘79’ smiles and recollections of fun, carefree times of long ago.

My Monash University years were lost really. The clever guys chased the babes, I saved my part-time factory work income, skipping dates with expensive sheilas to fund a Venom Mk2 Formula Vee in March 1979, the same month in which I joined the ‘real world’ of permanent work.

Scuderia Schitt-Fite was born! (SS-F)…

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SS-F works driver M Bisset at the Venom’s test session #1 (the only test session the noted team ever did) at Winton in February 1979. Copious sponsor decals on the drivers ‘Race-Safe Wool TT’ overalls indicative of his market worth. 1975 Venom Mk2 FV

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Nurburgring 1967 (ullstein bild)

The Venom was a secondhand but front third of the field car when acquired (for A$2350 with some spares including a ‘tall’ Phillip Island ‘box and trailer), it continued to go well until my impressive mechanical skills were applied to said vehicles preparation. Memorable were the Scrutineers discovery of loose rear wheel nuts at Winton on one occasion and the steering column thru-bolt popping onto the Venoms aluminium undertray with a neat mechanical ‘pop’ sound just as the car was pushed onto the concrete scruts’ inspection slab at Sandown…we just kept pushin’ the car straight thru into the paddock to fasten said nut and bolt. ‘Me an me mate Tilly used to ‘prepare’ the car in the carport of my parents house, lack of a light and ever present wind and rain were obstacles to engineering excellence. Ignorance another.

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My $8500 per annum graduate accountants salary didn’t run to motel accommodation on weekend trips away so luxurious, old, ‘on site’ caravans had to do. Liz, my girlfriend of the time, I’d found one by then, used to come away with me.

These 20 year old monuments to design bad taste were quite something replete as they were with shag pile orange carpet, extensive stains on all of the sumptuous synthetic material clad couches and lashings of Laminex as far as the eye could see. Which was not far as these luxurious caravans were not exactly generous in size. The mood lighting comprised lots of missing globes so my toolkit always carried a couple of 45 watters to make up for what the van park proprietors  were reluctant to provide.

The final straw to the use of this cost-effective accommodation for the impecunious racer was the presence of bugs in the bed, I’m sure Liz’ scream that night could have been heard in Melbourne.

I was a sophisticated boyfriend of course, a Saturday night out at the suburban North Balwyn chinese joint with some good tucker washed down by a bottle of Lindemans ‘Ben Ean’ Moselle (such nectar of the gods was the vignerons equivalent of Coca-Cola, something not to be missed then and not missed at all now) very metro-sexual. A dude taking a bottle of Ben Ean to a gig was definitely going places, just not so sure exactly where.

Liz was a ‘real trooper’ happy to help unload the Venom, wash, polish, change wheels as well as take care of the drivers emotional and physical well-being. A bonus was her taking charge of the big, roaring Ford Fairmont towcar at meetings end for the long trip back to Melbourne, the ‘tired hero’ asleep alongside after the physical demands of the weekend.

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SS-F on tour, here we are at Lorne on Victorias Great Ocean Road, we did a hillclimb, Mt Leura at nearby’ish Camperdown that weekend. I’m 21 and this shot shows my total net worth; the $2600 Fairmont which had been my dads company car and the $2350 Vee & trailer. No spare cash, no margin for error. A 1981 Sandown shunt took 1 1/2 years to fix as i couldn’t afford the repair, boy we had some fun tho!

Jackie Stewart famously won Grands Prix by applying a policy of sexual abstinence the night before a Grand Prix. JYS felt it gave him a little extra raceday ‘edge’ rather than the sated, chilled feeling most of us have after ‘relieving the tension’, as we say in polite society.

My parents didn’t have a relaxed attitude about us kids ‘horizontal folk-dancing’ under their roof so every opportunity for passion away from Almond Street was to be enthusiastically embraced. Liz took a strong leadership and teaching role in relation to such matters, the little minx!, i wonder what became of her?

Its probably drawing too long a bow to suggest the differences in speed between Jackie Stewart and my good self are entirely due to his maintenance of ‘raceday edge’ by adherence to the Popes no-nookie dictum, and my more relaxed ‘shagadelic’ approach.

But its nice to think that had one made such sacrifices in the quest for speed that the great Scots achievements could easily have been surpassed.

Anyway, that’s my theory as to my own lack of competitiveness, and I’m sticking to it!

I suspect my ‘Summer of ‘79’ smiles are shared by many FV’ers not just Emmo, Niki and Keke…

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Venom, Calder 1979

History of Formula Vee…

http://www.volkswagen-motorsport.com/index.php?id=411&L=1

Credits…

Getty Images/ullstein bild

Tailpiece…

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Nurburgring 1967 (ullstein bild)

 

 

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