Posts Tagged ‘Formula Ford’

Who is pretty-boy then!? 21 years old James Hunt aboard his brand-new Merlyn Mk11A Formula Ford on 2 December 1968…

Gowrings of Reading have gone to some considerable expense to capitalise on their new signing for 1969- they had bought one of the best Formula Fords of the era and Hunt was to do it justice bigtime. A news brief in the 15 November issue of Autosport announced that Hunt would drive the new car pictured to be fitted with a ‘Gowrings tweaked unit’ with Gowrings able to ‘undertake all types of race preparation’.

James Hunt’s last 1967 race in his first racer, a Mini at Brands Hatch coincided with his appreciation of the potential of the new Formula Ford class for F1 aspirants like himself. Soon a new Russell Alexis Mk14 was acquired, largely funded by a 100 pound twenty-first birthday gift from his parents which helped a down-payment on the car financed on the ‘never-never’.

His speed throughout 1968 gradually increased as he grew in confidence and also ‘let himself off the leash’ keen as he was initially to avoid repair bills- a cost he could not afford. A monumental accident not of his making at Oulton Park later in the season resulted in the Alexis flying off the road after vaulting a car which had spun depositing car and driver into the lake- James separated from the racer mid-flight due to the lack of a budget to buy seat-belts which at the time weren’t mandatory.

Gowrings, a Reading Ford dealer, liked the cut of James jib and agreed to sponsor him for 1969 inclusive of the purchase of the Merlyn which replaced the drowned Alexis in the last few races of 1968- he achieved a third at Brands and a win at Lydden Hill which convinced Gowrings further of Hunts competitiveness.

Mallory Park March 1969, Hunt’s Merlyn is car no 11 on row 3. Two Lotus 61’s on the right first and second row, a Frank Williams car mid front row – happy to know the names of the other cars/drivers from 1969 FF fans! (unattributed)

During 1969 Hunt was one of the stars of Formula Ford with plenty of heat wins and top three finishes. Later in the season James stood in for one of the MRE (Motor Racing Enterprises) FF drivers at Lydden Hill winning the race- that team, having seen enough, gave him his first F3 start in their Brabham BT21 Ford. The car was a couple of years old but Hunt did well enough to win a Grovewood Award.

James impressed the right people thanks to an outstanding performance at Cadwell Park on 28 September. In a handful of full international F3 races in the UK in 1969 Hunt raced wheel to wheel with Ronnie Peterson- the Swede was shortly to break through into F1, in the prototype March 693 Ford…’Many observers, including the astute Max Mosley, took note when Hunt raced wheel to wheel with Peterson as they raced for third place, the brand new March edging the ancient Brabham by a whisker as they crossed the line side by side’ Maurice Hamilton wrote in his biography ‘James Hunt’.

JSW Hunt was on his way, the rest is history…

Credits…

Getty Images, ‘James Hunt’ Maurice Hamilton

Finito…