Richard Tarling has been sampling Formula Ford in Australia, thanks to the Ecurie Australie team run by Chris Davison.
The 2017 HSCC Historic FF1600 champion drove a Quest FF86 at Winton over the August 3-4 weekend, finishing fifth out of 31 cars in the Cooldrive Cup, a round of Historic FFord Australia.
“A couple of offs avoiding other people’s accidents and a progressively down on power engine meant we missed out on a podium finish,” said Tarling after the race, but he was full of admiration for the standard of Australian motorsport.
“Winton Raceway, despite most Brits (including me) probably thinking that it would be a rough airfield in the middle of the bush, is a combination of a very technical track with several slow corners onto longer straights.
“It’s a couple of hours outside Melbourne and I was really impressed by the facilities, kind of like a flatter Cadwell park with a very large pit garage complex and local town full of nice pubs and restaurants.
“I was really impressed by the standard of the car preparation and of how competitive the grid was, a good spread of speed, experience and age, but it was no walk in the park as some people might perceive it to be.”
The Quest itself has a considerable history. It was previously raced by Gary Ayles and has the chassis number 001. Quest was a small British manufacturer active in the 1980s; its biggest success a win in the 1985 Formula Ford Festival with Johnny Herbert at the wheel.
Herbert has described the hastily-assembled FF2000 version of the FF86 he raced in 1986 as one of the worst cars he has ever driven, but Tarling is of a different opinion.
“It’s a quirky car,” he said. “For instance, it has no roll bars, front or rear, and has pull rod suspension and torsion bar droop stops instead. It was a great challenge to take the car from almost no previous running apart from a wet shakedown.
“The car had been effectively mothballed for nearly 20 years.”
Ecurie Australie is run by Chris Davison, historic racer and the son of Australian motorsport legend Lex. The team specialises in providing arrive-and-drive packages in Australia’s FFord series for European drivers.
Tarling first met Davison at the Walter Hayes Trophy five years ago and they stayed in touch. Davison bought the Quest four years ago and having finally got it into a raceworthy condition, invited Tarling to come over and take it on track for the first time. He not only enjoyed working with Davison and his team on the Quest, he was a real convert to Australia itself: its friendly people, clement weather in winter and even kangaroos.
“Chris doesn’t shoot them so there is a plague of them on his farm! We nearly had one under the bonnet of the ATV!” said Tarling of his encounters with the creatures.
“It was a great experience that I would urge anyone to pursue by contacting Chris to run at any of the meetings down here in his lease cars. It’s a once in a lifetime family holiday with a bit of Formula Ford racing thrown in the mix.”
It sounds like Tarling’s trip to Melbourne was more than a holiday, however.
“For me there is unfinished business with the Quest – watch this space!”
Ecurie Australie provides FF1600 racing holidays in Australia, covering iconic circuits including Phillip Island, Mount Panorama and Winton Raceway. Contact Chris Davison on email@example.com or click here to find out more.