I suppose we are all gathering breathe after the very successful Bruce McLaren Festival (thanks to Jim who organised the whole thing and to Ian who was our FJ series co-ordinator).
One thing that was evident was the outright speed of the top overseas FJ cars. These drum braked cars were lapping Puke in around 1.09 which is around the same pace as the 1.5 litre disc braked, wide tyred single seaters of Levis and Lawrence were doing at the NZGP in 1967 and 1968!! Clearly these “modern” FJ cars (apart from being well driven) are highly engineered and are at a level of performance that New Zealand and Australian compliant FJs can’t attain.
Against this background, it is opportune to reiterate that both Australian and New Zealand FJ regulations are different from those in the UK and Europe. For example, AFJA and CAMS strictly limit modifications to those available in period – this generally precludes an increase in engine capacity (from 1000cc to 1100cc) and specifically prohibits the likes of Richardson heads on Ford engines.
The NZFJR has a similar approach that restricts modifications to those that were available on individual cars in period but applies a slightly more liberal control on engine capacity due to the number of cars with existing over 1000cc engines (remember that if your FJ has an engine exceeding 1000cc it should have a minimum dry weight of 400kg). However, we encourage cars to revert to their period engine capacity if possible.
As far as Richardson heads are concerned, NZFJR takes the same stance as AFJA and CAMS – a car with a Richardson type head is a non- compliant FJ in both Australia and New Zealand. A recently imported FJ came with a Richardson head and we hope to work with the car’s owner to try and have it converted back to a compliant standard period based head. In the meantime we will let this car race but on the understanding that it is a non-compliant FJ (and therefore can’t be described as an FJ) and will be among the first to be culled (along with the F3 cars) if there is over subscription for FJ events plus it will be unable to join in if we run FJ only grids.
A couple of the UK competitors were lamenting to me at the weekend that FJ racing in the UK and Europe was getting out of hand as it was too competitive and costly – to compete at the top means huge money getting the last bhp out of the engine. I picked up a set of used race tyres from a UK entrant that had apparently lost their competitive edge after 10 races – he was very surprised to hear that our tyres lasted about four seasons.
Our philosophy is different – we want good close clean racing without breaking the budget or our cars and ourselves. That is why we do not have a championship or trophies – there is nothing to strive to win at the end of the year. On the same basis we do not need to spend countless dollars on extracting to last bit of performance from our cars – that is why we do not allow the likes of Richardson type heads as the extra performance they provide would mean that the non Ford engined cars would need to have very highly modified and costly engines to try and maintain parity. This would challenge a fundamental to the success of FJ in NZ which is relatively cheap racing without the requirement for a new engine build each season or new sets of tyres every ten races.
Another reason to control our FJ car’s speed is safety. We have had an ongoing “battle” with MSNZ over belts and roll bars. We have obtained some dispensations which thankfully has avoided some of our FJs being unable to race. One of the factors that contributed to us gaining these dispensations was that NZ FJs have a good safety record and are not too fast. If we allow non-period modifications and start lapping Puke at 1.09 I would think MSNZ’s attitude would change.
If we continue to self-police what we do with our cars and maintain true to the philosophy of restricting modifications to those available on our cars in period then the success of FJ racing in NZ will continue to grow.
I trust you are all looking forward to the remainder of our season and I will circulate details of forthcoming races shortly.