An all-wheel-drive Formula 1 car? We must be joking, surely? Actually, we’re not. Because leading the BRM Type 25, Ferrari 246 Dino F1 and Maserati 250F you’re about to see is the Ferguson P99, the first all-wheel-drive F1 car.
Video: The first all‑wheel‑drive F1 car
Built by Harry Ferguson Research Limited (if the Ferguson name is familiar, it’s because Harry Ferguson co-founded the Massey Ferguson tractor company) for the Rob Walker Racing Team, the Ferguson P99 had a 1.5-litre Climax engine and a tractor inspired all-wheel-drive system with a 50-50 front-rear torque split as well as a 50-50 weight distribution. Its racing career was short, and began with a second-lap crash at the British Empire Trophy at Silverstone at the hands of Jack Fairman in 1961. But not long after that it grabbed the fastest time in a wet practice session for the British Grand Prix with Stirling Moss at the wheel. Things were looking promising, and sure enough, just a few weeks later, Moss took the win in the International Gold Cup, a race run to Formula 1 rules and held at Oulton Park. Just because it wasn’t a championship F1 race didn’t mean the drivers weren’t up to the mark – Moss fought off Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Tony Brooks, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Innes Ireland, Roy Salvadori and so many more to cross the chequered flag 46 seconds ahead of second place Brabham.
In the following years the car raced on and off in F1 spec races, but that win in 1961 was the high point. Mercifully, however, the P99 hasn’t been lost to the scrap heap, and has instead found itself at Goodwood on numerous occasions, even with Moss at the wheel. And here it is, with Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams at the wheel, leading the 2009 Revival’s Richmond Trophy and proving to be quite the capable match for the BRM of Gary Pearson, Ferrari of Dickie Attwood and Maserati of Frank Stippler. And don’t forget, if you want to see cars like this in action in 2020, be sure to tune in for Goodwood SpeedWeek in October.