One of the 1.0-litre F3 ‘screamers’ for this year’s Derek Bell Cup is a car Derek would have been quite familiar with in period as he started out on his racing career at Goodwood.
It’s The Chequered Flag-sponsored Brabham BT18 with which Chris Irwin won the European F3 Championship in 1966. The win also confirmed Great Britain’s first place in the F3 Europa Nations Cup, adding further lustre to what was already a big year for national sporting achievement (apparently there was also a football tournament on).
The car today is owned by Michael Hibberd Motor Sport and it is Michael himself who will take the wheel for the race on Sunday March 20th at the 74th Members’ Meeting. It is a race that always lives up to the great name and competitive spirit of Derek Bell by delivering the closest of finishes – last year by an unbelievable eighteen thousandths of a second!
With a packed field of great cars this year’s battle promises to be just as epic. As Michael says, all the cars are very closely matched and driver ability will be to the fore as each tries to extract the maximum possible speed (and noise!) from the screaming 1,000cc engines.
Michael Hibberd is more used to Formula Junior than F3 – he’s won the Chichester Cup at Revival twice – but figured it was time to move to F3 and bought the ex-Chris Irwin championship winner six months ago.
So how’s the Brabham compare with a Formula Junior?
‘It’s not quite as quick down the straights but you can commit to the corners a lot harder, though this is only my second time in the car and I am still finding its limits.
‘The car would be better on narrower tyres because it would slide more and get more heat into the tyres, but the way the class is set out it has to have the wider tyres. Whatever, it should be a very close race.’
The white car, bearing Chris Irwin’s signature on the rear bodywork, came home first in ’66 ahead of drivers including Jean-Pierre Beltoise (fourth in the championship that year) and Jacky Ickx (seventh). Chris went on to drive sports cars including the beautiful but ill-fated Ford F3L in which he crashed badly at the Nurburgring 1,000km race in 1968, ending his career.
Michael Hibberd Motor Sport will be fielding a total of five cars, and one bike, at 74MM this year: the Brabham along with an F3 Tecno in the Derek Bell Cup, a 1915 Stutz in the S.F. Edge Trophy for Edwardian cars, and a Lotus 18 and a Cooper in the Brooks Trophy, plus a 1974 Yamaha TZ350E in the Hailwood Trophy.
Now that’s what you call variety…
Photography by Tom Shaxson