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Cruisin’ on a Sunday afternoon

8-6-2010 18-47-33_025
With the F1 season winding down with a decisive thud, I thought I’d approach the aftermath of the Brazilian GP a little differently.  To wit, I’d ring my mate Rob Wilson and chat to him while we drove through London for a late Sunday lunch.  Or brunch, as Rob likes to do it.

Of course, the Brazilian GP theme was just a ruse. As normal, the conversation quickly meandered a number of different ways, as often as not re-connecting as if by magic.  It’s always like that when I chat to Rob:  one minute we’re talking gentle-firm brake application;  the next we’re analysing the difference in style between, say, Roly Levis and Max Stewart.

Thus we happened-upon the Nota story. I grew up with Nota Formula Vees at Warwick Farm, in Sydney, Australia. Geoff Sykes introduced FVee racing in general; and his club, the AARC, bought three Notas for Club member use. As a school kid who spent his holidays working at the AARC offices, my job was to maintain and manage the “Nota programme”. In the pictures above and below, I’m there on the right with my mate Colin Piper, sprucing-up the Notas by the famous Steindl Homestead (on the inside of the quick Homestead right-hand kink at Warwick Farm). Rob and I got to Nota by driving through the Elephant and Castle roundabout in London. That reminded Rob of the lock-up he used to use to house his Ralt; Ralt led to Ron Tauranac; Tauranac led to Geoff Brabham – and Geoff, for me, let to Nota, because it was in one of those Nota Vees that Geoff had his first single-seater drive.

Which opens the door nicely to Guy Buckingham, the talented engineer behind Nota. As it happened, Guy passed away only recently, so I thought it would be nice to reproduce here the words used by his son, Chris, at the funeral:

“My father, Guy Buckingham, passed away yesterday after a brief Illness. A number of his friends, Nota owners and business associates suggested I write a brief description of his involvement with motor racing.

“Guy was born in 1921 in England. During World War II he spent time with the RAF where he was involved with aeronautical engineering. On leaving Guy utilised those skills to build lightweight sports racing cars. In 1955 he moved to Australia and set up Nota Engineering in the former Ice Works behind the David Jones store in Parramatta. From there, he and Michael Martin introduced a tubular-steel space-framed car with lightweight aluminium cladding.

“Initially they built Clubman-format cars but when Guy employed Jack Wiffen, a former Rolls Royce craftsman, Nota started to build a number of alloy streamliner cars which Guy drove very successfully plus KM200 Notas for drivers like Spencer Martin.

“Notas also won the NSW Hill Climb Championship on a number of occasions with drivers like Barry Garner and Ralph Sach.

“Nota then decided Formula Junior racing cars were the way to go and built the first of these in Australia. Initially these were front-engined but they evolved into mid-engined ones using Reno and Ford componentry. Max Stewart ran a mid-engined Nota very successfully in Tasmania and this car is now being raced In England at Goodwood and other historic events.

“Guy lent his hand to other creations as well, designing the Oran Park circuit by driving round the empty fields with George Murray following behind him, pegging out the initial design.

“Warwick Farm Racing Circuit and its manager, Geoff Sykes, convinced Nota to make Clubman-style cars and to have their own series with cars like Lotus, Elfins, Notas etc rather than run with the likes of MGs and other production sports cars. Nota excelled in Geoff’s Clubman series, winning the championship seven times through the years.

“Geoff Sykes then asked Guy to make Formula Vees for the new category.  Nota made three for the AARC and went on to build 38 in all, doing particularly well in the hands of Peter Finlay.

“Guy went on to build the very pretty Nota F3 and Formula Ford cars before returning to England. There he set up Teal engineering, producing Formula 3s, clubmans and Hillman Imp-based sports sedans. He then returned to his roots, getting involved with restoration of World War II aircraft – something he always loved.”

I’ve divided my chat with Rob into three videos; the reference to Nota is in the third. Enjoy.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Cruisin’ on a Sunday afternoon

  1. Chas C on said:

    Unbelievable! The entire spectrum of motor racing from the 60s onwards in one car journey. In the week that Webber Bernhart Hartley win the world sports car championship we discover two drivers refused to hand over to their team mates. In the same spirit its essential to hear that PW/RW cut up the rest of us at the Elephant and Castle refusing any admonishment could be justified in their flight to the restaurant.
    Essential!

  2. Colin Piper on said:

    PDW:

    What a surprise to see these photos today…they were some fabulous Saturday afternoons at Warwick Farm! You didn’t mention the fun we had, (AFTER cleaning the cars within and inch of their lives, checking oil, tyre pressures etc etc) running them from “homestead”, down hume straight, through the esses and up to the crossing where the horse-racing track interrupted our progress…then reversing the process back to homestead! Terry Freckelton, who owns No 1 in the picture is running it at a Historic Meeting this coming weekend. You should post the b&w photo of us as well…that photo is my favourite memory of those days.
    Best

    CJP

  3. Great stuff from Rob Wilson. As you know, I was appointed by CAMS to train and asses applicants for their provisional racing licences from about 1982 until we closed the school in 2010. The course was held over two days, usually on the two layouts at Oran Park but also at Amaroo Park on day 1 and OP on day 2. I placed a lot of emphasis on developing each student’s ability to down change using heel and toe (I was also pretty pedantic about them learning to “double de-clutch” as I felt this took a lot of load off the synchromesh cones in cars with non-Hewland transaxles ). One exercise on day two was for students to approach through a twin line of witches hats, spaced about 20 metres longitudinally apart over a total distance of 500 metres. This was laid out on the main straight on the approach to “CC Corner” where high performance road cars such as WRXs & EVOs could reach 200 km/h. As you would be aware, Peter, CC was great for this because the track ran on past the entry to the turn to create the extended “GP” circuit. This provided a safety run off in case a student over-cooked his/her run. The exercise required at least three “runs” and a complete stop was required at the end of each attempt with the nose of the car ending up exactly level with the last pair of cones. The position of these last cones was equivalent to the point in the actual corner where a driver would be easing off the brakes in normal circumstances. (I.e braking almost to the apex, if you like). My rationale was that if a driver could carry out a maximum performance “stop” in a straight line then he/she should be able to use the same braking reference point while driving competitive laps. Well, maybe.

    Run 1 was at a target speed of 100 km/h in 4th gear. Drive in as deep as you dare, apply the brakes and bring the car to a stop at the last cones. No fudging. If you initiate the stop early then keep on braking until the car stops. Then you can see how your judgement varied in relation to the target. Some people stopped in the order of 60-80 metres short. A few over-ran but not many.

    Run 2. 120Km/h, max braking but bring the transmission down through all the gears in (H pattern) sequence while heel-toeing and applying hard but consistent brake pressure. We would observe the students’ efforts from a safe distance and it was very evident if a driver was cycling the brake pedal pressure… usually due to inept heel/toe technique. To be fair, some had only learned the technique on the previous day. Seventeen-year-old females more often than not comprehended and applied this technique in about 10 minutes. Many males took 20 years and, as Rob suggests, some never learned even when they had progressed through the ranks to the dizzy heights of F1…. leaving a trail of blunted dog rings and gears in their wake.

    Run 3 was the acid test. Approach speed was to be “flat out” whatever that meant to each vehicle. As I said, the WRX/EVO/Porsche brigade could hit 200 ks before throwing out the anchors and working down through the gears to first.

    I met my comeuppance one day while carrying out the preliminary demonstration in a six speed gearbox car. The thing stopped so well that there was simply insufficient time for me to row down from 6th to 1st while braking at about -1G.

    Obviously, in a real life, I would have skipped the intermediate gears and selected 3rd or 4th for the corner when the road speed had reduced to the appropriate level.

    As an illustration of the latter technique, when I made my FF debut at Mallory Park in the Palliser in 1972 (first time in an FF by the way), my friend, Buzz Buzaglo suggested that I fit a 15:36 ratio first gear in the Hewland and use it into and out of Shaw’s Hairpin. This served the purpose of providing a “low second” gear and it dug the WDF2 out of Shaw’s much faster than the the other punters who used the standard first gear 13: 36 ratio and correspondingly much higher second gear. The result was that I registered a time only a few tenths off David Loring’s lap record and this netted me the pole position. That put the cat among the locals, I can tell you. It rained buckets and the meeting was cancelled.

    I had to wait until much later in the year to prove my point at Mallory by repeating the trick and winning a couple of races right in front of a contingent of Aussie drivers including, Larry Perkins, John Leffler, Bob Skelton and Paul Boulton.

    And, to add a final word in agreeing with Rob. If a driver is attempting the slow a car down at the maximum rate available (usually -1G in a road car but obviously far more in a proper racing car) and performs a less-than-co-ordinated downshift then the rear tyres will be instantaneously overloaded. Let’s face it, if a car is being braked at max performance this implies that all tyres should be at their individual limit of traction and could accept no further braking input. Obviously, to do so at this critical point would invite the onset of instability or, at least, some undesirable wheel lock.

    My observations at Shelsley Walsh, Loton Park and Prescott in 1997 showed that many drivers “relied” on harsh downshifting to “slow” their cars. Clearly Roy Lane, David Grace, Justin Fletcher, Andy Priaulx et al finessed their respective cars and made smooth, beautifully co-ordinated downshifts.

    Here endeth today’s lesson taken from……..

  4. I’m not sure that as you say “Max Stewart ran a mid-engined Nota very successfully in Tasmania and this car is now being raced In England at Goodwood and other historic events”. Max lived in Orange, NSW, all his life so it is unlikely that he would have travelled to Tasmania to race an F3 Nota even if he did own or have access to such a car, Peter. There is no record of Max being involved with Notas in Rod Moore and Bruce Bloodworth’s book “The Nota Files.”

    Thank you for your kind comment about my exploits in Nota Vee #80. John Smith and Jason Bargwanna drove this car to meany successes on their way to stardom- stardom of greater heights than mine.

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