The story of John Loe­bell’s first FF1600 racer, which won on its de­but. By Stephen Lick­o­r­ish

Motor Sport News - - Insight: Medina Ff1600 Car -

For any new car to win its first ever race is a very im­pres­sive achieve­ment. But it is even more im­pres­sive when that race just so hap­pens to be one of the heats for an ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy.

Wayne Boyd’s vic­tory in heat three of last year’s Wal­ter Hayes in the brand new Me­d­ina JL16 could well prove to be a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment in For­mula Ford 1600. Boyd, who won the event in 2014, started from sec­ond on the grid but ben­e­fited from pole­sit­ter Niall Murray’s gear link­age break­ing to take the win by a tenth of a sec­ond.

For the car’s de­signer and Me­d­ina founder John Loe­bell, it was an un­ex­pected win.

“I said at the time I just wanted to go home after win­ning that first race!” he re­calls. “I didn’t ex­pect a great deal. We knew the car was com­pet­i­tive but I didn’t ex­pect it to win its first race, so that was a re­ally bril­liant re­sult.”

Loe­bell is well known for run­ning the Van Diemen FF1600 spares busi­ness – which he will con­tinue to do – and has con­verted a num­ber of Du­ratec cars to Kent-spec­i­fi­ca­tion, with chas­sis run­ning un­der the JL-K moniker. But this was the first time he had built a whole car from scratch.

“We have al­ways done the con­ver­sion cars but they have dried up,” he says. “We’ve prob­a­bly done 30 con­ver­sions over the years, we usu­ally do those over the win­ter, but we couldn’t find any more cars.

“It [build­ing his own car] was some­thing we had al­ways wanted to do and the time was right to just do it last year.”

And that’s ex­actly what Loe­bell did. Free from the re­stric­tions that con­vert­ing an ex­ist­ing car posed, Loe­bell was able to start from a clean slate. He used all his years of ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with For­mula Fords – dat­ing back to the early 1990s – to pro­duce his own de­sign.

Work started last Fe­bru­ary and Loe­bell built a de­vel­op­ment car that be­gan test­ing over the sum­mer. He high­lights the sus­pen­sion and weight dis­tri­bu­tion as two ar­eas he fo­cused on.

“We’ve got dif­fer­ent sus­pen­sion ge­om­e­try – we couldn’t change the pick-up points on the con­ver­sion cars,” Loe­bell says. “We’ve also made a lot of changes to im­prove the weight dis­tri­bu­tion.

“They have all got to run within the reg­u­la­tions and ev­ery­one has their own dif­fer­ent parts, like I’ve got a dif­fer­ent bell hous­ing.”

An­other dis­tinct fea­ture of the car is the nose. “We have had a few op­tions over time and we have come up with the pointy nose [as the best],” Loe­bell adds. “It’s quite flat and aero­dy­namic with low side­pods.

“You have to just keep try­ing, but we haven’t got mas­sive amounts of fund­ing for things that don’t work. You can’t change it too much – you’ve got to stick with what you know.

“It’s tough, there’s a lot of things you take for granted. You’ve got to look at ev­ery sin­gle com­po­nent and make sure it all gels to­gether.

“I just de­signed it my­self – we haven’t got mas­sive bud­gets to go into big de­vel­op­ments. I just de­signed it from the seat of my pants.”

Boyd, in the mid­dle of his first full season of rac­ing for sev­eral years with United Au­tosports in the Euro­pean Le Mans Series, had his first run in the car in Au­gust at Sil­ver­stone – which was his only test in the car be­fore the Wal­ter Hayes. He was in­stantly im­pressed.

“We did a day in Au­gust at Sil­ver­stone but the tem­per­a­ture was very, very dif­fer­ent to the Wal­ter Hayes,” he says. “I was straight on the pace. At the start we were re­ally happy and we were still happy at the Wal­ter Hayes.”

Boyd has no doubt the car has the po­ten­tial to be­come one of the very best in the cat­e­gory.

“I think with a lit­tle bit more de­vel­op­ment it’s go­ing to be very im­pres­sive,” he reck­ons. “If you have the right pack­age with the right driver and John, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be able to clean up in the UK series.

“The thing I no­ticed with it was there’s bet­ter trac­tion than the cars I’ve raced with John be­fore. It felt a lit­tle bit more sta­ble through high­speed corners. At the Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy it set the sec­ond fastest lap of the meet­ing and that was its first run. There’s no rea­son why it couldn’t be win­ning cham­pi­onships this year.”

After win­ning his Wal­ter Hayes heat, Boyd then fin­ished sec­ond in the semi-fi­nal be­fore end­ing the fi­nal in sev­enth after a spin.

Loe­bell now has three more cars in build and plans to run at least one in the Na­tional series.

“It’s not a mass-mar­ket prod­uct so if I can build three or four a year that would be great,” says Loe­bell.

“It’s a qual­ity car and a qual­ity build. In For­mula Ford now we are just push­ing the limit all the time with the en­gines and the chas­sis. It was bril­liant to come out and win its first race and it was on the front row for its first heat and that’s on merit, on out­right pace. We were quicker than all the other guys bar one and the guy we didn’t beat was Murray, who won the Fes­ti­val, Martin Donnelly and Na­tional ti­tle.

“It’s ex­cit­ing – I’ve al­ways wanted to do it. We had won the Fes­ti­val with Wayne and won the Wal­ter Hayes and other cham­pi­onships over the years but we hadn’t built our own car.”

Now he has and it might just prove to be a very suc­cess­ful one. ■

Boyd was sev­enth in WHT fi­nal in new car

Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey, Rachel Bourne, Steve Jones

Boyd (l) tri­umphed in heat three to give Me­d­ina car a win in first race

The car was the first built en­tirely by Loe­bell

Loe­bell has more chas­sis cur­rently in build

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