Keith Robinson – My Formula Ford 50th Anniversary!


In 1967 I attended a Jim Russell Racing School class at Snetterton race
track in Norfolk England.

I had been a Formula One and general road racing fan since I was about
12 years old. I don’t recall the model of car I drove but for 8 British
Pounds (about $20!), a week’s wages, I got to drive up and down a short
straight between some cones in one gear!

In 1970, now living in Toronto, I wrenched on a Winkleman/Palliser for one
of the Bulova Formula Ford Championship competitors and my reward
was the use of his car for my Novice race at Harewood Acres (Niagara
peninsula) at the end of the year. I won that race and it took another 25
years to win my second!

In 2001 I bought a 1980 RF80 Van Diemen from Randy Mainland and
started racing Formula Ford at Mission Raceway Park. There were few
FF’s to race against in the early part of the 2000’s so I went back to sedan
racing. I had been running the RF80 in Formula Libre when, in about 2012
I was offered a 1979 RF79 Van Diemen for ‘a price I couldn’t refuse’ (the
transmission was in pieces in a box!). I had lots of fun in that car for 3
years, it was easy to drive and I actually finished 2nd in the FF
Championship in 2013. In 2016 I had acquired two more race cars, a
sedan and a sports racer (too many racecars) so I sold the RF79 to local
racing legend Rick Payne (SCCA National Champion in FF).
A matter of weeks after that the 50th Anniversary Race for Formula Fords
was announced by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association to be run at
Indianapolis Motor Speedway!

Having been involved, albeit on and off for the last 50 years with FF, it was
immediately clear to me I had to go to that race! I mean
Indianapolis,Formula Ford, how can you not go to that race? But now I
didn’t have a FF!! So finding Frank Winterlink’s car on VRCBC website
was another clear sign I had to go to IMS for the 50th.

I built a wooden box on my two wheel trailer, put gas in the 2001 Ford
Escape and Susan and I headed east. Six days later at 7am we were ready
to enter the epic facility when the police stopped us to say there had been
a fatal accident at the track entrance (nothing to do with racing) and it would
be 2 or 3 hours before we could get in.

That was Wednesday, practice day, but by the time we got organized,
through tech and had new Hoosier spec vintage tires installed, we never
made it onto the track!

Thursday morning, a driver’s meeting in the media center with 300 drivers
from all over the states and some from Australia and England.
The Open Wheel World Championship included Formula Fords, old
Formula One cars, Formula Juniors, Atlantics, Formula Firsts and over 30
Formula Vees.

The next four days were a blur, in practice we had a ‘square’ tire that
limited fast track time but allowed at least some learning of the corners.
Qualifying sessions, a qualifying race and news that we had made the
final on Sunday!! 65 FF’s entered, in three different groups, only 45
qualified for the final, we were 40th. I chose not to run the last track
sessions as I wanted to start the ‘big one’ (some cars never made it
through to the final).

The OWWC was a closed event, no spectators just all racers and crew,
the huge stands were all empty, it was a special calm but exciting

Pre-grid in Gasoline Alley, driving through the tunnel onto a track where
so many racers that I have been in awe of for so many years, a thrill
unlikely to be surpassed in my lifetime, truly awesome! I probably could
have finished in the top 15 but daydreaming, running up near the wall on
the banking, avoiding trouble and missing a restart after a full course
yellow all led to a 21st place finish with no damage. Good enough for me
and the bonus was my Polaroid video camera captured it all. I’m planning
on putting my videos on a loop and watching my ‘glory days’ in the old
folks home.

Footnote; There is a ‘US FF 50th Anniversary SVRA event in 2019, I’m
thinking that might be tough to miss, it would be nice to have company!




Keith is 2nd from the right in the first row.