Tales from the Tower: Formula Junior, Back on Familiar Ground

In this Tales from the Tower, legendary track announcer Greg Rickes reminds us of the heyday of Formula Junior & it’s ties at Lime Rock Park. All photos provided by Greg Rickes unless listed otherwise.


Formula Junior is a perfect fit for Lime Rock’s Historic Festival 41. The cars date back to just after the track’s opening days, and they’ve woven their own history around our favorite mile and a half of northwestern Connecticut pavement. But what is “Formula Junior” and where did it come from?

In the late 1950s a titled Italian nobleman by the name of Count Giovanni Lurani was concerned about where the pipeline of future Italian Grand Prix drivers would come from. The path to Formula One was meandering. But  back to basics —- “Formula” refers to a single-seat open wheel racing car. It is built expressly for track use, not modified from a road-going vehicle.

At that time there was Formula Three, but it was arcane. These featherweights used a 500 cc motorcycle engine running on methanol fuel. When they ran right they were nimble, but getting them started required pushing or pulling, and if you spun out and stalled the engine your race was over. There was Formula Two, which mirrored the Grand Prix machines of Formula One, but with smaller engines. They were rare, pricey, and required a high level of expertise to maintain.

Alfred Momo, Briggs Cunningham’s tecnico introduces the Stanguelini Formula Junior (Greg Rickes/TeamMcClumpha Archives)


What Count Lurani, “Johnny” to his friends, envisioned was a scaled-down Formula car chassis, powered by a production-based engine. Presto, Formula Junior. Italian race builders jumped in enthusiastically. The names were melodic,  Stanguelini, Taraschi, Volpini. A FIAT 1100cc engine met the powerplant guidelines.


(Early F-J on the starting grid at LRP. BARCBoys photo)


The cars were gorgeous, graceful, flowing lines reminiscent of  Grand Prix Ferraris and Maseratis. Introduced in 1959 their numbers proliferated, first in Europe, then finding their way to the SCCA in the United States.


There was just one problem. By 1960  the “rear-engine” revolution was at full speed. More correctly “mid-engine” (engine behind the driver but in front of the rear axle) , this design first popularized by John Cooper (who’d intuitively scaled up his well-known Formula 3 design) and soon adopted by the innovative Colin Chapman of Lotus, was quickly moving the front-engine formula car design to obsolescence across the board. Soon it was the  English builders, Cooper and Chapman, joined by Eric Broadley at Lola, and Elva’s Frank Nichols, who dominated the thriving market place.


On this side of the Atlantic Formula Junior got an enthusiastic reception, and Lime Rock Park was at its epicenter. Before the SCCA had the Run-Offs to crown National Champions the title was decided by a series of races around the east and Midwest, so the path to the championship went right through Lime Rock Park. Lakeville’s Harry Carter won the second-ever SCCA National Championship in Formula Junior in 1961, followed by Tim Mayer in 1962. For reasons too complicated to delve into here in 1964 (the final season of FJ) the SCCA named two Formula Junior champions , and one of them was Brooks Fryberger, who raced out of nearby Falls Village.



(Harry Carter, with his eccentric car owner Fred Bull III at the right. BARCBOYS.com photo)


The name most closely associated with Lime Rock Park and Formula Junior was Jim Haynes. Sometime better recognized for his ownership and promotion of the track, Jim was an outstanding driver before he moved to the business side of racing. In 1959 he won his first SCCA National Championship in the temperamental Formula 3, but he could see where the future was headed and soon thereafter jumped into Formula Junior.


Jim began in FJ with a one-off called the “Jocko”. It was built by a fascinating character named Jocko Maggiacomo at his Poughkeepsie speed shop. In those days there was very little interaction between local oval-track stock car racers and the road-racing crowd, but Jocko was the exception. He had an outstanding record racing at the short oval built inside the Riverside amusement park in Agawam Massachusets, but could also show his expertise at Lime Rock Park (for example he co-drove a Studebaker to the win in Lime Rock’s Little LeMans 8 hour endurance race in 1960). The Jocko incorporated its builders experience from both realms, yet it may be fair to say this did not necessarily translate to Formula Junior success. In fact Jim said it was one of the most unpredictable cars he ever raced. On one legendary occasion he was at a practice session and the car did a barrel roll in Big Bend, going completely over and landing back on its wheels. A chastened Haynes drove back to the pit area, where the unknowing crew queried him about why his lap time was so slow! The Jocko later provided Sam Posey with his introduction to Lime Rock Park; you can read more about that in the excellent book “Sam’s Scrapbook”.

(Big Jim wrestling with the Jocko) (Jim Haynes Archives)


In 1961 Jim moved into a more mainstream FIAT-powered Stanguelini, but it quickly became apparent that the front-engine cars were obsolete and British-built was the way to go.


(Haynes leading the way in #18) (Jim Haynes Archives)


Jim Haynes is well-remembered as a jovial character, but that bon homme shouldn’t overshadow his fierce competitiveness.  For 1962 Haynes wasted no time getting in tune with the changing times and moving into a Lotus 18, which he immediately pushed to the front of the crowded Formula Junior pack


(Jim Haynes Archives)


By 1963 Formula Junior technology was changing rapidly, on almost a monthly basis. When Colin Chapman introduced the Lotus model 20 Formula Junior Jim assessed it as the car to beat, and he was quickly on board. Criss-crossing up and down the east coast and into the Midwest Jim pursued SCCA National races in earnest. His efforts paid off with the SCCA’s 1963 Formula Junior National Championship. (though ironically on home ground at Lime Rock he was a DNF- Did Not Finish)


This was Jim’s crowning achievement as a driver. He would continue to drive in various categories for several more years, but taking over the ownership and promotion of our beloved Lime Rock Park became his primary focus.


(Jim Haynes Archives)

In many ways Jim Haynes foray into Formula Junior represented the span of Formula Junior history and technology. It is a privilege  for Lime Rock Park to present the Jim Haynes Formula Junior Trophy Dash in his honor at Historics 41


(For more on the life and times of Jim Haynes here’s a tribute from the May 2023 issue of the Mohawk-Hudson Region SCCA “Knock-Off” )