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#1 Allen Brown

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Posted 20 November 2011 - 22:53

Can anyone educate me on the FRA? As Don Capps points out in a RVM, the F.R.A. Bulletin Board appeared in Sports Car Graphic every month from 1961 until the April 1966 issue but after that it's harder to find out about their activities.

I was talking to Victory Lane publisher Dan Davis the other day and he told me there was a FRA Pro series for several more seasons including classes for FB and FC.

Does anyone have information on the FRA either before or after 1966 that might fill out the story?

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#2 David Birchall

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 03:34

Allen, Some information here:
http://www.500race.o...th America.html
if you can get hold of a small, softbound book called "Formula Junior Guide" by Harry Morrow it will give you some insight. On page 18 Morrow states: "Into the void left by the lack of concern for the future of road racing [for formula cars] came the Formula Racing Association (FRA), which, because it did believe int he new formula [the FIA Formula Junior rules], had agreed to abandon their old title (500cc Club of America) and concentrate on open-wheeled formula racing of all varieties."
On page 17 he states: "Sports Car Club of America was stroking its national beard pretending to be wise, and saying that SCCA was only interested in sports car racing--though it had acknowledged (or tolerated) Formula III racing for the past 10 years. In the West, the California Sports Car Club displayed the same lack of foresight and was still more than a year away from working up any enthusiasm for formula car racing, though it too had provided racing for Formula III. United States Auto Club (USAC), carely on the fringes of road racing anyway, came up with a reaction that might have been predicted--they didn't even know there was such a thing as Formula Junior, or, for that matter, Formula I, II or III."
This was reporting on the situation in 1959--a year before the first Formula Junior race in the USA at the Sebring event in March 1960. The SCCA having announced the adoption of FIA FJ rules for the 1960 season.
Morrow was the founder of the Formula Racing Association.

This book was published in 1961 by Sports Car Press with the Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-16542
http://www.amazon.co...w/dp/B0007EL8PA
This post has been edited so many times now I am not sure it makes sense anymore...

Edited by David Birchall, 21 November 2011 - 04:00.


#3 David McKinney

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 08:12

I always assumed that, having succeeded in their aim of getting single-seater races organised (mainly AFAIK on the west coast and Mexico), they packed their tents and left the scene once bigger organisers began running FJ races, and certainly by the time FA/FB/FC was established

#4 Allen Brown

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 09:42

That was what I thought too David, but it seems I must have been wrong. As well as Dan's testimony, I spotted a comment on an old biography of Skeeter McKitterick that he was FRA F3 champion in 1968, the same year he was running in SCCA FC.

#5 David McKinney

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 10:40

We live and learn :)

#6 Allen Brown

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 13:30

This post has been edited so many times now I am not sure it makes sense anymore...

Still made sense to me!

Thanks for the info. I've ordered the Formula III book.

Now can anyone take the story beyond 1965?

#7 HiRich

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 15:03

Going back to the start, the 500cc Club of North America (sic) was formed 17th December 1951 in LA (right from the start it was based around Harry Morrow, although Bill Black was first to bring cars to the West Coast). 500s had arrived on the East Coast at the beginning of the year. The "North" was quickly dropped.

The Club took a partial ownership of 500s/Formula III, most notably with the technical regulations - an allowance for the use of some US pushrod engines, mandating lap belt, roll hoops and even crack testing of some critical components. The SCCA accepted these revisions and (generally) enabled Regional and National Championships. In South California, races were held with both the SCCA and CSCC, but there were other strongholds for F-III in North California across the North-Eastern seaboard. It's worth noting that the 500s were the first road-racing single-seaters to appear in the USA (at least in European terms). Reaction was mixed - some elements were very interested in European-style racing, others (unfortunately, often the race organisers) dismissive.

As well as their own news letter, an occasional piece appeared in the SoCal magazine MotoRacing until 1958. The Club did a lot to encourage the clubs to organise races and resolve organisational issues. It really operated as a club, with drop-in sessions at Harry's Autobooks shop, and a club atmosphere. They were particularly taken with the amateur element - as in the early years of the British club, there were many homebuilt specials racing (and just as many not quite making the track). The East coast never got so organised.

Come 1959, and FJunior was coming. It immediately triggered more interest than the 500s had, and it shouldn't have taken a genius to realise what was coming. The 500CA board adopted FJ as a sister formula 17/03/1959. The 500CA was by now organising one or two events of their own at small circuits (or with motorcycle clubs). The first planned FJ race was due to be at a Willow Springs meet, 26/04/1959, organised by the 500CA - though I'm not sure it actually happened. By May, Juniors were appearing on the West Coast in FLibre races with the 500s and a smattering of F1, F2 and specials.

Come 1960 and FJ took off. As David says, the SCCA sanctioned Juniors and very rapidly filled the grids (pushing out the 500s and Libres to their own race) with professional-style outfits. This turned out to be a bubble as costs shot through the roof, but that's another story for a Junior expert.

Back in Burbank, the 500CA had also seen the future. They changed to the FRA in March 1960 and sought to become the focus for FJ as well as 500s. It should also be remembered that the war between the CalClub (CSCC) and SCCA in SoCal was just coming to the boil (CalCLub was by far the larger club locally), and neither club had previously shown much interest or sensitivity to single-seater racing. My belief is that the FRA made a bit of a power-play at this time:
- As with F-III they proposed some changes from the FIA rules. Although (as I recall) they were well-founded, the SCCA rejected them.
- The FRA started organising a few more events, dedicated to all forms of single-seater racing.

With the SCCA now at least making an effort with single-seaters, it was a bit of a David & Goliath affair. There wasn't even a home in California, as the CalClub flipped and became a semi-independent part of the SCCA. The FRA was more of an enthusiasts club - active and keen, but lacking the fire power to take on the SCCA. Now, its newsletter appeared in Sports Car Graphic. Formula Vee had also arrived in 1963, but I'm not clear what interest the FRA took in this. The FRA continued organising meetings on the West Coast, and as far as I can make out was being just a bit of a thorn in the SCCA's side. They created a "continental" championship, but it didn't actually bring cars together from the opposite coasts, but just allowed points to be scored in local races.

The SCCA was now trying to take single-seaters seriously - in the wake of the bursting of the FJ bubble. Several ideas were discussed, eventually settling on Formulae A, B & C (though I'm a bit flaky on this). What I have been told is that about this time the SCCA decided to deal with the FRA. At a board meeting, it was made clear that the FRA would stop organising events immediately, unless they wanted all members to be banned from SCCA events (this was a trick they had pulled before). This was about 1966, when the FRA bulletin disappeared from the Sports Car Graphic magazine. What happens next goes beyond my knowledge, but I can see how the FRA would seem to no longer serve a purpose - no longer controlling the regulations, organisation or spirit of a series, there was no real reason to be a member. I don't know when it finally folded.

#8 David McKinney

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 16:21

It's worth noting that the 500s were the first road-racing single-seaters to appear in the USA (at least in European terms).

Not strictly true, though probably fair to say the first with their own class. A number of GP cars had raced in pre-war libre races on the other coast

#9 Allen Brown

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 22:13

Great stuff HiRich. I found the reference to Cal Club pulling the plug on the FRA's races at the end of 1965.

So I'm still perplexed about what happened to the FRA after April 1966.

#10 Jim Thurman

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 23:35

Great stuff HiRich. I found the reference to Cal Club pulling the plug on the FRA's races at the end of 1965.

So I'm still perplexed about what happened to the FRA after April 1966.

They continued...

The FRA Bulletins moved to a Motor Classics, a newspaper published by Frank Alter in Los Angeles. Motor Classics covered national pro and international road racing (in brief), NASCAR and USAC, along with southern California short oval racing. For a comparison, think of Competition Press & Autoweek of the era, just replace CP&A's SCCA amateur coverage with the southern California short track racing. And, not in as much depth, because it was a smaller paper than CP&A. But, a good, well rounded U.S. and local publication.

I know the FRA sanctioned a race at Orange County International Raceway, which was much better known as a dragstrip, yet had a road course. I believe in 1967 or 1968.

The FRA also held at least one race at Ascot Park. Yes, the dirt oval. They managed to create a road course using portions of the 1/4 and 1/2 mile dirt ovals. Again, I believe in 1967 or 1968. IIRC, Johnnie Parsons was the promoter.

And, the FRA held a race on an abandoned airfield at Vina, California (in the northern Sacramento Valley) in 1968 as well.

I have published race reports of these events, but they are not handy at the moment.

#11 Allen Brown

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 17:39

Thanks very much for this info Jim.

So the FRA definitely continued until at least 1968. I will keep digging.

Anyone else have any recollections?

#12 HiRich

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Posted 26 November 2011 - 13:36

Jim, the Ascot Park meeting was June 1965

#13 Jim Thurman

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Posted 26 November 2011 - 20:44

Jim, the Ascot Park meeting was June 1965

Thanks Rich. Did "Foreign Stocks" run as a support class? I recall one where they shared the bill. They might have had more than one. I need to dig out the old papers.

#14 Jim Thurman

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Posted 26 November 2011 - 20:46

Thanks very much for this info Jim.

So the FRA definitely continued until at least 1968. I will keep digging.

Allen, sorry I don't have more specific details. I will get you the race reports or results ASAP (which could be a bit :| )

I do not recall any mention of the FRA after 1968. Perhaps the race at Vina was their last?

#15 HiRich

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 13:33

Did "Foreign Stocks" run as a support class?

Sorry, Jim, I only have the date, courtesy of this mechanic's armband:
http://www.ahrf.com/...-in-everything/

#16 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 19:09

Sorry, Jim, I only have the date, courtesy of this mechanic's armband:
http://www.ahrf.com/...-in-everything/

Thanks for the link. I am not so certain about the "only time" Firstly, the writer seems to recall or believe it was held solely on an oval, while the race I am aware of used an impromptu "road course" made up of portions of the 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile ovals.

"Foreign Stocks", basically small sedans, did not really catch on in southern California until about 1967, when races for the cars were popping up around the area.

#17 HiRich

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 13:11

I'd already stuck a note in my files that there may be another, later event. Your recollections just don't stack up with the other stories we have for the mid- to late-1960s. Another obvious question would be how Skeeter McKitterick could be an F3 champion when there doesn't seem to have been a Formula 3 in America. My instinct is that the FRA was more active in those years than we have assumed.

#18 Allen Brown

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 13:46

I'd already stuck a note in my files that there may be another, later event. Your recollections just don't stack up with the other stories we have for the mid- to late-1960s. Another obvious question would be how Skeeter McKitterick could be an F3 champion when there doesn't seem to have been a Formula 3 in America. My instinct is that the FRA was more active in those years than we have assumed.


I had thought that the FRA might have moved to the new 1000cc Formula 3, roughly equivalent to SCCA FC, which would explain McKitterick winning a F3 title the same year he was running FC with the SCCA. I've just skimmed through the Harry C. Reynolds F3 book - which is concerned just with 500cc F/III - and he makes no mention of any FRA activity after Cal Club withdrew its support for FRA races in October 1965.

So where do we stand? We have two or three snippets saying there was FRA racing in 1966 and afterwards but remarkably little evidence to support them.

#19 Jim Thurman

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 18:14

I had thought that the FRA might have moved to the new 1000cc Formula 3, roughly equivalent to SCCA FC, which would explain McKitterick winning a F3 title the same year he was running FC with the SCCA. I've just skimmed through the Harry C. Reynolds F3 book - which is concerned just with 500cc F/III - and he makes no mention of any FRA activity after Cal Club withdrew its support for FRA races in October 1965.

So where do we stand? We have two or three snippets saying there was FRA racing in 1966 and afterwards but remarkably little evidence to support them.

Trust me on this one Allen, my recall isn't faulty on this. The OCIR and Vina races were definitely afterwards (I even found a date for Vina, June 2, 1968). It's a matter of finding time and a way to scan in the reports for you to see. What with everything still packed or difficult to get to after a chaotic move, that isn't as easy as it was. OCIR didn't even open until some time in 1967.

FC was more what they were doing.

What's odd, is the race reports I recall seeing were from 1966-68, with bulletins continuing in Motor Classics from 1966. The reason I recall an Ascot Park race from 1966 or 1967 is the "Foreign Stocks" on the bill and the fact that I have more Motor Classics from that period. Yet, despite the bulletins I don't recall any races aside from the three I mentioned. They obviously didn't race much.

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#20 Allen Brown

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 18:37

Thanks Jim. I didn't mean to suggest that I distrusted your recollection - just the difference between those few races you know of and the championships that Dan remembers.


#21 Jim Thurman

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 19:29

Thanks Jim. I didn't mean to suggest that I distrusted your recollection - just the difference between those few races you know of and the championships that Dan remembers.

No problem Allen, motorsports is like music...the more you think you know, the more you discover.

With motorsports, much of what is "known" winds up being inaccurate. Which is understandable with all the nooks and crannies to look in.

Despite being away almost all day yesterday, I did manage a quick search of newspaper archives I have access to, and turned up a few bits of relevant info.

The FRA's Northern California chapter is the one that put on the race at Vina on June 2, 1968. They also sanctioned a race April 14, 1968 at Vaca Valley. A racing column featuring a passage previewing the Vina race mentioned Jon Milledge as the winner of the Vaca Valley event.

And since these were in general newspapers, there is no mention of make of chassis, or engine, or anything of that sort.

It appears between their 1965 races and these 1968 events, the only racing the FRA Northern California chapter might have sanctioned were autocrosses in the parking lot of the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

Edited by Jim Thurman, 29 November 2011 - 19:38.


#22 Jim Thurman

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 19:39

And another piece of the puzzle.

excerpted from the Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1966:

"...formula cars will return to the 5/8 mile Ascot Park road course Saturday night." It goes on mention they will be sharing the bill with a "foreign sedan program in a twin-bill being staged by former Indianapolis winner Johnnie Parsons..."

I was off by a year. The date would have been August 13, 1966. This will make it easy to look that one up (well, when I get to my papers).

Unfortunately, I cannot narrow down the date of the Orange County race other than sometime between late 1967 and Spring 1968.

#23 Allen Brown

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 21:07

Another snippet here, from the Merced Sun-Star 9 May 1968, talks of a planned race at Los Banos. Again it was the Northern Chapter and the only named official was Byron Snow, a San Jose attorney. The articles mentions that the FRA season had started at Vacaville on 14 April and will continue at Chico on 1 June.

Vina and Chico are the same place according to an article Chico Auxiliary Army Airfield #3 / Deer Creek Ranch Airport (CA60), Vina, CA on the wonderfully illuminating Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields website. For a while Bob Foor and Mike Pelak ran Vina Raceway on the airfield.




#24 Jim Thurman

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 23:01

Another snippet here, from the Merced Sun-Star 9 May 1968, talks of a planned race at Los Banos. Again it was the Northern Chapter and the only named official was Byron Snow, a San Jose attorney. The articles mentions that the FRA season had started at Vacaville on 14 April and will continue at Chico on 1 June.

Vina and Chico are the same place according to an article Chico Auxiliary Army Airfield #3 / Deer Creek Ranch Airport (CA60), Vina, CA on the wonderfully illuminating Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields website. For a while Bob Foor and Mike Pelak ran Vina Raceway on the airfield.

Vina is 20 miles northwest of Chico, so the communities are different, but the U.S. media practice of rounding it to the nearest large city places the race as "Chico". I wonder if Los Banos was to be an autocross, or a layout using streets and roads in and around the fairgrounds (which are a rather small fairground).

The airfield site is wonderful isn't it? Especially considering the number of racing connections to abandoned airfields.

Edited by Jim Thurman, 29 November 2011 - 23:12.


#25 Jim Thurman

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Posted 02 December 2011 - 18:59

I found a few more newspaper items on the FRA.

The race at Ascot Park on June 26, 1965 confirmed, though it took place on the "road course", not the oval. Cecil Wells did win. At the moment, I do not have time to post what results I found.

Another item mentioned a scheduled race at Stardust Raceway in Las Vegas in 1969 that was "postponed" due to a change of ownership of the raceway (which would soon see its closure).

And the FRA Northern California chapter was around at least into 1971.

Edited by Jim Thurman, 02 December 2011 - 19:06.


#26 Michael Ferner

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 21:17

Oakland Tribune, Thurs., Oct. 17, 1968:

Formula Racing Assn. wraps up its '68 season Sunday at Vina Raceway near Chico, with a series of races starting at 12:30 p.m. for all classes of open wheel formula cars. The West Coast entries are headed by Mt. View's Jon Milledge, Nick Reynolds now from Oregon, Berkeley's Steve Griswold and Lafayette's Jack Franck.
The Vina 2 mile ten turn circuit is 18 miles from Chico towards Red Bluff on Highway 99E.



#27 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 06:40

Oakland Tribune, Thurs., Oct. 17, 1968:


This link has contact info for Jon Milledge:

http://www.pca-ggr.o.../pdf/2009bw.pdf

Vince H.


#28 RonPohl

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 18:53

This link has contact info for Jon Milledge:

http://www.pca-ggr.o.../pdf/2009bw.pdf

Vince H.

I attended an FRA race as a spectator at Willow Springs in 1967 (I think). It was a wonderfully relaxed club type event. about 25to 30 cars. As a 17 year old, I was very impressed that I could view the cars up close and talk to the drivers. I have some pictures which I will post eventually. In 1969 or 1970 there was a "pro" formula car race at orange county raceway, a dragstrip with return road made into a road course. I think it was a financial bust and no one got any prize money. It was a non-scca race, so probably one of the last FRA events.

#29 Allen Brown

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 08:49

This link has contact info for Jon Milledge:

http://www.pca-ggr.o.../pdf/2009bw.pdf

Vince H.

Jon has great recall:

Allen,

The first FRA race was at VacaValley Raceway where I won overall. The second was at a WWII airport in Chico, CA where I learned about Hewland gearboxes in practice and couldn’t start the race. The third FRA race was at the Santa Ana drag strip using the drag strip and surrounding roads. I won that race but the $1000 check bounced. I also won a Premier helmet that I wore for a couple of years. Small consolation. I didn’t run anymore FRA races that year as the SCCA FB championship was starting at Riverside.