Making and installing lead ballast weights in a Formula Ford

The minimum weight of the Formula Ford Race Car without the driver is 420kg. The minimum weight with the driver is 500kg but the driver is only ~60kg so we need to find almost 20kg! Actually the car is slightly heavy so it’s about 15kg.
To keep the centre of gravity as low as possible this weight must be placed right on the floor but there isn’t a great deal you can secure a lead weight to that low so we had to make our own ballast to fit within the chassis rails. This is the safest and most effective way of adding ballast. It was just a bit dangerous. Ooo Ayy!
We melted the lead into a mold effectively casting it within a wooden frame.  On reflection this was a reasonable idea but using a large tray was a bad idea.  It made it difficult to handle and also lost heat too quickly through that large surface area.  In future a small pan would be better.

Checking for cracks in a Formula Ford 1600 Crossflow Engine

After our eventful race last weekend I looked under the car which had bottomed out and realised we’d better check that engine!

Formula Ford Flywheel and Bell Housing

Exposed flywheel with scuffs

The flywheel on these engines can hit the floor which can put a crack in the crankshaft around the rear main bearing.  I’ve had two engines with crack here.  One blew up in Anglesey and the other was condemned in an engine builder’s workshop as being close to the big bang.

FF1600 Crankshaft Crack Testing
Formula Ford 1600 Crankshaft with dye
Scuffed crank
The crankshaft is not in the best condition


We want this engine back in the other car by the end of the week so we tipped it on some tyres and got the crack out quickly.  Armed with some Ambersil Leak and Flaw detector ( we sprayed the centre main bearing and the area of the crankshaft which is subject to cracking.  I was keen on spraying the main bearing as the previous engine had a crack in it here.  Since I first drove the car with this engine it had low oil pressure (35psi on the straights) so I suspected this engine had the same problem.

Crack testing dye on block
FF1600 Block with Dye

I hate being right sometimes… the centre main bearing shell gave it away (as did the oil pressure) before we even got the spray on.  It was badly worn and yes there is a crack here.   Luckily, well sort of, the crank is fine but is scuffed a bit.

dye penetrant showing crack in FF1600 block

NDT Spray showing crack in centre main bearing

FF1600 Crank with NDT developer spray
Crankshaft with developer spray showing no crack

That’s it for this block really.   I need an engine in the car by the end of the week so I put it back together.  The way the engine builder (believed to be Stevie Patton) sets the cam timing is to put an undersized dowel in the camshaft drive and use the bolts like a vernier.  We tried to mark the position but I think we lost it so it’s also likely to be down on power now too!  All round a bit of a rubbish day but it made it easy to decide on what to do next.  Sell the 88 cheap and buy a brand new, crack free engine.  I never liked that car anyway!

Worn Main Bearing Shell down to copper
Worn Main Bearing Shell

Oulton Park Foster 18th April 2015

Following on from building the car in a few evenings some problems we faced re-occurred to make this round more of a test session than a race.  Michael qualified 6th out of 19 after 10 laps which was not bad considering the car had a major handling issue and we hadn’t tested the car until that session. Unfortunately the clutch failed in qualifying and we did not get this fixed for race 1.  Race 2 we started right at the back but with a hampered car Michael failed to make progress.

The main issue with the car which we could not address was the lack of rear droop.  The speed at which the car was re-assembled meant we had to assume the spare dampers fitted.  Sadly they did not allow for any droop in the rear suspension which badly affected traction out of corners.

Round 1 Silverstone International Summary

A weekend that promised so much and delivered so little mainly due to Michael screwing it up! A flat new tyre did not help leading to guessing a setup.
In the video we see a confession (sorry George)
A botched up crash repair job.
And speculation as to why a smashed up race car was faster than the one painstakingly setup by someone not very good at painstakingly setting up a race car!