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Extract from Autosport, 3rd March 1994

Turning The Clock Back To Real Racing

The demise of contemporary Formula Ford 2000 robbed Britain of its best 'slicks and wings' training class - but the cars and racing live on at club level.

Formula Ford 2000 was a brilliant concept. Evolved from FF1600 by Brands Hatch boss John Webb in 1974, it provided a natural stepping stone from the smaller Ford-engined class and Formula 3.

Thirty percent more power than FF1600 (from a 2-litre OHC Pinto engine), grippy slick racing tyres and wings made it a runaway success in Britain and, later, continental Europe. Many great drivers visited the class en route to F1, including Ayrton Senna da Silva.

FF2000 took off in the USA and Canada in the mid-80's, but by that time high-tech chassis were demanding bigger budgets. Support waned in Britain, and the domestic series was dropped after 1989.

However, the class continued at club level in the UK. In 1985, the BARC created a championship for cars built before 1979, but the eligibility deadline has been gradually brought forward to 1983, where it will probably remain.

URS prepared Van Dieman Rf82

The Van Diemen RF82 is the mainstay of the URS series.

Ken Thorogood ran FF2000 cars in the formula's heyday, and his Universal Racing Services concern now specialises in the charismatic cars. He has sponsored the series since 1987, during which time it has gone from strength to strength.

It's easy to see why; the concept of FF2000 has never been surpassed as a second step on the racing ladder. Its multi-chassis format is far more appealing than the current rash of one-make classes, and its dry-sump engine/four-speed Hewland gearbox brought reliability that was the envy of the Formula Renault UK series in its early years.

"We like to say that Pre-'83 FF2000 is the most cost-effective wings-and-slicks formula" says Thorogood. "We've aimed at people who want to own and drive real racing cars, rather than those who get more enjoyment out of tinkering with them. The cars are well built, and the stability of the rules protects investments."

URS allowed us the opportunity to test the ex-Dave Nichols Van Diemen RF82 at Snetterton recently. To provide a contrast we also had a Reynard SF78 at our disposal, courtesy of Alan Parker, champion for the past two years in the secondary class for cars made before 1980. The cars are very different, each with a distinct personality.

I drove the SF78 first and immediately rediscovered the joys of FF2000. The outboard-suspended chassis is responsive and forgiving, and can be held at any angle under power out of slower corners. Not unexpectedly, it felt looser than the Van Diemen in the quick turns.

Parker started racing with a Delta T79 in 1985, and restored the current Reynard with his father Gordon in 1990. Seventeen wins from 19 starts in 1992-93 is some record, but second overall at Mallory Park was the highlight of Parker's season.

Driving the Van Diemen was a real nostalgia trip. I raced Frank Bradley's second RF82 twice at the end of 1982 to collect the final signatures for my international licence - and Ken Thorogood ran it. Bradley and I finished one-two at Brands Hatch in torrential rain: I'll never forget being on full right lock, hard on the gas, facing the marshals' post on Cooper Straight.

The car may be a tighter fit for me now, but the super-stiff spaceframe chassis - designer Dave Baldwin's first with inboard suspension at both ends - felt as good as ever. Van Diemen's RF81 had left rivals trailing the previous year, and this logical evolution rubbed salt into their wounds, particularly with Mr Senna aboard.

The RF82 puts the power down better than the earlier Reynard and I was amazed by the cornering forces it generates around the long Coram right-hander. It appreciates being driven smoothly with precise steering inputs, although it can be thrown around.

Once 'early' FF2000 cars are properly sorted, optimising them for different circuits is a matter of changing gear ratios, wing and anti-roll bar settings.

URS prepares and fields several cars in the current Classic Formula Ford 2000 series for owner/drivers.