The Insider’s Market Report – ‘Young timer’ F1 Cars
Rewind the Formula One clock 30 years and you’ll find cars with real presence, neat of line and without the excessive aerodynamic clutter that has in recent years generated extra performance at the expense of visual purity. They represent a transitional point in grand prix racing history, a time when steering wheels were just starting to perform functions other than turning left or right, the use of electronic aids was accelerating and changing gear involved a lever in an H-pattern gate – for most, at least.
They might have been far more sophisticated than the Ford Mondeo that transported you to the office every morning, but the principles of operation weren’t so different. I guess we all have our favourite motor racing eras, perhaps partly conditioned by our age, or more specifically how old we were when first we fell in love with motor racing, but right now F1 cars from the early 1990s are in high demand.
There aren’t that many disciplines in which they can race, though the pan-European BOSS GP series has a class for them, but ever more demonstration runs are being organised to give owners an opportunity to stretch their cars’ legs. This year, for instance, the long-established FORCE organisation has events planned at Zandvoort, Brands Hatch, Jarama and the Nürburgring – including on the Nordschleife. And newcomer Ignition GP likewise has several dates organised, its venues including Goodwood, Silverstone and Paul Ricard.
So, what’s the big appeal?
FORCE co-founder Lorina McLaughlin raced an ex-James Hunt McLaren M23 for many years and says, “I’d driven the McLaren for so long that it had become more or less an extension of my body, but we noticed at events that people were starting to show a greater interest in some of the younger cars – probably a function of when they’d grown up. I’d driven at a great many circuits in the McLaren and was looking for something fresh…”
Her husband David, the other half of FORCE and himself a former racer of historic grand prix cars, adds, “Our criteria were quite simple – the replacement had to have three pedals, a gearshift and wouldn’t need a computer to start it up. Beyond that we wanted something with a good history.”
They ended up with a Benetton B192, a car raced in period by both Martin Brundle and Michael Schumacher, the latter of whom took it to second place in 1992’s season-closing Australian Grand Prix.
“It is reasonably straightforward to operate,” David says. “The only real difference between its Ford HB engine and an older Cosworth DFV is the need to run through a two-hour preparation process to make sure it is warmed up properly.”
According to Lorina, one of the nicest aspects has been doing events in a few unexpected places. “By doing demo runs along the seafront, or in city centres, we are taking these cars to people who might not ordinarily attend a racing event. They seem to love it.” James Hanson spearheads Speedmaster, a specialist in sourcing and selling historic road and competition cars, and he has noticed the growing interest in early 1990s F1 cars. “We’ve had quite a few pass through our hands,” he says. “People seem to like them because they have to be driven in the old-fashioned way – plus of course they are spectacularly quick. Prices vary – certain cars that have been driven by the likes of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost or Michael Schumacher have already gone through the roof and will fetch serious seven-figure sums.
I’m fairly sure some of those will go straight into private collections and won’t be seen in action again.” “And then there are the people who’ll spend a few hundred thousand pounds on a car and want to use it. A lot of them have Cosworth or Judd engines that are relatively easy to maintain and don’t necessarily cost a huge amount to run, especially when you are not running them over a full grand prix distance and you are doing demos, rather than races, with less risk of damage. And arguably they are even less complicated than Cosworth DFVs, because they have electronic rather than mechanical injection.
“The starting point? Some of the relatively obscure stuff – and there were quite a few small teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s, remember – might sell for about £200,000-£300,000. That’s a lot of money in the overall scheme of things, but I hear stories of people spending £175,000 for a front-running Lotus Cortina, so…”
We are all too often in thrall at the seamless simplicity of our digital world, but let’s not forget the analogue majesty that went before. *