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The Ex-Alan Mann Racing Team
1968-69-Type Ford P68 'F3L' Group 6 Endurance Racing Coupe
Chassis no. 002
Anyone who was lucky enough to witness qualifying for the 1968 Spa 1,000 Kilometres race will recall Australian driver Frank Gardner's shattering pole position lap in by far the most shapely and exotic-looking car in the entire entry ? Alan Mann Racing's bright-red, gold-striped Ford P68 'F3L' Coupe. In fact Frank Gardner's pole position lap time at Spa-Francorchamps not only demoted Spa specialist Jacky Ickx's Gulf-JWA team Ford GT40 into second place on the grid, it would also have placed the shapely P68 Coupe car on the third row of the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix starting grid ? despite the extra 300lbs that the endurance-racing Coupe must have weighed...
Similarly, anyone who saw that same year's RAC Tourist Trophy race first-hand at Oulton Park in England will recall the dazzling early performance of this startling-looking, lightweight and compact Coupe design with its Formula 1-derived 3-litre Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engine, as driven there by rising British Formula 1 star Richard Attwood...
He had also qualified the car on pole position, in his case 0.4second faster than rival Jo Bonnier's 5-litre Lola-Chevrolet T70GT, and as Autosport magazine reported: "Attwood's tyre-smoking start was magnificent...and the Ford had quite an impressive lead at the end of lap 1 as it screamed out of Deer's Leap...". The new Ford was going like an absolute rocket, building an ever-increasing lead over its larger-engined rivals, including Paul Hawkins's Ford GT40, David Piper's Ferrari P3/4 and the Bonnier and Denny Hulme Lola-Chevrolet T70GTs. However, after 10 laps Richard Attwood brought the car into the pits to complain of sudden bad handling. Investigation revealed that the differential had broken, and after one despairing exploratory lap the car had to be retired from the Tourist Trophy race.
Three of the Alan Mann Racing Ford P68 or 'F3L' Coupes were constructed, of which we are delighted to offer this well-presented example as the furthest developed, and potentially the most capable of renewed success within the Historic racing world.
In the late Alan Mann's wonderful book 'Alan Mann: A Life of Change', co-authored with Tony Dron, the British Ford-specialist private entrant recalled how: "At the end of 1966 Len Bailey started a new design for us called the P68, otherwise known as the F3L. These names could be decoded easily enough as 'Ford 3-litre Prototype for 1968'. Having won Le Mans comprehensively with an immense show of force, Ford of America suddenly pulled out of prototype sports car racing after 1967. But, working with Ford of Britain, we pressed ahead with an entirely new, very different car. This was done with the full blessing of Harley Copp, Ford's worldwide Director of Engineering.
"Our advanced concept envisaged a very slippery prototype racing sports car with the famous Cosworth-Ford DFV engine, which had made its Grand Prix debut in 1967 and was already the dominant engine in Formula 1. Only we and Lotus had access to the DFV at that stage. However, the designer of the Cosworth engine, Keith Duckworth, made it quite clear from the start that he didn't like sports cars...
"Maurice Gomm produced the partially stressed bodywork for the F3L, and it was beautifully made. Everything was packed very tightly within the F3L's body, making it extremely difficult to work on anything inside it. As we weren't given permission by Cosworth to stress the engine for endurance racing, we had to continue the chassis around the engine in the back and consequently the exhaust pipes were far too close to everything around them. To save space, the engine coolant ran through pipes built into the chassis, to and from the front-mounted radiator...
"Running a DFV in that application, as we discovered step by painful step, was very different from its use in a Formula 1 car. What we didn't understand in those early days was that, being enclosed, the timing gear at the front of the engine was getting hotter than usual, causing the little quill shaft to twist. When operated at too high a temperature it would fail, but it took some time before anybody realised why these failures were occurring.
"In testing we could run the car for about an hour at Goodwood and then the engine would stop. It would then be sent back to Cosworth and that meant we had to wait another two weeks while it was rebuilt to the standard specification, which of course would simply lead to another identical failure.... We had only one engine at first and we never did get a spare during the whole 1968 season...
"Another major difficulty with the F3L design was that it was extremely hard to get the very curved windscreens made without seriously distorting the view out of the cockpit. That alone made it tricky enough to drive the car precisely, but we discovered other problems in testing at Goodwood.... It proved to be a bit spooky to drive...Mike Spence...came down to Goodwood to test the F3L...and the first thing he said was that the steering rack was moving. The mechanics were deeply offended....so we checked it out properly and confirmed that it was not loose.
"Mike, however, knew he was on to something and he then told me to hold a front wheel while he waggled the steering wheel. That got to the bottom of it. The rack was obviously firmly bolted to the chassis but we could see the whole assembly flexing.
"Mike also wanted an effective rear spoiler, a suggestion that upset Len Bailey as the increased drag of a spoiler was against his ideas on aerodynamics. Len was convinced he had come up with a shape that would hold the back down without the penalty of increased drag.
"By the time Mike Spence came to test the car we had already added a small wrap-around spoiler, mounted low at the rear, and it had a slotted, vertical attachment so that the height of the lip could be adjusted. Eventually...we did as Mike requested and raised the back of that spoiler for maximum effect. Mike immediately got down to 1 min 16 sec, a very fast time round Goodwood and nearly 4 seconds quicker than we'd been going before that..."
Alan Mann's driver line up for the F3L was meant to be Jim Clark and Graham Hill in one team car with Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme in the sister entry. However, calendar clashes with Team Lotus Formula 1 demands on the former World Champion pairing made this impossible. The P68 project was being funded by Goodyear, Castrol and Ford and in preparation for the model's racing debut in the 1968 BOAC 1,000 race at Brands Hatch having only one engine confined the actual entry to just a single car, and Mann teamed Bruce McLaren with Mike Spence in it.
After a troubled start McLaren led this P68 debut race, leaving the works Porsche team in his wake until a long pit stop delayed matters. But the terrific heat from the Ford's cramped exhaust system overheated the drive-shaft rubber doughnut joints, and one broke, forcing Mike Spence to retire.
For the ADAC 1,000Kms event at the Nurburgring, Alan Mann Racing entered two F3Ls for Frank Gardner/Richard Attwood and Chris Irwin/Pedro Rodriguez. During practice Brabham Formula 1 newcomer Chris Irwin began lapping fantastically quickly in his F3L on a damp track only to crash horribly at the Flugplatz hump...after apparently striking a hare at high-speed which disrupted the front of the bodywork, creating catastrophic aerodynamic lift. He suffered career-ending head injuries but fearless co-driver Pedro Rodriguez announced he was keen to deputise in the other team car if either Attwood or Gardner did not fancy the challenge. In fact Richard Attwood drove but had his car's front brake pads come adrift on the opening lap. After a puncture and a door flying open the car lapped rapidly until its ignition black box failed and while Richard was investigating the problem at trackside a backmarker Alfa Romeo collided with the shapely Ford, causing final retirement.
The RAC TT then followed at Oulton Park, with Attwood driving the sole surviving F3L ? the Irwin wreck being stored under a tarpaulin at the Alan Mann Racing workshop in Byfleet, Surrey.
In the Martini 300 Trophy race at Silverstone, Frank Gardner then drove the F3L and was only narrowly pipped for pole position by Denny Hulme in Sid Taylor's big V8-engined Lola-Chevrolet T70. Regardless, Gardner and the F3L led that race for the first 41 laps, 120 miles, until a DFV engine camshaft broke.
For the Spa 1,000Kms in Belgium, Frank Gardner then qualified the F3L on that spectacularly impressive pole position, fully 4secs faster than Jacky Ickx's Gulf-JW team Ford GT40. But torrential rain engulfed the circuit as the race started and Gardner retired the F3L after the opening lap with its electrics completely flooded.
In his book Alan Mann quoted Richard Attwood as follows: "He maintains to this day that, although it lacked downforce, the (Ford P68's) basic handling was very good and he tells me that he really enjoyed driving it in 1968. He points out that it was astonishingly fast and he also reminded me recently that, in every race it did in 1968, the F3L was on pole, led the race or set the fastest race lap. Those facts speak for themselves in Richard's way of thinking, and he feels that the car has been criticized too harshly ever since..."
Into 1969 an open-cockpit P69 variant was developed which was entered for that year's BOAC race at Brands Hatch alongside the remaining Coupe, which had been rigged with a Formula 1-style strutted rear wing. Denny Hulme and Frank Gardner were to share the F3L while the P69 was set aside after practice ? and Hulme ran 5th overall before the DFV engine lost its oil pressure. Frank Gardner later drove the F3L Coupe again in the Martini Silverstone meeting, starting from yet another pole position, but heavy rain again swamped the car's electrics even before it reached the starting grid...
There were at that time the P69 and two P68 Coupes in existence, as Alan Mann recalled: "In addition to the car we had raced all through 1968, we also had a nearly completed F3L, a replacement for the car that had been crashed at the Nurburgring.... This P68 was built but not finally race-prepared because I had received a letter from Walter Hayes (of Ford) in about August 1968, instructing me to suspend working on it as there was nothing left in the budget to cover it..."
Years later Ford competitions head Stuart Turner ordered a massive clear-out of redundant stores at Ford Boreham. Stacks of F3L spares were scrapped, together with the unloved P69 roadster. Ford Press chief Harry Calton contacted Bonhams consultant Doug Nye ? who was advising Tom Wheatcroft at the time on his growing Donington Collection of Formula 1 cars - saying that the cars were being sawn up unless someone could be found to house them, pronto. Nye immediately called Mr Wheatcroft who readily agreed to give them house room ? so rescuing the two P68s for posterity.
Alan Mann: "The two surviving F3Ls (were) acquired by Tom Wheatcroft's Donington Museum.... Late in 2006 I bought an F3L from David Piper. The specification of this car is rather different from that of the original cars. David Piper had hired Len Bailey to help with that car's construction and it emerged with the original designer's later thinking built into it. The changes included a glassfibre body, instead of aluminium, and the engine was a stressed member of the chassis, as it should and would have been in the first place had Cosworth permitted us to do that for 1968. We gave it a tentative first outing in July 2008 with John Young driving...it was reliable and ran much better than the original F3L did in 1968 and 1969. Richard Attwood drove it for me in the Goodwood Festival of Speed..."
The Ford P68 'F3L' now offered here is this 'ultimate specification' ex-David Piper, ex-Alan Mann Racing car ? which includes some parts believed to have been salvaged from the Chris Irwin Nurburgring wreck, including (we are advised) the doors and some sections of superstructure and front bodywork. The door panels notably show age and have former fuel-filler apertures welded shut. Much of this Piper project re-construction was carried out by respected specialist Kerry Adams. Where the original P68's wheelbase length had been 2210mm ? 87 inches ? this third chassis adopted the longer (rather less 'nervous', hence easier to drive) wheelbase length of 2280mm ? 89¾-inches. Interestingly, back in June 1968 Paddy McNally of Autosport wrote: "Some people have criticized the Alan Mann F3L Group 6 car on the grounds that it is a 'square' motor car (its wheelbase is approximately the same as its rear track) and maintain that it therefore won't handle in fast corners. This is interesting theoretically, but is hardly proven by the Ford's performance so far...". Stretching the wheelbase obviated this potential problem.
The car's engine today is mounted fully-stressed ? Formula 1-style - as an integral part of the chassis structure, and the bodywork's major opening panels are ? as described by Alan Mann himself (above) - in moulded glassfibre, while spare alloy panels are also offered with this Lot, as is a glassfibre mould for the front and rear body sections. The car features front and rear spoilers which were developed by Len Bailey at MIRA for Mr Piper's rebuild.
When the car was acquired from Alan Mann by the current vendor it is described as having been "very tired" and a great deal of no-expense-spared work was then carried out, the chassis being rebuilt by Ford GT specialists Gelscoe, all suspension re-manufactured, a new DG300 gearbox provided by Peter Smith, while the present engine is a long-stroke DFV rebuilt by Geoff Richardson. Car and engine have completed circa 8 hours use since including racing at Spa-Francorchamps and Jarama, and testing at Ricard-Castellet.
The car has proved extremely competitive in the Peter Auto Classic Endurance Series in which it is made to run with a 9,000rpm rev limit. Offered together with current FIA HTP and a spares package, this seductively-profiled, very rare endurance racing Coupe with its Formula 1 engine and proven outright performance potential is very much the super-sophisticated ultimate development of the Ford GT family tree. We very much commend it to the market. Please note that should this vehicle remain in the UK local import taxes of 5% will be added to the hammer price.