|THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.2|
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COOPER with the FOLEY TOUCH.
The first Cooper was, as our test car was, overbored to give a capacity of 1310cc. There the similarity ends. The 1968 car is 10 seconds a lap faster at Warwick Farm than the early car. It’s all a matter of development and the improvements are extensive. That it is a Morris Cooper S there can be no doubt. It has of course, the familiar ‘brick’ shape we have become so familiar with over the years. But it looks like a ‘Hotty’. It has those funny wide wheels and tyres that looks odd on the Mini, and it has the wheel arch extensions that make the wide wheels legal, even for road use.
It even looks pretty ordinary inside. The trim is the same as the standard car (English version though). It has a tacho, than so do many other Coopers. It has a fat, and well used, MoMo steering wheel, but so do lots of other Coopers. But it smells different. Silly maybe, but it has a sort of clinically mechanical smell, part racing fuel, part burnt racing oil, part just sheer cleanliness, the trade mark of the top racing mechanic.
And it has an aura about it. When you climb in and take the wheel it stops feeling just like any Cooper and starts feeling like the car that won the 1967 A.J.C. Trophy Race outright. Start the engine and you know what it is all about. It’s a cranky thing, wilful and impetuous, and it wants to go. It is not a standing still motor car and it looks wrong standing still and feels wrong going slowly. The engine is harsh with a popping low rev and tearing high rev note that just screams to be unleashed and allowed to go to work.
So with a knowing smile from the man the singapurians call the ‘King of the Minis’, I decide it’s time to go. Nothing special about the clutch, perhaps a bit tighter than most but it presents no problem. First gear, 3000 revs on, let in the clutch … and it nearly stalls. Try 4000, that’s better – now were moving, bit more throttle.
An explosion of acceleration and 7000 revs, grope for second, another 7000 – hell, its all too quick, button off for paddock, gently over the Causeway, find out what it does first, power on up to Polo, 7000 in third, Polo nice and steady, screw it up again, it’s understeering, lift off, oops, too much – instant oversteer, correct, power on again, 7500 going into Leger, more understeer, lift again, more instant oversteer, Pit Straight now, first lap over – now let’s see what it does.
A corner here, a corner there, put them all together and you have a circuit. And now it’s obvious why Brian Foley wins races. Power, handling and skill; what more do you need? This car has the power and the handling but it needs the skill to make the best use of it’s potential. It is responsive to a sneeze. The gear shift is sweet, especially with a positive stop against the reverse gate to clean up the 2-3 change.
With much power the front wheel drive is an experience. You can feel the tyres grabbing the road. It almost wants to tear the steering wheel out of your hands. There is a very strong self centring action which you think about your exit lines. You have to steer it out as well as in. But most of all it is a throttle car. It reacts to every movement of the right foot. Indelicate use of the throttle, therefore, causes an untidiness which will lose seconds. Play it cool and your control will be spot on. When you power on in a corner it oversteers, like a Mini only more.
You must neither put your foot in too deep nor take it off too far. Somewhere in that two inches of throttle travel is neutral steer but if you can set it up this way you are not going fast enough, so forget it. The answer seems to be to get it understeering until you just can’t it any more then lift a little, just enough to square it away, and press on as though nothing happened. Easy as that – it only takes a couple of years to perfect it. In eight laps I felt as though I might just be becoming respectable (it was then I noticed that the people watching had stopped laughing).
At this time the car holds records at Catalina, Warwick Farm, Lakeside (shared with Peter Manton), Sandown (also with Manton), Longford, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Pukekohe and Levin. For most of the past four years the only competition the Foley Cooper has had has come from Peter Manton, similarly mounted.
The two have turned on some of the most memorable two car dices in Australian motor racing history. Things change however, and others are now catching up, and the two car dices could very soon become four or five car dices.
The test left me feeling exhilarated and exasperated. Exhilarated and exasperated. Exhilarated to be able to handle such a magnificent technical achievement at all, and exasperated to think that I could not spend a week in it and really get to know it well. Two things are certain; I have a great deal more respect for Alec Issigonis - and Brian Foley.
by Peter Wherrett “Racing Car News” August 1968