The Ex – Works, Mike Parkes 1961 Gemini Mk3A Formula Junior
Formula Junior is currently one of the most competitive, active and well attended areas of historic motorsport worldwide, and was originally the brainchild of well known Italian racer Count ‘Johnny’ Lurani. From 1958 to 1963 Formula Junior replaced the motorcycle engined 500cc F3 cars as the stepping stone into Formula 1. Designed as a class for essentially mini Grand Prix chassis running 1,000cc or 1,100cc production engines and gearbox; in its relatively short life time Formula Junior spanned a period that saw some of the most significant changes in motorsport design to this day and as such very quickly went from front to rear engine designs.
Formula Junior was a truly international series with 100s of cars regularly competing across the globe. Names such as Jim Clark, John Surtees, Jochen Rindt, Jo Schlesser and Lorenzo Bandini to name a few, are just some of the great Grand Prix drivers to have honed their craft in the cut and thrust world of Formula Junior.
Gemini was reputedly named after the birth sign of the companies founder, Graham Warner. Warner was the principal of the highly successful car sales company The Chequered Flag on the High Rd. Chiswick. A former RAF pilot he was familiar with motor racing having started with and Austin Healy 100S and Lotus XI before moving on to a Tojeiro-Bristol and eventually a Cooper Monaco.
The Gemini racing cars came about when Leslie Richmond joined the Chequered Flag staff bringing with him the design rights, jigs, tools and drawings for the Moorland Special, a front engined Formula Junior designed and built by him in early 1959. Chequered Flag Engineering was formed and the Moorland now rebadged Gemini (MKI), along with the newly constructed Gemini MKII, entered the Formula Junior event at Brands Hatch on the 4th of October 1959. Orders soon started to materialize, with in particular around 20 orders from America.
By July 1960, the first rear engined Gemini, the Mk3, was in the process of build. A completely new space frame design, it incorporated a Cosworth tuned Ford 105E 1100cc engine mated to a four speed Renault Gordini gearbox, inboard rear drum brakes, side fuel tanks, double wishbone front suspension, and lower wishbone with twin radius arms on the rear. Soon into the racing career of the Mk3, with Tony Maggs in control at Goodwood for the Tourist Trophy meeting, it was on the front row of the grid. A starter motor failure left Maggs stationary on the grid, plummeting to the tail of the field after he got a jump start. In a bid to catch up, Maggs set the fastest lap of the race showing the pace of the Gemini. Finally, at Snetterton in October 1960, Maggs took victory in the Mk3.
For 1961, Chequered Flag Engineering set about making the Mk3A. Based largely on the Mk3 of ’60, the Mk3A was improved; the chassis slimmed down and stiffened with a couple of suspension pick up points altered, a five speed close ratio gearbox was fitted, and braking was taken care of on the front by new integral to the wheel drums which vastly improved the braking performance and reduced the unsprung weight by a substantial amount. The debut for the Mk3A came at the Boxing Day meeting in 1960, and having been built in just two weeks, the team were pleased to take a third place with Mike Parkes at the wheel, and fourth with Peter Ashdown who also set the fastest lap. By the latter part of the 1961 season, the Gemini Mk3A was a force to be reckoned with, yielding 7 victories and 2 second places in its last 14 races, winning the John Davy Trophy for Formula Juniors in the process.
This car, chassis number Mk3/2/61, is the second of the two works cars built by the Chequered Flag, and was campaigned by Mike Parkes as their team leader, identified by 3” lengthened cockpit for Parkes. Mk3/2/61 has lived a full and continuous life on track since, claiming many a title over the years.
In 1968, Mk3/2/61 was bought by Lord Angus Clydesdale who raced the car extensively, reputedly in the far east, before selling it on in around 1971 to Charringtons for Bill Millar to drive. In 1975 The car was bought by Mike Weatherall who had it maintained by Chas Beattie who of course was one of the Chequered Flag mechanics who ran the Mk3A in the day. From Weatherall, the Gemini passed to David Fitt of Norfolk in 1977, and was taken care of by Colin Warrington of Williams & Pritchard.
Peter Denty was tasked with restoring the car for David Fitt in 1977, who then kept it until 1981 when it was bought by Roger Williams. In 1985 Mk3/2/61 went through Tony Hildebrand to Rod Tolhurst who raced the car in the UK. During Mr. Tolhurst’s ownership FIA VIFs were issued, which also detail the ownership history to that point in 1986 Then it went to Martin Bunn in 1989 before passing on to David Noble in 1997. In 1999, a new set of FIA VIFs were issued for the car. In 2005, the Gemini was bought by the current owner from Mr. Noble.
In the current ownership, the Gemini has been campaigned with verve and success within the excellent Historic Formula Junior series, winning the UK Historic Formula Junior Championship outright, and winning it’s class in the UK and Lurani Trophy world series four times. Spoils have also included finishing 2nd overall in the Chichester Cup at the 2010 Goodwood Revival with a 1:28.4 lap time, and won the race overall in 2007.
As the Gemini sits today, the 1100cc Cosworth MAE engine, originally built by Geoff Richardson, has about 1 hour running since being refreshed by Brian Stevens. The close ratio 4 speed gearbox, with straight cut Elite Gears internals has around 1 hour running since the last rebuild. Mechanical work has been undertaken in the past by Peter Denty and set up has been analysed by Nigel Rees of GSD Race Dyn. A new set of FIA HTPs were issued in 2015, further to those dating from 2009. Seatbelts are valid until 2021 and the Lifeline fire system is valid until June 2018.
With Formula Junior racing continuing to go from strength to strength around the globe, competition for places on the grid is increasing year by year. Accompanied by a spares package including another gearbox, set of close ratio gears, bodywork sections, wheels, fitted tonneau and other assorted running spares. A works Gemini entry, campaigned by Mike Parkes to win the John Davy Trophy in 1961, Mk3/2/61 is a rare opportunity to acquire such a historical and very competitive rear engined, drum braked Formula Junior at the point of the series entering the Diamond Jubilee year.