Saturday, December 18, 2021 by René Fagnan
A few Formula Ford 1600 single-seaters were created in Canada. Without naming them all, there was the Aero 2, the Ferret, the Chinook without forgetting the Quebec ones: the CMV, the Magnum and another, a little less known, the Harfang.
Designing such a race car on a personal level was really choosing the hard way to race! It was so simple to send a check with several zeros to a British manufacturer to get a rolling chassis. However, some enthusiasts preferred to take the arduous road and do everything themselves in order to proclaim loud and clear: this is MY car.
The Harfang is a single-seater that was created here in Quebec by a small group of enthusiasts: the three Dulac brothers from Sherbrooke and Jean Beaulieu, a versatile racing driver from Quebec City.
The idea of designing and manufacturing this single-seater dates back to the late 1970s and was the work of Alain Dulac, who was then a mechanical engineering student at the University of Sherbrooke.
“It was in 1975 that I had the idea of making a racing car. At that time, I dreamed of motorsport and Formula 1, but my training program as an engineer had nothing to do with automobiles. This racing car project therefore had nothing to do with my studies. So I used my free time to deepen my technical knowledge of cars and read all the books I could find,” Alain Dulac told us a few years ago when I tried the car (and I remain to this day the only one to have piloted the Harfang 84F with the exception of Jean Beaulieu!)
In 1978, Alain Dulac began the design of the suspension using one of the first computers allowing assisted design. Afterwards, he designed the tubular frame. “In 1981, Formula 2000 was preparing its entry into Canada and I landed a job with Prévost buses. The ¼ scale model of the Harfang, in the F2000 version, was evaluated for about twenty hours in the wind tunnel. We studied its general shape, with and without fins, with and without side pontoons. The design of the Harfang F2000 required approximately 2000 hours of work. My brother, Jacques Dulac, who was then a welding student at Édouard-Montpetit College, built the chassis, requiring another 2500 hours of work. Eventually, my other brother, Serge, made all the other parts and the bodywork. The car was built in the basement of the family home in Sherbrooke and to get it out, we had to partially dismantle it! »
The three brothers invested $8,000 out of their pockets to build the chassis and $6,000 to purchase an engine, gearbox and brakes. This sum of $14,000 is equivalent to almost $50,000 in today’s dollars, taking inflation into account.
Need a pilot
On the other hand, the Dulacs had no intention of being behind the wheel of their creation. That’s when Jean Beaulieu comes into the picture. “I lived in Quebec. I had my degree in electrical engineering in my pocket and was passionate about motorsport,” Beaulieu tells us.
“I started racing in the Production category with a Renault R8 Gordini in Quebec. I’ve raced solo, rally, ice race, hill climb, and then road course in the summer with this car. Then, in 1973, I competed in the F1600 championship at the Jim Russell school in Mont-Tremblant. I then bought a Formula Ford Titan, but it was destroyed in a fire. I raced in the Honda series from 1976 to 1978, but a lack of money forced me to put my career on hold. »
In 1982, Beaulieu accepted a position as a vehicle test engineer at the Blainville test center [PMG Technologies]. “A friend calls me and tells me that a guy has started building a race car and he might be looking for a driver…” adds Beaulieu. This guy was Alain Dulac.
At this time, a Formula 2000 series was created in Canada, sponsored first by Walter Wolf, then by Motomaster. “It was THE series, with good purses and excellent media coverage. I join the Dulac brothers and once the car is finished, I carry out its debugging and the first tests at the test center. In addition to checking the proper functioning of the mechanical components, I had half a dozen anti-roll bars, a box of springs and many other parts to test. Everything had to be discovered. The car had ground effect sidepods (see photo below). It was rudimentary, but they worked a little too well, because at high speed the car scraped the ground! We didn’t have enough power for that much downforce. »
The Harfang made its first race at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières in 1984. After making a few modifications, it returned to the track in 1985, still with Beaulieu at the wheel. “We had a lot of overheating issues in ’85. It took a long time to find the problem. We really worked hard to find the bobo. During the winter of 85/86, we changed things and from the first races of 1986, the car was better. Peter Lockhart, who raced in an F2000 on a John Powell Reynard, told me “I have a lot of admiration for what you are doing…” However, there was a drop in motivation in the team and I I found myself a little alone with my girlfriend to run, with very little budget. At the end of 1986, I took the car home and put it on trestles. Without money, it is impossible to perform miracles. »
Beaulieu was still happy with the single-seater. “It had a very small frontal surface and offered little air resistance. The chassis and bodywork were very well done. Its suspension was quite supple, with swingarms up front like the Reynards. For this reason, it worked very well in the rain,” he adds.
A return to the circuits
After a few years of absence, the Harfang returned to the track in 1991. “A professional Canadian Formula 1600 series was created in 1990. I decided to transform the Harfang into an F1600, and name it 84F. It was a bit heavy and we had to work to install the new engine, but the car remained almost identical” continues Beaulieu.
After having competed in a few races in the Canadian series in 1991, Beaulieu decided to concentrate on the Quebec F1600 championship, which was less expensive to compete in. The first podium came on September 6, 1992 at the Mont-Tremblant circuit with a third place. Beaulieu climbed the podium two more times in 1994 and it was the consecration in 1995. Beaulieu and the Harfang 84F finally scored a victory and finished on the podium eight times to win the title of Quebec F1600 champions (see photo below). -above).
“Afterwards, the F1600 became more expensive and much more competitive. The car was getting old and technically outdated. It is now in safe storage, but I am thinking of restoring it to its original F2000 condition and having fun driving it! » confides Beaulieu.
The Dulacs then produced another car, the F1600 Harfang 00. Several competitors have succeeded at the wheel over the seasons. In 2018, the car was entrusted to Olivier Dulac, Jacques’ son.