2018 SEASON REVIEW: AVON TYRES NATIONAL FORMULA FORD CHAMPIONSHIP
Niall Murray stamped his authority on the Avon Tyres National Formula Ford 1600 Championship claiming victory in 11 out of the 20 rounds he contested and reclaiming the title he won two years earlier.
As a result, the Team Dolan driver once again earnt himself a potentially career changing opportunity because, for those under 25, this Championship boasts one of the best prizes available in club level motorsport in the shape of a place in the end of season Mazda Road to Indy Shootout for the chance to win a scholarship worth US$200,000 to compete in the following season’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda.
Murray’s deal with the squad headed by Bernard Dolan came together just before the Championship got underway at the start of April and his Van Diemen RF99 was still being dialed-in at Silverstone’s first meeting of the season but this didn’t prevent the Irishman from recording third, second and then, finally, first place finishes during the course of the weekend before going on to win at least one race at every meeting he attended. This enabled him to also add the Triple Crown to his trophy cabinet.
Despite this apparent dominance, the series has an underlying competitiveness that matches any in the country – if not the World!
There were 6 other race winners in 2018 although the driver who finished second in the Championship, the ultra-consistent Michael Eastwell in the Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum 011C, didn’t take a victory in the National series – nonetheless, he accumulated enough points at the Knockhill, Kirkistown and Croft rounds to win the Tourist Trophy.
A number of competitors recorded 2 victories. Scot Neil Maclennan took the honours on home ground at Knockhill and then at Brands Hatch with a Ray GR16 fielded by Cliff Dempsey Racing while Murray’s team mate under Bernard Dolan’s awning, Matt Round-Garrido, enjoyed life whenever the series ventured out of England, claiming a set of victor’s laurels in Scotland and Northern Ireland (Knockhill).
These were his first successes at National level. The other driver to take maiden victories in the series was Rory Smith who did the double at Donington in a B-M Racing Medina JL18.
Joey Foster has been accumulating titles in FF1600 since 2001 and has 3 wins in the Walter Hayes Trophy plus 2 more in the Formula Ford Festival to his name. At the start of this season, he was the first to see the chequered flag when he took the spoils in round 1 piloting a Ray GR08 tended by Don Hardman Racing and then he tasted the victory champagne again at Oulton Park in the height of Summer.
Luke Cooper, who almost won the National title in 2012, took victories at the first and last meetings of the year in the Swift SC16 prepared by his family’s team.
Josh Smith made some radical changes to the set up of his Oldfield Motorsport Van Diemen JL13 which unlocked an impressive amount of speed and made him arguably the man to meet in the closing stages of the year recording a brace of wins at Croft before adding his name to the Formula Ford Festival roll of honour.
The National Clubman titles went to Vincent Jay (Post89) and Simon Fleet (Pre90) while Alaric “Pod” Gordon was a welcome returnee to the Avon Tyres Northern Formula Ford 1600 Championship in a Swift SC97 and claimed the regional crown for the third time having previously held the title in 1999 and 2001. The Northern Pre90 Class went to Mario Sarchet (Reynard 86FF).