A SPRING DAY’S RACING AT THE PARK
Formula Fords will entertain like no other single seater discipline can – Photo: Rachel Bourne
Our first race meeting in Cheshire has come around quickly as today’s action at Oulton Park will see saloon cars and single seaters do battle on the Island Circuit with 4 championships kicking off their 2016 season with the first race day of the year.
First off are the Avon Tyres Formula Ford 1600s, who begin both their National and Northern Championships this weekend. This season there’s extra incentive to shoot for the title, as the National champion will gain the chance to go to America to compete for a USF2000 scholarship prize worth approximately $200,000. This is thanks to the Championship’s link up with the ever competitive Mazda Road To Indy across the pond, giving drivers a clear path to IndyCar and the Indy 500. As is normally the case, there’s a brilliant turn out for both Post ’89 and Pre ’90 classes.
In Post ’89, the number of talented drivers entered for the opening rounds is almost off the charts. Last year’s Pre ’90 champion Matthew Cowley makes the step up to contemporary machinery, while reigning Post ’89 title winner Jonny McMullan returns with a new team as he joins Oldfield Motorsport with rookie James Scott-Murphy. Another talented Irishman in Jake Byrne also returns, along with siblings Tom and David McArthur, while former Festival winner Niall Murray has decided to plump for a full season to go for the MRTI prize. Other drivers to consider in the mix include Martin Short, Luke Cooper who will be aboard Swift Cooper’s brand new Swift SC16, James Roe in Ralph Firman Sr’s new RFR RFFF16, Chris Middlehurst, Jack Wolfenden and American debutant Chase Owen. The rest will also be in contention, meaning that this year’s FF1600 season has the makings of being one of the most entertaining and competitive to date.
Moving towards the Pre ’90 machines, the stand out front-runner has to be former category champion Jamie Jardine. Having won the championship in 2014 before having to settle for Triple Crown honours last season due to Cowley’s near dominance, Jardine has to go into the 2016 season as favourite. He is sure to face strong competition this weekend from the likes of Jaap Blijleven and Andrew Kluge, with Calum McHale, Iain Houston, Ian Wolfenden and more set to be the supporting cast. Overall, this year’s FF1600 season has all the makings of being one of the best in recent years, especially with such a prestigious prize on offer for the champion.
Alongside Formula Ford, the Honda VTEC Challenge begins its second year with the club with the usual 3 classes allowing Hondas of all shapes and sizes a chance to compete against one another at the same time. The Production class should see drivers such as Paul Donkin, Matthew Le and Peter Dunmore head their competition, while in the Tuner class it could be all about Robert Burkinshaw, whose fearsome Integra Type R was always in the hunt for overall victories whenever it competed last year. Mark Bennett’s S2000 and Stuart King’s Civic are expected to be his main competition. The Super Tuner class, considered to be the place for the fastest of the entries, may be Martyn Kemp’s to lose as sibling Marc is now out of the picture. He could come under pressure from the pair of CRXs piloted by Jeff Cooper and Peter Dixon.
Finally, a new season begins for the Teekay Couplings Production GTi Mk2 Championship with Chris Webb looking certain as favourite for this year’s 16V title, with the top two from last season moving on to other interests. This means the man who finished 3rd in points in 2015 could be seen as the man to go for the top spot. His closest rivals look set to be Adam Hance, Chris Sanders and Chris Baguley, while Alistair Miles, Peter Milne and Ian Green should be set to provide close competition. In the 8V class you can expect Matthew Petts, Wesley Chatterton and David Aldridge to compete for victory.
The weather for today’s race day is set to be cloudy but dry all day, however it is going to be a little bit cold. Temperatures won’t be set to exceed 8 degrees all day, so we’d advise not to put that winter coat away just yet! If you want to check out a full breakdown of the forecast here – OULTON PARK WEATHER.
Also, the final instructions, timetable and entry list of today’s event can be found here – OULTON PARK RACE DAY.