SATURDAY LIVE STREAM
SUNDAY LIVE STREAM
It’s October. The end of another racing season has crept up on us faster than we expected once again as it always does, and 2022 has been full of memorable and thrilling moments throughout the year. In the case of the BRSCC, it’s been one that has seen a degree of normality restored after two previous disrupted seasons, but through it all one constant has remained strong – the annual pilgrimage to Brands Hatch in mid-Autumn to watch some of the finest single seater racers that the UK and abroad have to offer, be they young, experienced or veterans. Strap yourselves in, because it’s that time of year again – it’s Festival season.
For the 51st consecutive year, the BRSCC presents its blue-riband, centrepiece event of its calendar season, the annual end-of-year single-seater thrash that is the legendary Formula Ford Festival. As a reminder or a bit of a lesson for those new or returning to the event, the Festival has existed ever since 1972 when the crazy idea of creating an allcomers-style knockout race event exclusively for Formula Fords was conceived and made a reality. Since its beginnings in the fog, wet and murkiness of an old-school Snetterton, the race moved to Formula Ford’s birthplace in 1976 when it switched to Brands Hatch where it has remained, settled and thrived ever since.
Through its heydays of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s where it regularly attracted over 100 cars every year, adapting to a changing motorsport landscape through the 2000s and going successfully back to its roots in the 2010s, the Formula Ford Festival has been an event that has helped young rising stars of international motorsport begin their ascendency – names such as Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Anthony Davidson, Eddie Irvine, Johnny Herbert, Jan Magnussen and countless more champions and racing legends have tasted success at this event on their way to the highest levels of the sport. Even those who didn’t win it have achieved glory – world champions like Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher all passed through the Festival and there’s even a current F1 driver on the grid who bears this race as a stepping stone to his own successful career – Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, son of 1992 winner Jan!
These days, the Formula Ford Festival may not produce world champions like it used to, but winning it still marks you out as an exceptional talent. You’ve got to have grit and determination to survive this event. A cool head whilst everyone else is losing theirs. The ability to plot a route to Sunday’s Grand Final, through the Heats on Saturday, the Semi-Finals on Sunday and all the way to the Grand Final’s 30-car, 20 lap dash to earn having your name etched onto the Neil Shanahan Trophy alongside so many talented winners from years gone by. Even if you have to rely on the Progression Races or the Last Chance race to continue your journey, your resilience to keep going after setbacks is key. And as always, a little luck along the way helps too.
So, we’ve talked plenty about the event itself, but what does the 2022 edition have in store for us? For that, we need to do our usual deep dive into the entry list to figure out who we should be watching out for this time. A good place to begin would be with those who have been victorious at the Festival in previous years, including last year’s winner Jamie Sharp. Taking the top step in what was an all-time classic of a Grand Final last year, Jamie has followed it up with a solid, somewhat unspectacular National Formula Ford season that yielded one win at Anglesey. No driver in the Festival’s history has ever won the “main” final in consecutive years and Jamie will be the next champion to try and claim that elusive record, but he knows as well as anyone that the task ahead of him is gargantuan. Especially when you have 2020 winner Rory Smith back for more, as well as two modern day legends of Formula Ford – Niall Murray and Joey Foster. With no less than six wins between the three of them, they will all be formidable from the outset, with both Foster and Murray keen to recompense for last year’s Final where they went wheel to wheel in the opening laps before Murray crashed out early and Foster spun away his lead after the subsequent safety car. Smith too will be wanted to right his mistakes from 2021 too and he goes for a second Festival title, with Murray seeking a third and Foster a fourth. Do not count these four drivers out for one moment.
The next logical place to look is within the front runners of this year’s aforementioned Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship, especially with its newly crowned champion Jordan Dempsey. The Irishman took six wins on his way to securing Kevin Mills Racing’s second crown in three seasons, but a sticking point will be to do what Neil MacLennan (2020 champion) and Chris Middlehurst (2021) wasn’t able to do and back up the title with a Festival win. The last time this happened was 2016 when Niall Murray did both as part of a monster season, so Dempsey could be the first driver in six years to achieve this feat. Colin Queen has elected to skip the Festival this year, so the closest driver to Dempsey in the final standings to challenge him this weekend will be Lucas Romanek having taken four wins on his way to P3 in Pro Class. On his day, he’s every bit as fast as Jordan, but he’ll need Oldfield Motorsport to give him the right car underneath him to stay close throughout the contest. Others to keep an eye on from the National ranks include race winners Shawn Rashid and Andre Lafond, Brandon McCaughan, Gabe Tesch, Morgan Quinn and the returning Megan Gilkes, all hoping to round off the year well.
Next, you have returning drivers that have proven their talents behind the wheel of a Formula Ford and are back again to enjoy the competition and see where they stack up this time. Last year’s National champion Chris Middlehurst has finished on the podium in the Final more than once and will be desperate to cross off a Festival win for his racing CV. He returns in a rebuilt Van Diemen chassis after Team DOLAN’s workshop caught fire during the season and forced them to relocate and rebuild, so he will want to win to honour all their hard work since then. Also part of their stable again is Matthew Cowley, a perpetual entrant over the last few years who currently enjoys a competitive drive in the GT4 class in the British GT Championship. Even so, he still can’t resist going back to his roots and enjoying a formula that gave him such success earlier in his career.
Also making a welcome comeback is Michael Eastwell, who has been absent from racing over the past couple of years and comes back with a point to prove having been a previous race winner and clearly unfinished business with the Festival. He’s back with Kevin Mills and will want to make the most of the car he knows the team can give him. A possible dark horse for victory if it all comes together? Then, there’s a surprise returnee looking to go one better than last year – Max Esterson. Fresh off the back of his first GB3 season, Max is back in a Formula Ford again with Andy Low and Ammonite to improve on the 2nd place finish from last year when he ran as one of the Team USA Scholarship drivers (more on that shortly). He too has a score to settle and he returns wiser, more experienced and a real threat to become the second American to win the Festival after double IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden won the Kent Final in 2008.
Speaking of scholarships, there are three nationalities with respective young talents venturing across to Brands Hatch to showcase their abilities. As usual, the Team USA Scholarship is back for another year of thrills led by its founder Jeremy Shaw. He and his panel have selected William Ferguson, Elliot Budzinski and Thomas Schrage as the trio of lucky scholars to gain a first-class racing education, Formula Ford style. Each have varying levels of fledgling single-seater experience, but as has been proven in the past, Jeremy’s team usually pick out some very competitive drivers. More of the same is expected of these three. We’re also delighted to welcome back the Team Canada Scholarship after a two-year absence, with Brian Graham’s squad brining Jake Cowden and Kevin Foster across the pond to see if they have what it takes to succeed. A brand new entrant comes in the form of the Team Brazil Scholarship, making its Festival debut with Swift Cooper and young Brazilian Formula Vee champion Wallace Martins ready to make his mark on the UK racing scene too with many in the national press back home excited about his prospects.
On top of this, New Zealand will be represented courtesy of James Penrose, a Formula Ford champion back home last year and winner of the Driver to Europe incentive that brings him to the Festival to show how the Kiwis race. Another nation with young talent appearing this weekend is Norway, after the inaugural running of their brand new Formula Ford championship this season. Their new champion Christer Otterstrøm is here at Brands Hatch, along with a couple of fellow compatriots along for the ride, continuing the truly international feel of this year’s event. Belgium also has a young representative in karting ace Gilles Cloet making his debut, as will another Brazilian talent in Cadu Bonini, a protégé of former Festival winner and F1 ace Roberto Moreno. Add in fellow newcomers William Lowing from Australia, Ireland’s Jordan Kelly, and Molly Dodd and you’ve got an incredible selection of young talent from around the world ready to prove themselves in wheel-to-wheel Formula Ford combat – just like the good old days!
Of course, it’s not just the modern cars and younger talents that appear at the Festival. There’s also the special new perpetual award for the winner of the dedicated Historic Final for all Super Classic class cars built between 1967 and 1998. The Brian Jones Memorial Trophy was commissioned in 2021 with the family’s blessing to commemorate and honour the legendary “Voice of Brands Hatch” at the event he adored more than any other in motorsport. Such was his legacy and his contribution that his passing at the beginning of 2021 was felt throughout the entire community. Matt Rivett was the first recipient of the trophy last year, although his name is not present on the entry list at the time of writing, meaning that it looks like someone new will step up to claim it this time.
Top of the pile has to be a very special returnee to the event and another former winner – 1991 Festival champion Marc Goossens from Belgium is back for some fun in a Formula Ford, this time in a 1980 Van Diemen and would love to come away from his trip with another piece of silverware. However, Marc will certainly find a new generation of drivers that may well make it tougher than his last visit 31 years ago. There are younger talents in older cars that will definitely in the mix including the rapid Cameron Jackson, former Northern champion Tom McArthur, Derek Palmer and Sam Street to name a few. Add in experienced hands such as all-round legend Rick Morris, 2021 podium finisher Chris Goodwin, Misty Racing’s Steve Kite, 2020 Historic Final winner Peter Daly, Stuart Kestenbaum and a host of overseas drivers from Germany, Norway and Australia and you’ve got a tantalising mix of classic Formula Fords driven by some very capable names. Regardless of whoever wins this part of the Festival, this race should be a belter.
We can’t finish the preview without mentioning some other names to look out for on the whole too – David & Ivor McCullough, Jack Wolfenden, Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Fairbairn from the USA, David & Robbie Parks and Pascal Monbaron from Switzerland. All eight of these names are also ones to consider when making your predictions, but whatever happens it’s set to be another fabulous weekend of drama, excitement, emotion and intrigue. Whether it’s your first time or your 50th time watching this incredible event, you’ll enjoy it all the same as it plays out before your eyes. Now, with that being said, we’ll leave you with a dilemma – try picking a winner out of that lot, we dare you. Good luck…