52ND BRSCC FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit
21 October 2023 - 22 October 2023
There are many great races which define a category of motorsport throughout its history. To Formula 1 fans, it’s classic grand prix such as Monaco. For IndyCar, it’s the Indianapolis 500. It’s the same with sportscar racing and Le Mans, touring cars and Bathurst or NASCAR and the Daytona 500. So when it comes to the world of Formula Ford racing, there’s one special event for more than 50 years that has produced racing, excitement, memories and champions like no others. Once again, it’s October. Once again, we’re at Brands Hatch. Once again – it’s Festival season.
BRSCC FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL
The 52nd running of the BRSCC’s prestigious Formula Ford Festival gears up for another weekend of action-packed single seater racing as it brings together some of the category’s finest drivers from around the UK and Ireland as well as from overseas to go head to head in a bid to be the latest name to join the illustrious Roll of Honour. Just taking a look through it makes you appreciate just how special the Festival really is and how many notable racing drivers have used victory at this event as the launch pad for the rest of their careers.
From early victors such as Geoff Lees, Derek Daly and Chico Serra in the seventies, through star grand prix graduates like Roberto Moreno, Tommy Byrne, Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine in the eighties, future champions like Jan Magnussen, Mark Webber and Jenson Button in the nineties and heroes of the millennium and beyond like Anthony Davidson, Nick Tandy, Dennis Lind, Scott Malvern and more, winning the Festival has always proven to be a memorable experience that all who triumph look back on with pride and fond recollections of their weekend of glory.
For those who are new to the Formula Ford Festival, the event follows a knockout format of races across both days, with the heats traditionally beginning on Saturday with qualifying in the morning. Each of the heats will produce automatic qualifiers for the semi-finals on Sunday morning, with a selection of drivers also getting a second chance to join them in a progression race to fill any remaining spots.
Then, the semi-finals produce the next key test, with the fastest winning time of either one decide who starts on pole position for the Grand Final. Non-automatic qualifiers get a final role of the dice in the Last Chance Race, with those successful joining the back of the grid for the Final where the winner claims the title of Formula Ford Festival champion for another year. Prior to that, there will also be the special Historic Final for cars built between 1998 and 1967, with the winner here becoming the recipient of the Brian Jones Memorial Trophy named after the legendary Brands Hatch commentator who loved the circuit, Formula Ford and the Festival dearly.
So, let’s take a look at some of the contenders that could and should definitely be in the mix for Festival glory in 2023. A natural place to start will be the champion from this season’s National Formula Ford Championship which concluded just a few weeks ago at Silverstone. At the home of British motorsport, Jordan Kelly added the last two wins to his tally to claim the title for Team DOLAN and for Ireland too, after a year in which he’d started somewhat tentatively but gained real traction as the season had progressed. A first victory at Snetterton gave him a confidence boost, and by the time the championship moved to Kirkistown mid-season his form had increased substantially. A charge through the second half of the year saw him claim six wins from the last ten races of 2023 to catapult himself into championship contention, winning the last four on the bounce at Knockhill and Silverstone to become champion. Now Jordan has eyes on the Festival where he could become the latest Irish driver to triumph in a race that has been kind to many drivers from the Emerald Isle.
Jamie Sharp competed in a handful of National rounds this season including Brands Hatch as a premature warm-up for this weekend. The 2021 Festival champion would love to become only the fifth driver to win the event more than once alongside Donald MacLeod, Joey Foster, Wayne Boyd and Niall Murray and if the Medina Sport chassis underneath him is in fine fettle, there’s every chance he could make it happen. Speaking of Niall Murray, there’s just no keeping the two-time winner away from Brands Hatch at this time of year as once again he’s back to go for Festival win number three. Crashing out of the 2021 edition and missing out on the chance in last year’s final due to the premature stoppage means his determination will be burning hotter than ever and he will surely feel 2023 has to be the year he makes it happen.
Chris Middlehurst has come close on several occasions and stood on the Grand Final podium more than once, and he too will have plans to add his name to the winners’ list this time. The 2021 National champion has also run a part season in this year’s championship and won a handful of races along the way, even running Jordan Kelly close in both Silverstone races to aid him in his title aspirations. That means the pace is there in his Van Diemen and Chris too will have a chip on his shoulder to finally win a Festival.
There’s more former winners and champions from recent years getting back onto the grid this weekend too. Rory Smith won the Festival in tremendous fashion in 2020 and is another driver that can’t resist the lure of the event each year. He’s always been a contender since then and this year shouldn’t be any different, considering that he charged to victory in both of the most recent Champion of Brands races hosted here last month. Perhaps that’s an omen for what’s to come this time. 2015 National champion Jonny McMullan made a welcome return to Formula Ford this year at Donington Park and is back at the Festival to put right that which he couldn’t achieve in the same season eight years ago. Jonny hasn’t lost any of his speed or skill either, and a good car underneath him will only increase his chances further.
As usual, there’s representatives on the grid for both the Team USA Scholarship and Team Canada Scholarship, both providing key and valuable opportunities to young North American drivers to experience Formula Ford racing and racing overseas in general. From Team USA, Jack Sullivan and Ayrton Houk are the latest up and coming American talents to make the trip across the pond with both boasting experience in F1600 (essentially Formula Ford racing in North America) this season. Both drivers have already had outings at Silverstone and Castle Combe to help them adapt to UK circuits and are now prepared for battle at Brands Hatch.
As for Team Canada, their two selected drivers will be Alex Berg and Locan Pacza. Alex is the son of former F1 racer Allen Berg, and has been racking up plenty of experience driving a variety of race cars at such a young age. Alongside racing in US F4 this season, Alex is also an official test driver for Ligier Automotive, so all of that seat time will surely put him in good stead this weekend. Logan has been competing in the Toyo Tires F1600 championship this season with some impressive results and will be hoping that can translate to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit when he steps aboard for the first time this weekend.
Other drivers in modern machinery that are worth watching out for and could spring one or two surprises include Jeremy Fairbairn who looked in good form at Silverstone a few weeks ago including troubling the leaders at one stage, Vincent Jay aboard a 2021-spec Ray chassis, Morgan Quinn who picked up a collection of podium and top five finishes throughout 2023 on his way to fifth in the National standings, Norwegian racer Sigbjorn Maehlum making his Festival debut, and Adam Fathers who is a regular at Brands Hatch and will wish to put all that local knowledge to good use and score a strong result.
Plus, the Esterson surname is back on the grid too – but not the one you’re thinking off. While last year’s Festival champion Max has been plying his craft in GB3 and making cameos in FIA F3 too, his younger brother Hugh Esterson is ready to pick up where he left off. Having already completed two races at Brands Hatch last month and sure to have Max guiding him where possible, Hugh will hope that he can put in a performance that’s respectable and strong enough to live up to brother Max’s achievements in Formula Ford too.
As for the Historic contenders in the entry that will quest mainly for the Brian Jones Memorial Trophy, top of the pile here could be Callum Grant who has always been rapid in classic Formula Ford machinery any time he’s raced and could well do the same here. He will pilot the same 1980 Van Diemen that Marc Goossens drove in last year’s Festival in a bid to add his name on the trophy alongside Matt Rivett and Cam Jackson and there’s every chance that could happen. His main rivals here could certainly be a returning Andy Charsley in a 1989 Reynard, Henry Chart in a 1981 Van Diemen, Richard Higgins in a 1991 Van Diemen and the ever present Rick Morris still piloting his trusty Royale RP29. All will certainly be hoping fortunes go their way
So, with the contenders set and the stage before them ready to welcome the symphony of single seater racing back to Kent once more, it’s time to see who has all the pieces of the puzzle to become Formula Ford Festival champion for 2023!
TCR UK TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
In 2023, the TCR UK Touring Car Championship has taken a real step up in profile and popularity, after rejoining the BRSCC portfolio and attracting new teams and drivers to its grid across the season. Now it heads to its season finale at Brands Hatch in Kent on the Indy circuit, where there’s a title battle to be settled in what’s sure to be two of the most intense and nail-biting races of the season.
Heading to Brands Hatch, Carl Boardley is in control with a margin of 47 points in the lead of the championship. The CBM with Hart GT driver has been supreme this season at the wheel of his CUPRA with five wins to his name across the season, and ever since Nick Hart and his expertise has come on board, Boardley’s speed and pace has been thoroughly transformed. Boardley now stands of the brink of claiming the TCR UK title at his first attempt, an achievement both he and the team can be immensely proud off if he can go on and get the job done.
Second in points is Adam Shepherd, who has done wonders in his Area Motorsport-prepared Hyundai i30 N TCR despite running on a limited budget. A consistent string of top five results and podiums through the bulk of the season was further strengthened with a victory at Donington Park and that, plus another second place that same weekend, have helped into P2. He could have been closer had bad luck not befallen him at Silverstone, but he’ll be racing hard to stay in contention right down to the final lap of the weekend.
Bruce Winfield earmarked himself as an early favourite for the title after an emotional victory and a third place at Snetterton helped him leap to the top of the standings. Since then, Bruce has only taken one further win at Oulton Park and a third place at Silverstone while his pace in other races has fluctuated, as have his fortunes. A solid weekend at Brands Hatch will be enough to help him stay on the championship podium.
Both Jenson Brickley and Jac Constable currently sit fourth and fifth respectively. Jenson has really shown progress off the back of consecutive Fiesta Junior and Fiesta ST240 titles before his inaugural TCR UK season and has been able to collect a win and three podiums to date. His performances have been mighty impressive for a driver still in his teens, and it’s certain he’s only set to get stronger. Jac too has a win to his name from Croft and has also taken regular podium finishes throughout the year, as well as being a regular presence within the top ten all season. The Rob Boston Racing Audi has been in excellent form all year and Jac will wish to round off 2023 with a satisfying result.
Alex Ley is another Fiesta Junior graduate that has been able to flex his muscles on more than one occasion, taking to the top step at both Knockhill and Silverstone and would love to add some more winner’s silverware to his collection from Brands Hatch as well as cementing sixth in points. Joe Marshall has looked rapid more often than not in his Rob Boston Audi RS3, but he’s also been plagued by bad luck which means his result don’t really reflect just how quick he’s shown himself to be. Brad Hutchison did win at Donington on the road in a CUPRA, but was disqualified afterwards on a technicality, meaning he’ll have to try and bid to victory again aboard his regular Audi in Kent this weekend.
Meanwhile, defending champion Chris Smiley has had a rather character building season aboard the new FL5 Civic Type R TCR with Restart Racing. The new car hasn’t quite given him the results he’d been hoping for, and Chris’ sights have already been set on 2024 while he uses the remainder of the season to carry on the FL5’s development further. A good result at Brands Hatch will certainly be a silver lining. Matthew Wilson completes the top ten so far in his CUPRA, hoping to match his second place from Silverstone’s second race and take another trophy back home too.
The rest of the entry for Brands Hatch could spring one or two surprise results amidst the championship battle. Callum Newsham has shown flashes of brilliance at points, but awful luck with reliability has hampered him more often than not, so he’ll be desperate to end 2023 on a high note. Oliver Cottam has also had similar fortunes, and he too will wish for something to savour from Brands Hatch aboard his Audi, as will Scott Sumpton in his older FK7 Civic Model in a bid to better his P5 finish from Donington.
The Vauxhall and Opel Astras of Darelle Wilson and Jeff Alden will wish to finish their seasons with credible points, especially Jeff in his third weekend in TCR UK ahead of a full campaign next year, while the CUPRAs of Mark Smith and Rick Kerry and the sole Hyundai Elantra N of Luke Sargeant will wish to make further progress to add to that made throughout 2023 in their sporadic appearances. Plus, there’s a welcome return to George Jaxon to the grid as he reappears this time aboard a Gen 1 Audi RS3 for the season finale.
It’s been an amazing season for TCR UK and with next year’s calendar, support package and news of the Gen 1 Cup for older cars all confirmed, 2024 looks set to be even bigger and better than before!
MILLTEK SPORT CIVIC CUP
In one of its most competitive and entertaining seasons to date, the Milltek Sport Civic Cup appears to have found another gear and reached levels not seen before in terms of competition, action and incredible racing. Proving itself as TCR UK’s feeder series and producing the platform for both current and future touring car drivers to hone their skills, it’s no wonder that there’s already plenty of talents eyeing a step up to the TCR ranks within the next few seasons from the Civic paddock.
Brands Hatch marks the season finale for 2023 with three drivers up for the cup – Dan Thackeray, Max Edmundson and Alistair Camp – and two races to settle in who it goes home with for the year. After the final triple header of the season at Silverstone, where the championship literally changed hands between all three men on the same day, Dan Thackeray came out on top courtesy of two victories and this now gives him a fifteen point lead heading into this weekend. What’s also important to note is that neither of the two races can be used as dropped scores, meaning every single point must count towards the final total.
That means Thackeray will need to keep his wits about him and drive smart to ensure he doesn’t get involved in incidents or fall backwards too far to allow Edmundson and/or Camp to outscore him by enough to be knocked off top spot. Dan has really taken a step up in 2023 with fives wins to his name this year, more than anyone else in the field, so he’d be in line to become champion on countback should there be a tie at the end of the weekend.
Edmundson, meanwhile, really has matured a lot since the start of the season when some of his driving and racecraft could be described as erratic at best. Having cooled his head on his young shoulders, Max has driven smarter and better as the season has progressed and actually goes to Brands Hatch having scored more points outright than anyone else in 2023 to date. That includes two wins from Knockhill and Cadwell Park, and he would love to add two more from this weekend in Kent to try and steal the crown from Thackeray’s grasp.
Then there’s former champion Alistair Camp. He headed into the Silverstone race day as points leader, but mechanical issues in qualifying and during the races hampered his points haul, leaving him in third some 41 points back. Mathematically, it’s still possible for him to become champion, but he’d really need results to go his way and to go into the final race less than 41 back to stand any remote chance. Even so, Campy is a fighter and will carry on battling until the very end to give himself the best possible chance.
Others will certainly be out to try and spoil the party too in the conclusion of a season that’s seen no fewer than eight different race winners, proving just how competitive it’s really been. Ryan Bensley is another that’s been brilliant all year and really deserves a good result to round off his up and down season, as too would Will Redford whose battled all year to remain competitive despite his own bad luck at times. Harvey Caton is far overdue a maiden win and will be desperate to achieve it here, Knockhill winner Liam McGill is back for the final round, and so too is double TCR UK champion Lewis Kent after his Silverstone cameo. Brands Hatch also welcomes Charlotte Birch and Fiesta Junior graduate Harry England to the Civic Cup ranks for the very first time too, hoping for solid performances first time out.
BRSCC FIESTA JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
The curtain is about to fall on what will go down in history as the most successful season to date for the BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship, as it heads this weekend to Brands Hatch for the final rounds of the 2023 campaign. In a season that’s seen record grid number, more of the new Mk7 next-gen FJC cars than ever before and a whole host of new names and faces in the paddock, it all comes to a close at the Formula Ford Festival.
The end of 2023 also marks four years since the championship began its revival, when it concluded here with just three cars on the grid. Fast forward to the beginning of this season at Snetterton and the grid had grown to a record 22 cars, before being topped at Silverstone and Donington Park with 26 entries, the largest FJC entries to date. This has been helped by the championships status as the official junior series for TCR UK, supporting it throughout the year at every round and enjoying its enhanced profile and status.
Heading to the final rounds of the championship, it’s Ben Mulryan in control at the head of the standings. His current lead is 42 points after dropped scores and this weekend at Brands Hatch will be key as there’s no ability to use either of the races as dropped rounds, meaning both must count towards each driver’s final totals. Ben has a chance of provisionally wrapping up the title as early as the first race if he can outscore second placed Dan Lewis by at least nine points, but he’ll need other results to go his way as well. Ben’s had a superb year in the Mk7 Fiesta with three wins and a further four podiums, and that has put him in good stead to go for the title this year.
Dan Lewis has also stepped up and showed great pace in his switch to a Mk7, having managed to rise to P2 overall despite not winning a race outright. He will have it all to do to try and overhaul Ben’s points lead, but he’s certain to be up for the challenge. Third down to fifth in the standings is a fairly close affair too with Luke Hilton, Jacob Hodgkiss and Sam Neser separated by just ten points, but with Hilton now progressing to senior racing, it leaves Hodgkiss and Neser to battle it out for third, with Neser also in line to claim the Mk6 class honours for the season too.
This season has also seen some amazing performances from several of the many rookie drivers competing in Fiesta Juniors this season, with no less than six of them featuring in the current top ten standings. Along with Hilton, Hodgkiss and Neser, impressive runs from Ronnie Smith, Ben Doughty, Wesley Swain and Jensen Bell have seen them all show great form over the course of the year, which will put them in good stead for 2024 should they return next year.
The BRSCC is also set to run its first ever Fiesta Junior Scholarship for the 2024 season, due to take place at Blyton Park on February 13-15 2024. This will be an incredible opportunity for eligible young drivers to participate, with one set to win a fully funded season in a Mk7 Fiesta Junior race car with a prize package worth over £65,000.
MINI 7 RACING CLUB WINTER SERIES – written by Stephen Colbran
With the 2023 National titles decided two weeks ago at Silverstone, the Mini 7 Racing Club returns home to complete its seven-round Winter Series…
When the Mini Se7en race series first began here at Brands Hatch in 1966, who would have imagined these iconic little machines would still be competing almost 60 years later, let alone still breaking lap records. Yet here we are, with racing development of these classic cars continuing at pace, and three new class lap records set earlier this season at the Brands Hatch Mini Festival.
Racing is frantic from lights to flag, with battles throughout the field to keep you enthralled over three 20-minute outings. Relatively low power outputs and a rather brick-like aerodynamics keeps the playing field level, so it’s unusual for any one driver to dominate the proceedings. Look out for the experienced drivers holding back in the top-five places until the very last lap, and a mad dash to the finish!
The Winter Series consists of seven rounds, with drivers able to drop their two lowest scores, and this weekend all four classes will be competing together on the same grid, so expect a lot of action!
Phil Bullen-Brown currently leads the standings in the fastest 1293cc Mini Miglia series, and will hope to keep up his momentum from a win last time out. Also look out for multiple Miglia champion Rupert Deeth, whose brand new (and rather stealthy) car is very much on the pace after a few rounds of development.
In the original 998cc Mini Se7en series, Joe Thompson currently leads the points, and will be keen to stay in front of provisional National Champion Mike Jordan to take a share of the top trophies. Ross Billison and Spencer Wanstall will be there at the sharp end too, on a weekend that traditionally throws in some surprise winners.
The entry-class Mini Se7en S-Class continues to provide bumper grids, with Matt Ayres holding a comfortable points advantage before drop scores, but provisional Champion Jonathon Page will no doubt be as quick as ever. If Frazer Hack and Michael Winkworth are having a good day, both will be contenders for a win.
We also have the Mini Libre series, an invitation class for more wild A-Series power units competing alongside the Mini Miglia grid. Craig Edgecombe not only won his class last time out, but overtook all the Mini Miglia cars too – twice! Let’s see who comes out on top at a tighter circuit that tends to favour cornering speed over all-out horsepower.
Scott Woodwiss/ Stephen Colbran