FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL #43
Can Stuart Gough add the Festival crown to his impressive list of trophies won this season? Photo: www.bournephoto.co.uk
The 43rd winner of the Formula Ford Festival will be declared on Sunday afternoon. For four years the Festival entertained the crowds at Snetterton, before switching to Brands Hatch for 1976. Since Derek Daly's victory that year, ahead of Derek Warwick and Rick Morris, the 'Festival' as it is simply known has become a mainstay of the national racing calendar.
Stuart Gough, the BRSCC's leading ‘Kent’ racer of 2014, heads the entry list and will carry the number 1 into battle this weekend. Driving a Van Diemen for Oldfield Motorsport, Gough bagged a memorable hat-trick of Post 89 titles this year by becoming the BRSCC National and Northern champion, while also winning the BRSCC Triple Crown along the way. The Milton Keynes-based racer will be keen to add the Festival title to his already impressive bag of 2014 swag, and will certainly be one driver to keep an eye on.
The entry list is full of drivers who are more than capable of winning the Festival outright. Many of those travel to Kent this weekend from Ireland, and the visitors from across the Irish Sea are as much a part of Festival legend as the racing is. This year former Kent Festival winners, Noel Dunne and Neville Smyth return to try and claim the coveted Neil Shanahan Trophy, while Leinster Trophy winner, Stephen Daly, will also be a man to look out for.
Jake Byrne, unlucky not to score victory in the recent Martin Donnelly Trophy at Kirkistown, is another who should go well. Derek M. Daly also returns to Brands for another crack at the Festival, as does Denis Sheehan.
Ciaran Haggerty travels from Scotland with high hopes of taking the Festival title back north of the border. Highly regarded as a future champion in higher levels of motorsport, the youngster made his Brands Hatch debut on the Grand Prix Circuit in August, just a couple of weeks after winning in fine style around the Silverstone National Circuit in a BRSCC race that boasted a mighty fine entry list.
Chris Middlehurst returns to Formula Ford having spent the season driving in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship. A former BRSCC race winner, Middlehurst has signed to drive a Mygale for crack Dutch team, Geva Racing. This weekend will be the first event for Geva's new Mygale, and Middlehurst should go well. Another French-manufactured Mygale is to be driven by Ashley Dibden, a regular at Brands Hatch, while Luke Cooper will race for his family-run Swift Cooper squad. James Raven drives a Ray for Cliff Dempsey Racing.
Cliff Dempsey Racing will again run cars for the scholarships from across the pond. Team USA and Team Canada both return for more Formula Ford Festival action this year, and all three transatlantic racers should shine. The Team USA Scholarship cars will be raced by Michai Stephens and Aaron Telitz, while Canada's maple leaf flag will be represented by Chase Pelletier.
Fernando Gaspar travels from Portugal to race, while Festival stalwart, Brands Hatch regular, Innes Hickman, will drive a Van Diemen while Laurie Hughes will wheel out his trusty Van Diemen RF78. The aforementioned Rick Morris, who came third in the first Brands Hatch Festival in 1976, can’t keep away and will race a 2011 Ray.
Kevin Howell will drive a PRS and Matthew Wrigley will be at the wheel of a Merlyn – both cars looking for success in the Pre '82 and Pre '72 sections of the competition. You can see the draw for Saturday’s two Kent heats at FESTIVAL KENT HEATS
The entries for the Duratec and Zetec Festivals may be small and select, but certainly contain quality as these Ford-powered cars continue to play an important part during the Formula Ford Festival weekend. Heading the Duratec entry are Thomas Craincourt (Mygale) and John Whitbourn (Mygale). Whitbourn is a driver who has been placed on the Festival podium twice, albeit in the Zetec category back in 2009 and 2012. Julian Hoskins won the Zetec Festival last year with his Vector TF93, having already tasted the class victory champagne in 2010, and he is back on-track this weekend in an attempt to win the coveted title for the third time. He can expect strong opposition from Patrick Rausch and Eric Heudicourt, who finished third last year.
Away from the Formula Fords, the Festival meeting is again ably served by a strong supporting cast. The Jam-Sport Fiestas are out in force and three of their four classes are still up for dispute. Ian Scruton leads the Class A (Si) table although Lee Dendy-Sadler is within striking distance. David Ellesley & Ed Cockill look set fare in classes C (ST) and D (Zetec S) respectively, but their nearest challengers, David Grady and David Abbott, will keep them honest. Keith Chapman will have a more comfortable weekend, safe in the knowledge that the B (Zetec) crown is his.
With Geri Nicosia securing the Fiesta Junior Championship title at Rockingham five weeks ago, the main FJC focus this weekend will be on the remaining two podium positions for the season overall. Michael Higgs currently sits in second spot, but is just seven points ahead of Thomas Grundy. While Michael is the firm favourite to clinch P2, he knows that any slip-ups will open the door for Thomas to charge through. Another element to factor in is that Geri Nicosia is sitting this weekend out, as is Rob Cox. This pair account for eleven victories between them so there is a great opportunity for another driver to step up to the plate and claim a race win, particularly Thomas Grundy who has yet to take the chequered flag.
The all-action Fiestas continue with almost a full grid of Irish Fiestas, competing for the Patch Tyre Equipment Trophy. Although 2013 champion John Denning has already had to relinquish his championship trophy to Sean Lillis, he will be determined to show he is still a force to be reckoned with.
The Formula Ford Festival would not be complete without the welcome appearance from competitors racing in the BIGprofile Sports 2000 Championship. These fast sportscars use either the 2-litre Pinto engine or the 2-litre Duratec engine. The Pinto powered cars will run across two events. These are for the Historic Trophy, which features cars manufactured Pre '83, and the Pinto Championship. As in previous seasons, Patrick Sherrington has been the man to beat in the Duratec Championship. Nick Bates has given chase and has performed well, while Michael Gibbins at the wheel of a Lola is the man to watch in the Historic Trophy with his Pinto-powered Lola.
The weather forecast for the weekend is currently looking like it will be dry on both days, but you can keep up with any changes at BRANDS HATCH FORECAST
The Finals, timetable and entry list for this weekend are available at http://www.brscc.co.uk/BRANDS-HATCH—FORMULA-FORD-FESTIVAL-30-07-65