FORMULA FORD GOES NORTH OF THE BORDER IN REVERSE
The 2018 Avon Tyres National Formula Ford 1600 Championship exploded into life at Silverstone over Easter as the first 3 rounds of the season provided some fabulous action.
It’s no wonder the racing is so intense as, for those under 25, the series 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 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda.
Scottish drivers are well represented on the entry list for their home rounds and all are driving Ray chassis as they endeavour to be in the thick of the action at the front of the field – albeit in a pack of about 10 cars!
The first of these are Neil Maclennan and Jamie Thorburn who will both be fielded by Cliff Dempsey Racing. The former finished second in the National Championship last season but this will be his first appearance of the year. He also scooped the 2017 Tourist Trophy – the mini-series which begins this weekend and will take in Kirkistown and Croft.
For Thorburn, the three races at Silverstone were very exciting – probably more exciting than he would have wished after the weather-gods worked against him during qualifying meaning he started the first race out of position. Nonetheless, he salvaged fifth at the finish before challenging for a podium finish in the second encounter until an engine problem dropped him down to eleventh. Starting from that position he was mega in the early stages of the final contest, working his way up to fifth. Therefore Jamie is hoping to fly on home soil!
Two more drivers racing under the colours of the Saltire are Ross Martin and Seb Melrose who take to the tarmac under the stewardship of Graham Brunton Racing – a team based here at Knockhill Circuit.
Martin is the reigning Scottish Formula Ford 1600 Champion and his only win in the National series was recorded at Knockhill last June. Maclennan had been the first to cross the line but was excluded. Melrose meanwhile recorded a best finish of eighth at Silverstone’s opening meeting of the season.
After the 3 races in Northamptonshire, it was Niall Murray who led the standings having finished third, second and, finally, first! Murray returned to the championship in a Bernard Dolan-run Van Diemen RF99 having taken the title in 2016. Having moved away from Formula Ford 1600 last year the Irishman was still dialing-in the set up of his car at Silverstone hence his results got better and better. With that meeting under his belt, he may well be the man to beat this time around.
The other winners were Joey Foster and Luke Cooper. Foster proved you don’t need the latest equipment to be successful by taking the laurels in a 10 year old Ray from the Don Hardman stable while Cooper, driving a Swift SC16 prepared by his family, won an epic contest in which the first 6 took the chequered flag less than a second apart following 15 minutes of endless overtaking.