FORMULA FORD TAKES THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HOME TO BRANDS HATCH
The Avon Tyres National Formula Ford 1600 Championship could provide the most exciting action of the weekend.
Throughout the 50+ history of this legendary junior category, the layout of the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit has been conducive to great racing for these cars. This has become more intense when the National series has visited in recent seasons because, for those under 25, the Championship 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.
That great prize was won in fine style a couple of years ago by Niall Murray and, although the Irishman wasn’t awarded the bursary, he gave a fabulous account of himself in the Shootout. Murray has returned to the National Championship in 2018 in a bid to win that big ticket across the Big Pond once again and carve himself a career in the States.
The deal with Team Dolan came together very late in the day and his Van Diemen RF99 was still being dialed-in at Silverstone’s first meeting of the season but this didn’t prevent him from recording third, second and then, finally, first place finishes during the course of the weekend. Then last time out at Knockhill Murray was runner-up in the opener, won race 2 but then mechanical gremlins in the final encounter scuppered his chances of making it 6 podiums out of 6.
Joey Foster has been accumulating titles in FF1600 since 2001 and has 3 victories in the Walter Hayes Trophy plus 2 more in the Formula Ford Festival to his name. In the 2018 National campaign, he was the first to see the chequered flag when he took the spoils in round 1 piloting a Ray GR08 tended by Don Hardman Racing but has not had that glory since. This doesn’t mean Foster has been off the pace, it just indicates how competitive the series is this year – Murray is the only driver with more than one win.
Brands is the second leg of the Triple Crown which began at Silverstone and concludes at Donington Park in October. Murray leads that mini-series 11 points ahead of Luke Cooper. The latter took the title in 2012 and claimed the second race of this season in the Swift SC16 that the Cooper family team have developed into a rapid piece of kit over the past few years.
In Scotland, Murray’s stable mate at Team Dolan – Matt Round-Garrido – took his first victory at National level having held off the entire marauding pack for the duration of Saturday’s contest in his Medina Sport JL17 while the remaining visitor to the top step of the podium so far this year is Neil Maclennan who did the business in the final thrash at Knockhill.
Maclennan was taking part in his first meeting since last season’s Festival behind the wheel of a Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray GR16. The decisive moment that netted him the laurels came with a daring move around the outside of Cooper at Clark’s.
As there is little separating so many drivers, don’t be surprised to see some new names on the 2018 winner’s roster here in Kent.