The BRSCC South Eastern Centre teamed up with HQ for the 2017 Formula Ford Festival, held as usual at Brands Hatch’s 1.208 mile Indy Circuit, with a 20-race programme dominated by the world’s premier junior single-seater category. Storm Brian was forecast to make an appearance over the weekend, but thankfully stayed away.

Foster (centre car) drove emphatically all weekend to take the third Festival victory of his career in fine style – Photo: Gary Hawkins

Following morning qualifying beset by sporadic rain showers, Saturday afternoon’s proceedings kicked off with a 15-lap race for the Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford Championship. Fittingly, it was a ‘Classic’ Festival runner who qualified on Pole, with Festival veteran Rick Morris, who looked set to take victory in his Royale RP26, but his wide line exiting Clark Curve in worsening track conditions allowed Tamworth’s Scott Mansell’s Crossle 35F through in the run to the line. Third for Adriano Medeiros clinched the title for the Bedford driver in his Van Diemen RF80.

Sunday’s second encounter took place on a dry track, minus Morris, whose shunt in qualifying for the Masters race ruled him out for the weekend. A second corner spin for Medeiros as he challenged Mansell for the lead dropped him down the order, with, w Kenilworth/Dublin’s Mark Armstrong benefitting to take the lead, finishing ahead of Mansell and the recovering Medeiros.

Second up was a 20-minute qualifier for the Toyo Tyres Porsche Championship, with the track still sodden as the cars set off, under bright sunshine! A late Safety Car intervention saw a quick dash to the Flag, but James Coleman threw away a possible victory hitting the tyre wall descending Graham Hill on the last lap, handing the honours to Follifoot’s Ed Hayes (Boxter) ahead of Adam Southgate and Richard Avery. 924 class spoils went the way of Burton-Upon-Humber’s Pip Hammond.

It was bright sunshine for Sunday’s second race, but this time with a dry track. Hayes made it a brace of wins ahead of Avery and Westoning’s Garry Lawrence. Aldington’s David Jones was top 924. The third and final race was once more claimed by Hayes from Avery and Southgate.

Guesting on the bill were the Irish Supercars Powered by Pirelli sharing a grid with the Global GT Lights for a 15-minute encounter. Graham Colfer took overall honours in his ASK Supercar, with Blackrock’s Conor Farrell leading Global Lights runner.

Sunday’s race had a different dynamic, with a rolling as opposed to standing, start. Darndale’s Bob Cameron’s ASK Supercar was the winner overall, with Chalfont St Peter’s James Thompson second and leading Global GT Lights runner.

Single-seater action was next up with the 15-lap Formula Ford Festival Heat 1 sponsored by Cam-Tech Security, with double Festival winner (Duratec 2003/Kent 2004) Joey Foster’s Ray GR08 starting from Pole Position on the damp tack. Although he managed to break clear from the pack squabbling over the remaining podium positions, a Safety Car intervention closed the field up. Nevertheless, the Truro man held the lead to the flag ahead of Muir of Ord’s Neil Mclennan (Ray GR09) and Josh Smith (Van Diemen JL13). The race saw one of the favourites fall by the wayside as Luke Williams’ Firman RFR16 pulled off the track with a broken throttle cable.

Heat 2 was a little dryer, and uninterrupted by Safety Cars. Poleman Chris Middlehurst’s Van Diemen LA10 survived a near coming-together with a backmarker to take victory ahead of Meath’s Keith Donegan (Van Diemen JL13K) and local man Darren Burke’s JL14K.

Having been excluded from qualifying for a flag infringement, the pressure was on Bath’s Oliver White (Medina Sport JL10) to make his way from the back of the grid into Semi Final contention and seemed to have done enough, but a further flag infringement saw him excluded from the race as well. Another fancied runner, Naas’s Jake Byrne (Ray GR13) crashed out four laps from home at McLaren, with Stalybridge’s Matthew Cowley’s Van Diemen JL13 holding off Sturbridge’s Matt Round-Garrido’s Medina Sport JL10 and Luke Cooper’s Swift SC16.

The 15-lap Festival Semi Final 1 sponsored by NCPI Solutions saw an early Safety Car for a car stranded at Druids. When racing resumed, Foster enjoyed a titanic scrap with Cowley, but managed to stay ahead to the flag, with Donegan third. Jamie Thorburn’s Ray GR15 crashed out of contention when challenging for the lower positions.

Dumbarton’s Ross Martin was left with it all to do after a trip through the gravel at the start of Semi Final 2 dropped him to the tail of the field. Up front, Middlehurst was battling hard to ward off Maclennan, but succumbed to a daring overtake on the inside of Graham Hill Bend on Lap 12. Round-Garrido claimed third, with Martin’s Ray RGS17 making it up to 13th, just shy of automatic qualification for the Final.

The 31 runners in the 15-minute Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup had barely made it onto the second lap before the Red Flags appeared with four cars off in the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap. A 13-minute rerun saw Edinburgh’s Steven Dailly and Bedford’s James Gornall move well clear of Westbury’s Owen Hunter, with Dailly managing to fend off Gornall’s advances.

Dailly doubled up in the afternoon’s second outing, once again ahead of Gornall, with Tarporley’s Samuel Carrington Yates third.

The 15-lap Festival Masters sponsored by Avon Tyres race (also marking Formula Ford’s 50thanniversary) included a mix of older and newer cars and drivers. Jake Byrne partly made up for his Festival Heat disappointment by charging up to second, only just failing to make it past John Ferguson’s Spectrum in a tight finish. Miles Johnston’s Ray GR16 just held off Keith Wood’s Swift SC93.

In view of entry numbers, the Sports 2000 Pinto and Duratec entries were combined into one field, with the first 25-minute race being won by Broadstairs’ Paul Trayhurn (Gunn TS11) from Whyteleafe’s Mike Gibbins (MCR) and Swansea’s Tim Tudor’s similar car. Two Safety Car interventions somewhat took the momentum out of the race.

Trayhurn’s chances of doubling up were thwarted as he pulled off the track in the slightly longer (30mins) second race. Gibbins claimed the win from West Byfleet’s David Houghton (MCR) and Tudor.

The grid for the 15-lap Historic Formula Ford Festival Final sponsored Haines Watts was formed by using the Race Classification from the Semi-Finals for eligible competitors, i.e., Pre-90, Pre-82 and Pre-72 cars, with Germany’s Klaus-Dieter Hackel (Van Diemen RF88) holding off Bridgwater’s Felix Fisher and BRSCC Vice Chairman Peter Daly in his Royale RP21.

With only six Final places on offer in the eight-lap Festival Last Chance Race sponsored by Cam-Tech Security, frantic action was guaranteed. Ross Martin was the early leader, but James Roe Jr moved ahead in his Van Diemen RF99. Martin held on to second, with Southampton’s Michael Eastwell third.

And so to the Festival Final, which saw Maclennan start from pole as the faster Semi Final winner. Although he made a good getaway from the line, his early efforts were in vain as the Safety Car was called with three cars in the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend. When racing resumed, he had to ward off Cowley and Foster’s close attentions. It was Foster who was to make the telling move, launching an overtaking manoeuvre around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend around half distance, making it stick around Druids. Cowley moved up to second on lap 13, but found himself forced wide by Donegan as the cars exited Graham Hill Bend, relegating him to fourth. A trip through the gravel exiting Paddock Hill Bend dropped him further down the order. Meanwhile Foster remained untroubled up front to take the Chequered Flag and Festival title ahead of Donegan and Maclennan.

A minute’s silence was held immediately before the Final in memory of Club President Tom Dooley, always a welcome visitor to the Centre’s race meetings, who died earlier in the week

Although the 2018 calendar has yet to be confirmed, I would suspect the Centre’s first date to be in early April.

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