LIGHTS, CAMERAS, ACTION… FORMULA FORD IS GO FOR 2014
Brands Hatch is the venue for opening rounds of 30-race Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain. Photo: www.jakobebrey.com
Thirty races, a £30,000 prize fund and a grid of talented young drivers hungry for success in front of the live TV cameras – that is the exciting mix in prospect for fans as the 48th season of Formula Ford competition in Britain gets underway. A field of 15 EcoBoost-powered single-seaters is expected at Brands Hatch this coming weekend (29/30 March) for the opening rounds of the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, and only one thing appears certain: there are any number of potential winners among them.
Last year the championship was dominated from the outset by Dan Cammish. The Leeds racer went on to claim 24 consecutive race victories for JTR, and with it the Formula Ford crown. Championship manager Sam Roach of RacingLine is not expecting any Cammish-style supremacy this season:
“It’s a brave man who predicts anything in motorsport, and particularly in Formula Ford, but the field this season looks very evenly matched, with around half a dozen experienced, front-running drivers who will be expected to win races from the outset. The rest are very promising rookies, several of whom will be winning races before long. It is going to be very exciting to see who emerges on top, and I suspect the championship may well remain undecided down to the wire.”
The title will be fought over the 10 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship meetings between March and mid-October, with three Formula Ford races supporting the BTCC each weekend. Each Sunday, ITV4 will screen around seven hours of live raceday action, and there will be edited highlights of the Formula Ford action shown post-event in addition.
There are rich cash rewards on offer this season also: £1,000 each for the winners of races two and three every weekend, plus £500 to the biggest improver in race one and £500 for the race-one winner of the Scholarship Class for racing rookies.
The JTR team, champion squad for the last two seasons, is back with a trio of hot-shot drivers – team boss Nick Tandy reckons it’s his strongest yet – for its EcoBoost Mygales: Sam Brabham, a six-time podium visitor in 2013 and son of triple Le Mans victor David; swift South African Jayde Kruger – a winner at Silverstone last September – and Max Marshall, who stunned on his EcoBoost debut at Silverstone by netting a hat-trick of pole positions.
Kruger is enjoying his experiences with his new team: “Obviously it’s taken a while to get used to things, but it’s a good working relationship now. The JTR car handles a lot differently also, and that has taken me a little while to get used to. But it’s coming along, and on times I am looking about as good as Dan did last year…
“Brands Hatch is not going to be an easy weekend but we will be there to open our bank account and, hopefully, to bag a couple of race wins. That would be the best way to start the year but, like I said, it’s not going to be easy: Brands Indy is a hard circuit, exceptionally fast. But I am looking forward to it, and the reverse-grid race will be exciting.”
Harrison Scott was last year’s Scholarship Class winner, and also the driver who ran Cammish closest in the overall title battle. The 18-year-old from Essex is back with Falcon Motorsport for 2014 and, having tasted the victory champagne once last season, at Silverstone, is keen for more. Scott is partnered by Ricky Collard, 17-year-old son of BTCC racer Rob, who is looking to establish himself in car-racing after a glittering kart career. Falcon has made a switch in engine tuner for 2014, bringing Swindon Racing Engines and its illustrious motor-sporting history to Formula Ford for the first time.
Isle of Man-based Formula Ford rookie Chris Mealin is Falcon’s third man and one of the Scholarship Class contenders tipped for success. The 20-year-old has been competing for seven years but will be making his single-seater debut. “I’m very confident and can’t wait to get cracking,” said Chris. “If I can qualify inside the top half of the field at Brands Hatch I’ll be pleased. Consistency is what I am after and if I can be in the top seven or eight in the races that would be excellent. A Scholarship podium would top things off nicely…”
Last October at Brands Hatch Juan Rosso put on a Cammish-style display to win all three races. Then he was driving for Jamun Racing; this year the exciting 20-year-old Argentinian switches to Radical Sportscars to partner James Abbott, the only driver to score points in every round in 2013. With Mountune-prepared EcoBoost engines, like that used to such good effect by Cammish last season, Abbott and Rosso start the season with a confident look.
Multiple championship-winning team Jamun Racing’s 2014 charge is to be led by 18-year-old Jack Barlow. The Hastings driver, who shone last year in F4, confirmed his signing with the squad this week after two successful days of testing at Brands Hatch. “It’s all a bit last-minute because we have been keeping our options open. I had my first test with Jamun on Monday and it all went really well – plain sailing and very quick – and we did the deal there and then… Jamun’s history says it all really and everyone in the team seems nice and easy to get along with.
“I was out again at Brands last Thursday, so I am going into the championship with a couple of days under my belt. I like the car a lot – it has a lot more power and torque than what I have been used to. I really enjoyed it and it seems to suit my driving style. This will be my second year in cars and I am looking to go out and win the championship. But I know it will be tough – there are several drivers out there in their second year of Formula Ford. I think it’s going to be a good year with some close racing.”
Jamun hopes to name the driver of its second Scholar-tuned EcoBoost Mygale early this week.
The youngest driver on the grid this season will be James Webb, who turned 16 just this week. James, who contested several Ginetta Junior rounds last year, slots into the SWB Motorsport team alongside Australian Greg Holloway. Both men will make their British Formula Ford debuts in a built-in-Norfolk Sinter chassis, underlining the continuing multi-marque ethos of Formula Ford.
Two drivers on this year’s grid are – like Cammish in 2013 – returning to competition after being sidelined by accidents. One is Collard, who suffered several fractures last season in a kart crash in Italy, and the other is Ashley Sutton, who has been out of the cockpit since 2011, when he was seriously hurt in a road-car crash. Both men are now fighting fit, and 20-year-old Sutton is slotting into the capable Meridian Motorsport team for his Formula Ford baptism. There he joins Essex talent Connor Mills, who made a promising Formula Ford debut with the squad last year.
The 15th car anticipated is that of Richardson Racing, a podium finisher last season in the hands of Andy Richardson.
You can follow all the news from the Championship at www.britishformulaford.co.uk