MARTIN DOMINATES NATIONAL FORMULA FORDS AT CROFT
Alex Birley gives us a comprehensive round-up of the recent triple-header of awesome races in the Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship.
Scottish driver, Ross Martin took a lights to flag victory in his Van Diemen RF99 at the first race of the Croft weekend.
As Martin got away well to hold the lead into turn one, behind him the Cliff Dempsey racer, Spike Kohlbecker moved from fourth place on the grid into second as both he and Rory Smith passed James Clarke.
However, Kohlbecker seemed to be struggling for some pace as Smith, after a few foiled attempts, managed to take second place.
B-M Racing’s Smith would be involved in a fantastic battle with Clarke over the closing few laps. Despite dropping back at the start, Clarke had fought his way through to be right on Smith’s tail. The two continued to trade places, but at the chequered flag it was Smith second, Clarke third. The B-M Racing driver was delighted to score his first podium since taking victory in the first race of the season back at Snetterton.
Kohlbecker dropped a couple of places to sixth when he ran wide through Sonny which allowed the Kevin Mills racer, Neil MacLennan and his Cliff Dempsey teammate, Jonathan Brown to get by.
Former F4 racer, Jamie Sharp was looking racey as he moved from ninth on the grid to finish seventh, kicking up some dust as he tried to find a way passed Kohlbecker as well.
Double eSport World Champion, Brendon Leigh had been part of this mid-field battle, but unfortunately, a puncture dropped him rapidly back down the field and the rookie would finish the race in last place.
This problem meant that Team Dolan racer, Morgan Quinn, took another Rookie class victory, despite nursing gearbox issues and extended his lead in the championship. The former Ginetta racer had a fight on his hand as he and the current French FF1600 championship leader, Adrien Laissac, making his debut in the National FF1600 championship, squabbled for 12th place.
In the Club Championship John Svensson took the win, finishing tenth overall and extending his lead over Adam Quartermaine who had a spin early in the race. The Team Dolan racer managed to get going but had dropped down the field.
Another spinner on this tricky circuit was rookie racer, Nicole Woods who finished in 15th place.
The only DNF was Michael McPherson who retired with a broken suspension after a coming together with Svensson in the opening laps.
Team Oldfield teammates, Americans Carter Williams and Aaron Jeansonne, took the chequered flag in eighth and eleventh respectively. Williams is certainly finding his feet again in National FF1600, having competed with Don Hardman’s team in 2018 before moving into British F4 in 2019. As F4 takes a bit of a summer break, it was a great opportunity for the youngster to keep sharp and we are hoping we may see him make another outing at some point this year.
Border Reivers Racing Team’s, Jamie Thorburn made his 2019 debut last time out in Anglesey, but says he is struggling for pace, finishing in 9th place but hoping for more in Sunday’s races.
The second BRSCC Avon Tyres National FF1600 podium had a similar feel to the first with Dolan’s Ross Martin on the top step, flanked by Rory Smith and James Clarke. However, this time it was Clarke second and Smith third.
Martin dominated in the Van Diemen RF99, which also took Niall Murray to the 2018 season championship, but behind him things remained uncertain right up to the chequered flag in another typically exciting Formula Ford race.
As Martin lead into corner one, Clarke and Smith ran side-by-side with Clarke, moving up to second. Behind them Spike Kohlbecker, made a great start, jumping from sixth on the grid to fourth. However, the young American seemed to lack a bit of pace this weekend losing back out to Kevin Mills Racing’s Neil MacLennan and then away from the battle for podium positions.
Having got back passed Kohlbecker, the hard-charging MacLennan was all over the back of Smith. It looked like this battle would allow Clarke to get away, but instead, they pushed each other to be right on the tail of the Cliff Dempsey car. MacLennan eventually managed to find a way by into third but lost out on the final lap after running wide at the Complex enabling Smith to nip by in his Medina JL18.
Series returnee, Jonathan Browne enjoyed a great battle with Team Dolan’s Jamie Sharp. Sharp tried every move to find a way by and was eventually rewarded with a hard-won 6th place.
Behind them, FF1600 National rookie, Brendon Leigh had a fantastic race. A puncture in race one meant that the double F1 eSports World Champion started the race back in 16th. However, he fought his way through to finish eighth, earning himself a Rookie Class win in the process.
Another class winner was John Svensson who took a well-deserved second victory in the Club Championship. His championship rival, Adam Quartermaine, was another driver who seemed to struggle a bit at this circuit finishing 13th overall and 2nd in the Club Championship.
It was only a two-way battle in the Club Championship at this round after Svensson’s teammate, Pascal Monbaron, had to go home on Friday after suffering a big crash in testing which left the Swiss racer bruised and his car unrepairable in the time available.
Jamie Thorburn had been battling with Svensson, but the engine did not sound good and he had to head into the pits. The Border Reivers Team managed to get him back out, but the problem remained. Thorburn didn’t see the chequered flag but was classified 15th.
Yong Irish racer, Morgan Quinn was once again involved in the action for the lower points scoring positions, battling hard with French FF1600 championship leader, Adrien Laissac, who was getting to grips with the Van Diemen RF99, which is not what he drives in the French series.
Quinn would finish in tenth place, just ahead of MacPherson who moved up from starting at the back after yesterday’s DNF.
Rookie driver, B-M Racing’s Nicole Woods finished in `14th place.
Unfortunately, neither of Oldfield Motorsport’s drivers, Americans Aaron Jeansonne and Carter Williams, finished the race after suffering electrical issues.
Ross Martin left Croft with a healthy lead in the championship having scored maximum points thanks to three wins, three fastest laps and pole position in the first race.
The third race was a pole position he couldn’t have due to the reverse grid rule in the National Formula Ford 1600. Instead, it went to his teammate, Jamie Sharp, when ball number six was drawn, as the Team Dolan driver was classified sixth in race two.
After what seemed like a long hold at the start, Sharp had a good getaway and held the lead into the first corner. Spike Kohlbecker was putting the pressure on and had a couple of looks, but Sharp managed to fend him off.
Behind the leaders Martin had an excellent first lap moving from sixth on the grid to third by the end of lap one, having managed to pass James Clarke, Rory Smith and Neil MacLennan.
The pack continued to jostle for position with plenty of action for the spectators to enjoy. Both Martin and the Kevin Mills Racing driver, MacLennan managed to get by Kohlbecker who dropped to fourth.
This meant that Sharp now had his mirrors full of his teammate’s number 11 car.
The battle for the lead paused after Clarke went off at Tower Bend which unfortunately ended his race and brought out the Safety Car. The Marshals did their usual great job of recovering the car.
With five minutes of racing added on, the Safety car was in. Martin lined up Sharp and passed him into turn one and started pulling away.
Sharp immediately came under pressure from MacLennan and the Scottish driver was clearly determined after just missing out on a podium in race two. Going through Tower Bend it looked as if Sharp had slowed suddenly and lost places. There had been a resulting contact from MacLennan in what was later adjudged a racing incident.
MacLennan would go onto finish second, earning the Scottish driver more valuable championship points.
Sharp had dropped back to fifth place which is where he finished. However, the former F4 driver certainly showed that he is getting to grips with his Van Diemen LA10 and is likely to be fighting for podiums as we go into the second half of the season.
Rory Smith scored a trio of podiums this weekend having passed Kohlbecker in another last lap overtake at the Complex. After the race Smith once again felt he had been lucky, as the number five car ran wide. However, Smith has had more than his fair share of bad luck since taking the first win of the year back at Snetterton and it is good to have another driver who is capable of race wins and podiums back in the mix.
The young Cliff Dempsey racer, Kohlbecker had a reasonably quiet weekend by his standards and said he struggled a bit at this circuit. However, Spike is still second in the championship and will be doing his best to not let Martin have it all his own way.
Rookie racer, Brendon Leigh, had a very strong weekend. This star of eSport Formula One racing has been quietly getting to grips with racing on track and came back well, after the disappointment of a puncture in race one, to be in amongst the tough mid-pack battles. Having made his way up to sixth he was unable to find a way passed Sharp but did manage to fend off Jonathan Browne who had taken his first National Formula Ford win back at Oulton Park earlier in the year.
It is going to be fascinating to watch the battle for the Rookie Class championship between Leigh and Morgan Quinn. Nicole Woods is the other rookie in the championship after Scott Huntley and Oldfield Motorsport parted ways. Woods had a few spins at Croft over the weekend but is gaining experience each time out.
Jamie Thorburn finished in eighth place which he was delighted with after his engine problems, which turned out to be a spark plug issue, meant he had started towards the back of the grid.
Oldfield’s Aaron Jeansonne was hoping for more this weekend but said he benefitted from the experience of his American compatriot Carter Williams.
Williams was making a one-off return to Formula Fords, having made the move to F4 this year and enjoyed the weekend, although it is always tough to just step into a new car with only an hour or so of testing.
The other driver facing that challenge was Adrian Laissac who wanted to try out the highly competitive UK National Formula Ford series. He spent much of the weekend battling with Michael MacPherson in his Spectrum. The French driver enjoyed the races and if calendars allow may be back at a later round of the championship.
In the Club Championship it was another hattrick, this time for John Svensson, who also came away with the points for three fastest laps. Adam Quartermaine finished in 16th, behind Nicole Woods, and is hoping for more next time out at Brands Hatch.