MIDDLEHURST CLAIMS DAVID LESLIE TROPHY IN NATIONAL FORMULA FORD KNOCKHILL VISIT


Chris Middlehurst and Alex Walker shared the winning honours at this past Sunday’s Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship rounds, with the former also taking home the coveted David Leslie Trophy for his victory on the shared grid with the Scottish Formula Ford Championship.

After successful test sessions on Friday and a morning practice session, qualifying saw several drivers take turns at the top of the times as Lucas Romanek, then Thomas Mills and finally Alex Walker ensured it was Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum chassis that held the fastest time until the end of the session. Walker would take pole alongside Team DOLAN’s Chris Middlehurst, with Jordan Dempsey making a welcome Formula Ford return with BM Racing in 3rd quickest, while Thomas Mills qualified a very impressive 4th on his first National outing for his father’s team. Romanek completed the top 5 ahead of Jamie Sharp, Max Esterson in the top Low Dempsey Racing Ray chassis, Colin Queen, Carter Williams and another returnee in Morgan Quinn. Just behind them, top Scottish Formula Ford Championship driver was former champion Jordan Gronkowski with the 11th fastest time overall with closest rival Michael Gray lining up 13th and Neil Broome in 16th.

Walker couldn’t make his pole position count as he was beaten at the start by Middlehurst on the run down to Duffus Dip for the first time and remained in front at the end of the opening lap from Walker, Mills, Dempsey, Sharp and Esterson. From here on in, it became something of a one-on-one duel between the two top as Walker kept on Middlehurst’s tail and made a number of attempts to pass in the early stages, but he was forced to halt his advances after teammate Lucas Romanek brought out the safety car. When racing resumed, Walker wasted no time in reapplying the pressure and eventually found a way through to the lead at the completion of Lap 15, and while Middlehurst did manage to squeeze back past it ultimately came to nothing. A problem for Megan Gilkes saw her Spectrum come to a halt which brought about a premature end to the race via red flag. While Middlehurst has only just got back through ahead of Walker, the result was counted back to Lap 18 when Alex had still been in front by a mere 0.088 seconds with Middlehurst forced to settle for 2nd place.

Esterson had enjoyed a battle over the final podium place between himself, Mills, Dempsey and Sharp and he steadily picked them off one by one to end up in 3rd at the time of the red flag, handing him the final top 3 position. Sharp completed another strong race to pick up 4th ahead of Dempsey in P5, while Jordan Gronkowski was best Scottish Formula Ford driver finishing in 5th place overall. The rest of the top 10 National drivers were Williams, Mills (who was demoted down the order after he was given a 10 second penalty for driving standards), Stewart, Queen and Lafond, the last of that five finishing behind Michael Gray on the road, who was the second Scottish FF runner home.

The second race was the all-important contest for the David Leslie Trophy, with the winner being crowned the 2021 recipient of the accolade in question. Walker was once again on pole courtesy of his win earlier in the day, but as he had been in Race 1 he was beaten away from the line yet again by Middlehurst, who wasted no time in sweeping into the lead. In something of a carbon copy of the first race, Walker ensured that Middlehurst was never given a moment to rest as the pair and Esterson ran together but the three drivers wouldn’t change places once, even after a brief safety car when both Colin Queen and Jordan Dempsey dropped out of the race on the same lap.

Even on the restart, there was nothing Walker could do to prise the door open and get the lead back from Middlehurst, who managed to finally create a decent gap to the pack behind and eventually lead the pack to the chequered flag to win the second race and the David Leslie Trophy for 2021. Walker finished just 1.7 seconds back in 2nd place and only less than a tenth ahead of Esterson at the flag, while Thomas Mills captured an excellent 4th, while Jamie Sharp headed up an exciting trio for 5th place from Williams and Romanek, then Quinn in 8th, Gronkowski finishing 9th overall and top Scottish Formula Ford driver, Michael Gray and then Lafond and Gilkes.

There’s not much time until the National Formula Ford racers are back on track again, as there’s only a two-week gap before the drivers and teams venture to the Home of British Motorsport, Silverstone’s National circuit on June 19/20!

Scott Woodwiss