Murray's joy at becoming a 2-time Festival winner was evident! – Photo: Gary Hawkins

The BRSCC South Eastern Centre's third and final race meeting of the season took place over the weekend of October 22-23, namely the Formula Ford Festival, run in conjunction with BRSCC HQ, featuring a 21-race programme, as usual over Brands Hatch's 1.208 mile Indy Circuit. Saturday dawned foggy, with a spectacular sunrise, with the rest of the day mostly cloudy but thankfully dry. Sunday’s early morning fog cleared to reveal a glorious sun which lasted throughout, albeit with an autumnal nip in the air.

It was fitting that the weekend’s racing action kicked off with FF1600, a 15-lap qualifier for the Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford Championship. Brazilian driver Adriano Medeiros stormed away from Pole Position in his Van Diemen RF80 to establish a comfortable lead. His margin of victory may have been even greater than 0.626s had the last three laps not been run behind the Safety Car when Alaric Gordon’s PRSRH01 shed a wheel along Cooper Straight. Chadderton’s Tom Brown and Chingford’s Stuart Kestenbaum followed at a respectable distance in their respective RF79 and RF80.

Medeiros made it two out of two in Sunday’s opening race – thankfully free of any Safety Car interventions – with Kestenbaum moving up to second. Wakefield’s Nigel Lingwood’s RF80 claimed the final podium spot.

The second race on the bill saw us welcome another guest category from Ireland, the ASK Supercars, for a 15-minute battle. Despite not making the best of start from Pole Position, Dubliner Andrew O’Brien soon made his way to the front and opened up a clear lead ahead of Darndale’s Bob Cameron and Graeme Colfer.

In the second outing, O’Brien made sure he got his nose in fronted as the cars headed away from the grid and strode away to a 20s victory. Cameron followed in second, while Colfer retired with accident and tyre damage, handing third to Naul’s Alan Kessie.

The outcome of the 12-lap Formula Ford Festival Heat 1 sponsored by Cam-Tech Security was largely decided within yards of the start when contact among the front-runners saw the retirement of Stephen Daly’s Ray GR11 and front row men Canadian Parker Thompson and American Chase Owen drop down the order in their Rays.

Stuart Gough was the man to benefit, inheriting the lead in his Van Diemen DP08, and his victory ahead of Andy Charsley’s Ray GR15 and Noel Robinson’s Van Diemen JL102K was all but assured when a late Safety Car intervention left just one lap of race action before the Chequered Flag. Joey Foster, overall Festival winner in 2003 and ‘Kent’-engine winner in 2004 took fourth, with Thompson and Owen finishing 6th and 8th respectively. Foster was later demoted 10 places for an on-track misdemeanour.

Niall Murray’s brilliant start from Pole Position in the 12-lap Formula Ford Festival Heat 2 sponsored by Gala Performance Ltd saw him take a comfortable lead in the early stages of the race, his Van Diemen RF99 setting a succession of fastest laps. Luke Williams’ Firman RF16 followed in second and closed up in the final stages as Murray – Festival winner in 2013 – lost momentum lapping a back-marker. Team USA Scholarship runner Oliver Askew took third in his Ray GR15.
Another former Festival winner lined up second on the grid for the 12-lap Formula Ford Festival Heat 3 sponsored by MORIS and it was Scott Malvern (2011) who stormed into the lead in his Mygale GV15-K. Luke Cooper gave chase in his Swift SC16, but didn’t get close enough to make a serious challenge for the lead. Neil MacLennan finished third in his Ray GR14.

The first BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship 20-minute race saw championship aspirant Harry Gooding from Bridgwater beached in the gravel at Druids, after contact among the front runners, with a Safety Car the inevitable outcome to move the stricken cars. The remaining laps after the Safety Car was withdrawn were much less eventful, with Alton’s Bradley Burns finishing comfortably clear of Barking’s James Waite and Falkirk’s Jack Davidson. Gooding was later excluded for his part in the incident.

Burns completed a double in the afternoon’s much more well-behaved outing, with Waite once again runner-up ahead of Falkirk’s Jack Davidson.

Sunday morning’s Semi-final 1 sponsored by NCPI Solutions saw Murray maintain his 2012 unbeaten record at Brands Hatch, having secured a double in the Avon Tyres National Championship qualifiers in July. A brief Safety Car period right at the start of the 15-minute race closed the field up, but once released, Murray set a succession of fastest laps as he pressed the pace in an effort to secure a favourable Final grid position. Gough gave chase in second, before losing the place to Askew as the cars neared the end of lap 10. Robinson snatched fourth right on the line.

The multi-class BRSCC Quaife Ford Fiesta Championship (A, B & D) 20-minute race promised action all through the grid. The swifter ‘D’ Class runners headed the field, with Kells’ Alastair Kellet heading home Ossett’s John Cooper and Elsenham’s Jamie White. Cooper turned the tables on Kellet in the second outing, with White collecting another third place.

The second Festival Semi-final sponsored by NCPI Solutions was a classic, once the Safety Car let the field loose following an intervention to remove the stricken cars of Charsley, Thompson and Adam Quartermaine following a coming-together at Druids on lap 1. Polesitter Malvern tried to break away from the chasing pack, but Williams refused to give up, briefly moving ahead before Malvern used all his race-craft to retake the lead with stunning move exiting Druids with a couple of laps to go. Finland’s Patrik Pasma was well in the mix in his Mygale SJ08 as was Chris Middlehurst’s Van Diemen LA10. Briefly demoted as low as fourth, Williams snatched third from Middlehurst right at the end, Pasma following Malvern home in second.

BRSCC Quaife Ford Fiesta Championship Class C runners had their own 20-minute race, and local man Simon Horrobin from Snodland made his short journey worthwhile with a comfortable victory ahead of Barnsley’s Samuel Priest and Aldershot’s Alfonso Srkiczka. Another local man, Nathan Edwards from Tunbridge Wells lost the chance of a podium when he was handed a 15 second track limits time penalty. Horrobin made it a brace of victories in the second outing, with Romford’s Aaron Thompson pipping Priest for second.

A popular innovation for 2015 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Festival being staged at Brands Hatch, the Formula Ford Festival Masters returned for a 15-lap race. Gloucester’s Stephen Daly, perhaps the unluckiest driver at the meeting following early elimination from the main Festival, gained a consolation victory in his Ray GR11 ahead of fellow victim Jay Bridger’s Van Diemen RF032 and Rory Smith’s Van Diemen JL15K.

Sports car variety was added to the programme with a 25-minute race for the Sports 2000 Duratec runners, with series stalwart Colin Feyerabend claiming victory in his Lola T90/80. Chris Snowdon had fought a race-long battle for the lead, but a late mistake dropped his Tiga SC80 to fourth. Clive Steeper (Tiga SC80) and Mike Dodd (Tiga SC79) completed the podium.

The 15-lap Historic Formula Ford Festival Final comprised period cars gridded in accordance with their main Festival race placings. Antrim’s Alan Davidson guided his Mondiale M89S to victory ahead of Dutch visitor Job Van Uitert in his Van Diemen RF89 and Conor Murphy’s RF83.

A capacity 30-car grid line up for the 8-lap Formula Ford Festival Last Chance Race sponsored by Cam-Tech Security, with only the top 6 going through to the Final. Daly and Charsley were both faced with an uphill struggle to make it through, and Daly pulled into the pits after one lap. An early Safety Car threatened to nullify an exciting battle, but sterling work by the marshals and recovery crews soon moved the stricken cars. Alan Davidson won in his Mondiale M89S ahead of Matt Round-Garrido’s Van Diemen JL016K and Ben Tinkler’s Reynard FF89.

The weekend’s penultimate race, a half-hour race for the Sports 2000 Duratec Championship looked to have been decided by a brilliant last-lap overtaking move by Ascot’s Patrick Sherington in his MCR, but Whyteleafe’s Mike Gibbins admitted on the podium that his similar car showed signs of running out of fuel, rendering him powerless to defend the lead. Paul Trayhurn’s Van Diemen trailed in third.

Malvern lined up on pole position for the 20-lap Formula Ford Festival Final with his Semi-final being the faster of the two, and he needed to make a good start to head Murray away from the line, but he was unable to defend Murray’s overtaking move as the cars headed towards Paddock Hill Bend on lap three. The leading pair moved clear of the pack battling for third, with Middlehurst, Williams, Gough and Askew all in contention. Askew looked set for third in only his fourth-ever car race, but a puncture saw him retire to the pits at three-quarter distance.

Meanwhile, Murray moved clear of Malvern in second, and although the chasing pack briefly closed in, they were unable to mount a serious challenge for position. As the Chequered Flag was waved, Murray claimed his second Festival victory comfortably clear of Malvern, with Middlehurst in third just clear of Williams. In a year that saw Andy Murray repeat his 2013 Wimbledon success, his namesake did likewise at the Formula Ford Festival!

One podium visitor on Sunday was Classic Formula Ford racer Ian Jeary, who had volunteered to have his head shaved to raise funds for Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital.

In the World Cup, a competition taking place alongside the main Festival comprised of 10 three-man teams representing various nations and continents, drivers scored points based on their finishing positions throughout the Festival competition. The points scored by all 3 in each team were combined to determine the winner. The England North team came away with the overall win thanks to the team of Stuart Gough, Luke Williams and Chris Middlehurst. Their compatriots in the England South team claimed 2nd courtesy of Scott Malvern, Joey Foster and Oliver White, while 3rd place was taken by the USA and their trio of Chase Owen and Scholarship drivers Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood.

Although the race weekend was a week earlier than is often the case, and not subject to the clocks going back, concern had been expressed that the ambitious programme would fall foul of available daylight. It is to the credit of all involved that on both days, track action finished well ahead of schedule.

With the season now finished for SE Centre, we look forward to the 2017 calendar being published over the winter. No doubt the Festival will feature next October!

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