Those in attendance at Kirkistown praised the quality of the Formula Ford races all weekend – Photo: Rachel Bourne

The Britcover National Formula Ford 1600 Championship enjoyed an entertaining away round last weekend as the teams and drivers travelled across the Irish Sea to compete at the magnificent Kirkistown Circuit in Northern Ireland, situated in the east of the country near the coast.

Qualifying was an incredibly tight affair with top 15 drivers separated by just shy of 0.8 seconds. Irishman James Roe Jr was able to take pole for a weekend he could have counted as a "home race" to an extent, with fellow countryman Jordan Dempsey lining up alongside him ahead of Keith Donegan, Jamie Thorburn and Luke Cooper. Title rivals Neil MacLennan and Luke Williams could only manage 6th and 8th fastest respectively.

Race 1 of the weekend saw Roe Jr show the form he'd produced glimpses of throughout the season so far and was never headed all race. He took the flag and victory by 2 seconds from Dempsey, while Jamie Thorburn finally captured some good luck with 3rd place after being forced to fend off his charing teammate MacLennan and Luke Cooper. Ross Martin put in a stellar drive to wind up 9th after starting from the rear of the field, while Luke Williams struggled all race and could do no better than a lowly 12th.

The second race saw Roe Jr jump back into the lead from pole with Thorburn on his tail for the entirety of the race, however come the timing results after the flag it was Thorburn who was declared the winner, with Ross Martin again charging up the order to finish in 2nd place and likewise for Luke Williams who came from 12th to secure a podium with 3rd. Neil MacLennan took 4th spot and Keith Donegan enjoyed a strong drive on home soil by taking a top 5.

Moving into the reverse grid for the third race, it put local boy Ashley McCulla on pole alongside David McArthur with the rest of top 5 comprised of Neil MacLennan, James Scott-Murphy and Keith Donegan. Maclennan wouldn't waste any time in jumping into the lead from the second row and indeed would hold onto it for the duration of the race to pick up another win towards his points tally. Donegan was determined to show the National runners exactly what he could do by popping up into second by the end of the opening lap before dicing it out with McArthur early on and then fending off Ross Martin in the second half of the race to score a superb 2nd place. Martin held on to 3rd right until the last lap when it was snatched from underneath him by Williams, leaving the young Scotsman 4th ahead of Michael Eastwell, scoring his best result of the year in 5th.

The feedback from those who made the trip has been incredibly positive, so on the whole it appears our National Formula Fords rather enjoyed their sojourn to Northern Ireland! The three races were also seen as points scoring races towards the new-for-2017 Tourist Trophy competition, incorporating the rounds at Oulton Park, Knockhill, Kirkistown and the season finale at Anglesey – four circuits spanning all four corners of the United Kingdom.

The National championship now moves on to back to back weekends at two incredible venues – the Grand Prix circuit at Donington Park on July 8/9 and the daunting Castle Combe circuit a week later on July 15/16.

Scott Woodwiss


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