NATIONAL & NORTHERN FORMULA FORD CHAMPIONSHIPS TOUCH DOWN AT BRANDS HATCH
It almost feels like forever, but the Avon Tyres National and Northern Formula Ford Championships are finally ready to spring back into action at Brands Hatch this weekend, a spiritual home for the category after it began life more than 50 years ago at the Kent venue. The short and exciting Indy layout will give all the drivers a prime chance to prepare for next month’s prestigious Formula Ford Festival in October, plus this is a track that always seems to produce a cracking Formula Ford race, so this weekend should be no exception.
After the soaking wet conditions at the Oulton Park season opener more than two months ago in July, it’s Scottish ace Neil MacLennan that leads the points after his double victory, and Brands Hatch is usually a circuit that he goes well at given his past form here. He will certainly want to keep his momentum up and he will have been one of a number of drivers contesting races in between National rounds to keep himself match fit. With the very capable Kevin Mills Racing prepared Spectrum chassis at his disposal, Neil has all the tools to continue his charge towards claiming the National crown.
However, he will have plenty of young chargers snapping at his heels from start to finish a grid that’s packed full of superb, talented drivers. In 2nd place in points heading to Brands Hatch is former Northern champion Rory Smith, who has really come on strong in the last 18 months with his form at the top level of Formula Ford racing in the UK. He managed to collect two 2nd places behind MacLennan at Oulton, a circuit he’s very familiar with, but Brands Hatch might not be as kind to him having not driven there as regularly as some of his fellow competitors. Also in good form from Cheshire is Chris Middlehurst, son of former BTCC star Andy, who has elected to run the shortened National season in a bid to steal some glory. Grabbing one 3rd place from the opening rounds certainly shows he’s got the speed underneath him and having finished on the podium in the Festival here in the past, Brands Hatch should really suit him.
Speaking of the Festival, the defending champion Jonathan Browne heads into this weekend in 4th place in the points, having also collected a 3rd and a 4th place at Oulton, the same as Middlehurst. One advantage for Jonathan will be his form in the Champion of Brands races this season, having won the most recent races just last week. With his Low Dempsey Racing team going through a change of ownership, it certainly hasn’t slowed them down – in fact in any case, it seems to have only made them even stronger than they were before! Next in the standings is last year’s National champ Ross Martin who had a quieter season opener than many probably would have anticipated him to. He couldn’t better a pair of 5th places which leaves him in exactly the same place in the points heading to Brands Hatch, and considering he didn’t contest the final National rounds here last year and then went on to run the Festival, it’s almost been a year since he last competed at this circuit. Will that lack of running have an effect or will he still be immediately on the pace?
There’s more top talent lining up this weekend that will also want a piece of the silverware. Luke Cooper has once again been tearing it up in the Castle Combe Formula Ford ranks and always enjoys being part of the National grid as well. Having run competitively here on a number of occasions, expect him to be fighting for a win. Former Northern champion and current British GT star Matthew Cowley swaps his Ford Mustang GT4 for his trusty Van Diemen once again and he too is a Festival rostrum visitor, proving his all-round pace. Having also just won in GT4 on the GP circuit a few weeks ago too, don’t be surprised to see him high up the order too. Plus, more familiar names on the entry list include Michael Macpherson, Jamie Sharp, Morgan Quinn, David McArthur and also another past champion in Stuart Gough, who is always keen to show what he can do at the wheel of a Formula Ford.
There’s also plenty of exciting new drivers on the grid this season. Low Dempsey Racing’s American duo Bryce Aron and Grant Palmer have certainly been making a name for themselves since Oulton Park with some excellent race results and all of this extra running should make them extra prepared for this weekend. Bryce has also just been named as one of the three Team USA Scholarship drivers for the Festival, so his confidence will be sky high. F1000 convert Reece Lycett seems to be enjoying the continuation of his single-seater career and is still adapting to a car with less downforce than he’s previously been used to. That said, he has been out testing regularly in recent weeks so he will sure to hope that all that extra mileage pays off. Thomas Ward has been adapting well to single-seaters after moving into senior racing from the Junior Saloon Car Championship and will be keen to carry on learning more and more from one of the best formulae for young racers to develop in. Plus, former British F4 racer Alex Walker is ready for his second weekend in a Formula Ford with PWR1 Racing, and this time he has a teammate – Maxwell Esterson makes his UK racing debut after learning his craft in F1600 in America and has not only won a race this season but also shown his prevalence in sim racing too. He could very well be a surprise, even on a circuit he’s never driven before in real life!
The rest of the grid comprises our Clubman drivers in the National ranks as well as our Northern Championship drivers making the trip to the South East. We’re pleased to welcome back John Svensson and his teammate Pascal Monbaron, two drivers who will be thankful to be racing in the UK again in lieu of all the current travel restrictions in place around the world right now. Both always enjoy joining our regular National drivers and they’re sure to have some fun once again. Over with the Northern drivers, Paul Tucker gets ready for his first start in his team’s Swift SC92 chassis on a BRSCC Formula Ford grid and he will want to try and stay with the more contemporary cars as the sole Super Classic A car. Over in Super Classic B, it’s going to be a three-way fight between Jonathan Barnes, Neil Patten and BRSCC chairman Peter Daly, who indeed leads the class points after winning his class in both Oulton Park races – expect this to be an intriguing battle! Finally, there’s Samuel Harrison who competes as the sole Super Classic C entrant and will just be looking to enjoy himself in his Royale RP29 as well as taking some respectable results overall.