NIALL MURRAY WINS THE FESTIVAL


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Niall Murray holds aloft the coveted Neil Shanahan Trophy. Photo: JDH Motorsport Photography


The BRSCC South Eastern Centre's final race meeting of the season took place October 26 and 27 together with BRSCC HQ for the Formula Ford Festival, as usual over Brands Hatch's 1.199 mile Indy Circuit featuring an 19-race programme. Saturday's weather was what can best be described as atrocious, with Sunday literally 'the calm before the storm', remaining dry and bright for the most part, brief showers dampening the track in the latter stages.

As befitted the weekend, Saturday's opening race was the first 12-lap heat for Formula Ford Festival Kent sponsored by MORIS. 2003 Zetec and 2004 Kent winner Joey Foster took a comfortable win ahead of Team USA Scholarship driver Joey Bickers, with 2010 Kent victor Neville Smyth in third. Bickers' team-mate Jake Eidson went one better in Heat 2 sponsored by REIS, with Stephen Daly and Oliver White completing the podium.

For Race 3, we were pleased to welcome the Patch Tyre Equipment Ford Fiestas from Ireland. James Turkington, younger brother of Touring Car ace Colin, looked set for victory, but over-cooked it just after half-distance in the 12-lapper and rolled at the foot of Paddock Hill Bend. Sean Lillis and John Denning scrapped for the lead, Lillis emerging victorious, with Stephen Hagan trailing in third. Track limits time penalties for Lillis and Denning in Sunday's second race gave Jamesy Hagan victory.

BIGProfile Sports 2000 Historic runners were next for a 20-minute race with Chris Snowdon and Michael Gibbins enjoying an entertaining lead battle, which pulled them well clear of Clive Steeper.

Saturday's race action closed with a 20-minute Vortex Motorsport News Ford Fiesta Junior race. With the light gloomy at best and the track ultra-slippery, there was some reticence about taking part, but with overtaking restrictions in place, the youngsters were generally well behaved, with Robert Cox awarded victory ahead of JJ Ross and a fast-starting Alex Reed once penalties had been applied. Ross overcame a couple of fraught moments to win Sunday's encounter ahead of Rory Collingbourne and Doncaster's Ben Wilcox.

Sunday's racing kicked off with further Ford Fiesta action, a 20-minute Vortex Dunlop race for Classes A, B and D. On a drying track, David Abbott and James Appleby headed the field, with Andrew Mitchell left behind in third. Sunday's second encounter was a much more topsy-turvy affair, with Mitchell improving to take victory ahead of Jack Williams and Al Daly.

It was back to Festival action with Kent Semi-Final 1 sponsored by NCPI Solutions. Joey Foster continued his winning ways, taking a comfortable victory at the conclusion of the 15 laps ahead of Wayne Boyd and Stephen Daly. A Safety Car intervention to retrieve the stranded car of James Hagan meant this was judged the slower Semi.

The Vortex Dunlop Ford Fiesta Class C runners were afforded their own 20-minute race, with a capacity grid of 32 cars. Barely 19 seconds covered the 27 finishers, with Andrew Taylor taking the Flag ahead of Daniel Holland and Andrew Folley, only to be penalised for a driving standards offence, dropping him to third. Lee Napolitano claimed the second race ahead of Holland and Joe Ferguson.

Kent Semi-Final 2 sponsored by NCPI Solutions was a typically fraught Formula Ford race, with Noel Dunne, Oliver White and Niall Murray swapping the lead positions, finishing in that order.

The Festival Duratec and Zetec runners went straight into a 15 lap Semi Final, with Bart Van Os taking victory ahead of Max Van Splunteren and Frederik Schandorff.

A Red Flag with four minutes to run brought a premature conclusion to the scheduled half-hour BIGProfile Sports 2000 Duratec race. Patrick Sherrington and Robert Oldershaw finished a lap clear of Craig Mitchell.

The grid for the Historic Formula Ford Festival Final sponsored by Andrew Elliott for the JDRF was formed from the eligible cars' semi-final placings. Jonathan McMullan was well clear of Richard Tarling, with Klaus-Dieter Hackel an even more distant third after 15 laps.

Michael Gibbins gained his revenge on Chris Snowdon in the BIGProfile Sports 2000 Pinto, finishing over 30s clear after 25 minutes, with Damian Griffin 10s further behind.

An over-ambitious move at Paddock Hill Bend took Max Van Splunteren out of contention in the 15 lap Zetec and Duratec Final sponsored by Andrew Elliott for the Kent, Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance, leaving Bart Van Os untroubled out front. Abdul Ahmed overcame a 10s False Start Penalty to take second, with an off-track excursion restricting Frederik Schandorff to third.

The Festival closed with the traditional 20-lap Final – with Kent-engined cars headlining for the first time since 1992. A Safety Car intervention meant the early stages of the race were even more closely fought than usual with Noel Dunne, Oliver White and Wayne Boyd out front. Niall Murray looked the most threatening of the chasing pack, and so it proved, moving into the lead on lap 12. Boyd seemed the fastest car on track, but contact sent him off through the Paddock Hill gravel trap and down to third. Although he was able to reclaim second, he ran out of time to mount a further assault on Murray's lead with White completing the podium.

Presenting the trophies on the podium were Liam and Mary Shanahan, who travelled over from Dublin for the occasion. They were delighted to present the magnificent Festival trophy, named in memory of their son Neil, to a fellow Dubliner. Debs Nicol was also on the podium to present Wayne Boyd with the John Nicol Trophy as the most outstanding British driver and Ollie White went home with the Roger Pedrick Trophy as the highest place Englishman.

For the first time, the Festival had live coverage, with Leo Nulty bringing the Mondello TV team over to provide live streaming of the Patch Tyre Equipment Ford Fiestas and Festival Final. Catch up with the action at http://www.mondello.tv

Click here for the FESTIVAL RESULTS

COLIN MANN