OULTON OPENER FOR NW CENTRE
Tomorrow the BRSCC North Western Centre will run the first of six Oulton Park meetings scheduled during the 2011 season. With Formula Fords, Jedis, Caterhams and Ford XR’s on show, the nine race programme offers a fine balance of single seater, sportscar and tin-top action.
As ever the Avon Tyres backed Northern Formula Ford Championship is well supported with thirty seven cars entered across both the Pre 90 and Post 89 grids. The Post-89 title looks set to be a close fought affair. John Murphy has started 2011 in fine form by taking his two first ever outright race wins at Anglesey last month but he will be challenged by Martin Short and Doug Crosbie who were in close attendance, while an ever improving Jamie Jardine took a well deserved podium finish. Other young drivers to keep an eye on are David McArthur, Rob Smith and 16 year old, Chris Middlehurst.
With 2010 Pre-90 champion John Farrell and runner-up Lee Hannam sitting out this season the title is very much up for grabs. Class D teammates, Ian Parkington and Dave Franklin, are both proven front runners and are planning extensive campaigns. Meanwhile, reigning class D champion, Nigel Dolan, will also certainly be competing for race wins and Mike Mullins, Mario Sarchet, Barry Thompson, and John Wilkinson will once again be contesting the championship.
The BookaTrack.com Caterham Superlight R300 Championship will start their season with two half-hour races. The first weekend of the year is all about establishing the pecking order and there will be three groups at play here. Firstly, the seasoned campaigners including ’09 champ Jon Walker and multiple race winner Paul Wilson. Paul Brannan returns at the circuit which brought him victory in 2010, while Jamie Ellwood will be looking to put a turbulent year behind him.
The second group comprises of the new kids on the block and they bring formidable track records with them. Jamie Orton is the reigning Roadsport-A champion while his new Fauldsport team-mate is Roadsport-A runner-up JJ O’Malley. Supersports champion James MacLachlan will also mount a strong challenge.
The third group are those drivers who have been waiting in the wings – now could be their time! Flick Haigh, Mark Shaw and Gordon Shawyer will all be confident of scoring race wins as will Caterham veteran Peter Ratcliff whose many, many (many) years of Superlight experience will undoubtedly be put to good use.
The Formula Jedi Championship entered its final rounds last season with an incredible seven drivers in contention for the title. Scot Andrew Dunn finally came out on top to take the crown in his debut season. However, almost all of the contenders are back again in 2011 so Dunn will have to be at his best to retain the title. 2009 Champion Richard Mitcham was arguably the quickest driver last season and will be hoping to extend his run of 8 wins in a row to set up his 2011 title challenge.
Others to look out for will be 2010 runner up and double race winner Richard Gittings, Dan Cook, Stu Abbott, Dan Clowes and Scott Stevens, amongst others, in this hotly contested field of drivers. Also going into this weekend Craig Hurran will be looking to take the top spot in the Club Class.
With new sponsors on board in the form of S&G Response,the Ford XR Challenge is set for another exciting season. Oulton Park is arguably the main home for XR Challenge which now has three classes. These are for the mid 1980’s Ford Fiesta XR2, the Ford Escort XR3i and new for this year, the Fiesta ST.
This first round of the season has caught a few regulars unawares as they are frantically finishing off their preparations for 2011 race season. However, John-Ifan Jones returns in his Anglesey Motorsport backed XR3i and is looking for a repeat performance to keep his championship title. The absence of XR2 champion Paul Bishop for the opener will leave the door ajar for Steve Poole, Michael Heath and Peter Lancaster to make an early impression on the points table.