Chase Owen began his UK racing career with a win and 2nd place in Post '89 FF1600 – Photo: Rachel Bourne

“It’s like a line-up for the Final of the Formula Ford Festival!” So said one sage about the entry for the Avon Tyres FF1600 Post89 races that formed the opening two rounds of the National and Northern Championships. These were staged when the BRSCC’s North Western Centre took charge for their opening meeting of the season at Oulton Park on 9th April when the Island configuration was utilised.

With the Champion qualifying for an end of season shootout to win a $200k scholarship in USF2000 as part of the Mazda Road to Indy programme (subject to age restrictions), a high quality field of single-seater drivers were attracted to Cheshire to begin a National Championship that is surely going to be the best in years. At the end of qualifying, the top eleven drivers were covered by a second. Therefore, it was an impressive performance by 2013 Festival winner Niall Murray who set a best time 3 tenths faster than anyone else could manage in his Van Diemen RF99. The JL013K from the same marque belonging to circuit specialist, Doug Crosbie, would line up on the outside of the front row.

These two had quite an explosive start to the first race when they made contact at Old Hall. Murray spun to the back of the 26 runners leaving Crosbie to inherit the lead. He wasn’t ahead for long however as at the beginning of the second tour James Raven (Ray GR15/16) demoted him. Raven, who won the 2014 Festival, eased away to take the win as Crosbie concentrated on defending his position from Raven’s team mate at Cliff Dempsey Racing, Chase Owen, in his year older Ray. The Texan in third was racing at Oulton for the first time. This battle went all the way to the final lap and was resolved at the Island Hairpin in favour of Owen.

Murray had an amazing recovery drive to take sixth despite at one point wiping out the tyre bundle that delimits the middle element of the Hislops chicane.

The finishing order determined the grid for the second encounter by which time it was raining. Appropriately, as their cars run in the Mazda Road to Indy livery, Raven and Owen made it an all Cliff Dempsey Racing front row. The former was unable to make it two wins out of two as he made a slow start which put him down to fourth. A few laps later he was edged on to the grass approaching Old Hall as the Portsmouth driver tried to regain a place in the top 3 and would finish seventh.
Out front, Owen sped away to victory and the early championship lead as Crosbie went into defensive mode once more as he successfully defended the runner-up position from Jonny McMullan – the 2015 title winner making his debut with Oldfield Motorsport in one of their newly built Van Diemen DP08s.

In the Pre90 events, Jamie Jardine did the double but this was far from straight forward as in between the races his mechanic, Dave Hart, discovered that the fuel tank on his Reynard 84FF needed welding. Jardine would have been out of the second encounter (having won the first comfortably as Calum McHale and Jaap Blijleven squabbled over second in their Van Diemen RF89 and Reynard 88FF respectively) if the Cliff Dempsey Racing team had not stepped forward to offer assistance. Due to all that drama, the fact that a radiator had been knocked askew in race 1 was overlooked until the cars were lined up for the second time in the Assembly Area. The emergency application of tank tape enabled Jardine to make it to the top step of the podium once more despite a mistake at Lodge causing a drop to third at one point. The drivers on the podium were the same at the end of both 20 minute contests.

Aside from the single-seaters, there was saloon car action in the shape of the Honda VTEC Challenge and Teekay Couplings Production GTi Mk2 Championship which each had two rounds in Cheshire.

In the first outing for the Japanese cars, leader Peter Dixon had the similar Civic of Jeff Cooper right on his bumper until the latter misjudged his braking the second time he tackled Hislops. This necessitated a trip down the escape road which dropped him to third behind Robert Burkinshaw’s Integra. That was the finishing order although the front trio ran in close company and filled the first three places at the next time of asking although a slow start meant Cooper ran fifth in the early stages.

Chris Webb took two wins in the Volkswagen Golfs. On the first occasion Tim Hartland finished less than half a second behind having started on row 3 with Peter Milne third then a spin at Cascades later in the day meant Hartland came home down in sixth with Christopher Sanders and Peter Milne completing the second podium. In the 8 valve class the spoils went to Matthew Petts each time.

It was a pleasure to see so many people interested in becoming marshals taking part in a BMMC Taster Day at this meeting. We hope they found the experience interesting and enjoyable.

You can view the full results at OULTON RESULTS

Dave Williams


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