Trying to pick a winner for any motor race is always tricky, even if there are those who appear on paper to be runaway favourites. The Formula Ford Festival is always a hard contest to pin down drivers that could take home the Neil Shanahan Trophy on Sunday afternoon and write themselves into the history book. However, that doesn’t stop us from speculating anyway! We’ve asked five people who know a little thing or two about Formula Ford racing in the UK to tell us who they think could be the names to look out for on the podium and who they also think could spring a surprise or two. So, who are they picking?

ELLIOT WOOD (Formula Scout)
There aren’t the heavy-hitting names of the past in the driving seats this year, but there’s enough class in the group of rising FF1600 stars that the fight at the front will still be class. Experience could be worth more than ever though, as track time in 2020 has been limited. Thankfully the likes of Team USA scholar Bryce Aron and defending Festival winner Jonathan Browne have picked Champion of Brands races as a secondary programme once the National season was shortened, so they will have relevant mileage. But that may all go out the window when the rain comes in. I’m going with Aron, Neil MacLennan and Browne as a top three, with Goffredo Pirro as the wildcard!

Last year’s winner Jonathan Browne has dominated the Champion of Brands series this year, remaining undefeated, and is likely to be tough to beat in Kent again this weekend. However, predicting the winner of a knockout contest like this is always tricky and that is no different this year. Another one to watch is Matt Cowley. His main focus has been British GT4 this year but he often comes alive in the end-of-season events and has kept sharp with regular FF1600 outings, while you can usually rely on Oliver White to be up at the front somewhere. A little further back, Horatio Fitz-Simon may find it difficult to compete with some of the frontrunners but a star turn in historic machinery at last year’s Walter Hayes Trophy on his racing debut means his progress could be interesting to watch across the weekend.

IAN SMITH (Formula Ford Co-ordinator)
2020 has been a funny old season, but what FF1600 there has been – well, just, wow! My prediction for the Festival winner might surprise you, as we haven’t seen him on these shores in 2020, but I’m going for Jordan Dempsey in a KMR Spectrum 011D. Second, I will go for Oliver White in a Souley Motorsport Medina JL17. My Bronze medal pick is Neil MacLennan, this year’s National Champion, in another KMR Spectrum. As my wild card pick, I have gone for Matt Cowley in a Bernard Dolan tended Van Diemen JL15. Also, keep an eye out for 16 year old Samuel Harrison in a Souley Motorsport Ray 07 having only his third meeting in a modern car. That’s my predictions committed to paper, so expect last year’s Festival winner Jonathan Browne to do the double in his Low Dempsey Ray GR19 and prove me wrong!

JOSHUA BARRETT (Commentator)
Picking what is going to happen at the Festival is always a fool’s task but this season there have been few races and last month’s National Championship qualifying session saw more than half of the competition separated by six tenths of a second, meaning there’s so many contenders. Kevin Mills’ Spectrums have never won the event but surely this season is a real possibility with Neil MacLennan only being beaten once on his way to becoming the National champion and backed up by the reigning Walter Hayes winner, Jordan Dempsey. Elsewhere, Bryce Aron set the quickest time in Qualifying last month and has had a season of learning UK racecraft, unlike any previous USA Scholarship winner and look out for Jamie Sharp, who has found loads of pace this season after moving away from F4.

Every year, it’s so tough to pick a definitive top three to win the Festival as there’s usually a phalanx of top drivers that all have a genuine chance of success. The recent National rounds at Brands Hatch definitely made for an interesting preview to this weekend, so it provides a guide in terms of form. Neil MacLennan is in a great position right now, having just clinched the National title and is on a real high. I reckon he will be looking to add the perfect finishing touch by winning this weekend. I think that based on his form a few weeks ago, Chris Middlehurst is in great shape to go a couple of places better than he did back in 2016 and having taken a win, it’s a battle with MacLennan he will want to rekindle. I possibly think Ross Martin can get on the podium too after he showed so well at Silverstonel. As for a wildcard, I’m really intrigued to see how Megan Gilkes tackles her first UK race following her success in F1600 over in America. Having also won a race in W Series, I think she could spring a surprise and perform well here.


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