Rory Smith hit the headlines as a two-time winner of the prestigious BRSCC Formula Ford Festival for 2023 at Brands Hatch in October, coming out on top of a sensational Grand Final that capped off another excellent two days of racing across the board, both in the main event and in the amazing support races that bolstered the weekend’s timetable. This included the highly-anticipated TCR UK season finale as well as the final races of the year for the Civic Cup, Fiesta Juniors and the Mini 7 Racing Club’s Winter Series.


56 competitors would line up for the 52nd running of the BRSCC’s legendary Formula Ford Festival on a weekend that produced the usual contrasting weather conditions from Saturday to Sunday, but plenty of the typical wheel to wheel action associated with both the Festival and the Formula Ford category itself. The entry once again featured an excellent mix of former Festival champions, the pick of the National Formula Ford contenders, new and exciting overseas contenders including the latest Team USA and Team Canada scholars, a few experienced hands and more.

All three heats, sponsored by iRacing, produced three rather interesting races in their own right respectively. Luke Cooper marked himself out as an early favourite in Heat 1 after taking pole in the wet and making a strong start to lead Chris Middlehurst and a fast starting Niall Murray on the opening lap. The top three ended up in a race of their own, leavign Jason Smyth to lead the train for fourth and absorbing pressure from Jack Sullivan of Team USA and Logan Pacza of Team Canada. Cooper resisted any pressure from Middlehurst on his tail for the entire 12 laps, winning Heat 1 by a second from Chris with teammate Murray completing the podium. Despite his best defensive efforts, Smyth eventually capitulated and dropped to sixth as Sullivan and Pacza booked their semi final spots.

Nolan Allaer was a surprise pole sitter for Heat 2, and in the race he proved that his qualifying form was no flash in the pan. From the outset, the rest of the field initially didn’t have an answer for him on both race starts, the first red flagged after two laps for Oliver Chapman stuck in the Druids gravel. Allaer quickly escaped on the second start, but was soon reeled back in by 2020 winner Rory Smith who mounted a series of challenges to Allaer’s lead. Initially getting just fingertips away from a pass, traffic broke up both cars and eventually victory went Allaer’s way by 1.7 seconds from Smith in the end. Team USA’s Ayrton Houk joined them on the podium in third ahead of Jordan Dempsey and Hugh Esterson (brother of 2022 champion Max), while Charlie Mann took sixth ahead of a wayward Jordan Kelly. The National champion had an error-strewn heat that saw him off the road twice and ending up seventh at the flag.

Heat 3 saw 2021 winner Jamie Sharp convert pole to the lead from the word go, with Jeremy Fairbairn quickly finding himself engaged in a battle with National regulars Morgan Quinn and Brandon McCaughan. Quinn’s race was compromised when contact with McCaughan dislodged the cowling cover on his Van Diemen, lifting it up in front of his face and forcing him to pit due to a lack of vision. This left McCaughan to challenge for second, and a switchback move through Paddock was completed at Druids – but this was short lived. McCaughan’s car began crabbing with rear suspension damage, eventually sending him into the barrier up Hailwood Hill. The race was red flagged as a result, leaving Sharp the winner from Fairbairn and Tom Nippers on the podium, followed by Team Canada’s Alex Berg, Porter Aiken and Vincent Jay in the top six. An incredible drive from Formula Ford legend Rick Morris helped him place an amazing seventh overall and best of the Super Classic class cars.

Sunday’s semi finals began in much brighter and sunnier weather conditions, and in Semi-Final 1 sponsored by Avon Tyres it was Sharp that beat pole man Allaer away from the start to lead – only for the race to be red flagged on lap three due to Bob Hawkins’ incident off at Paddock Hill Bend. After a lengthy delay to get racing back underway, Allaer again lost out to Sharp, who led either side of an early safety car in a now shortened 9 lap semi-final. Sharp led on the restart while Allaer was dumped out of P2 after tangling with Middlehurst at Druids, and this top two would remain to the flag as Sharp clinched victory from Middlehurst and Kelly on the podium, then Tom Nippers and Jack Sullivan in the top five.

Once again the pole man didn’t lead into turn one in Semi-Final 2 sponsored by Quantum Racing Suspension, as Rory Smith beat Cooper into Paddock with Murray following him through. The top three quickly tried to make a break, but only Smith and Murray were able to make an initial escape before the safety car was called for another early casualty. Smith tried to get the best jump on the restart, but Murray and Cooper made sure he didn’t escape fast enough and soon both were all over the back of the Medina Sport trying to pry the lead away. Nevertheless, Smith clinched Semi-Final 2 at the flag from Murray and Cooper, while Jordan Dempsey fended off late attacks from Fairbairn to remain in fourth place.

The Historic Final for the Brian Jones Memorial Trophy sponsored by Raceparts produced a fine contest that went right down to the final lap. Richard Higgins charged away from pole with Henry Chart and Sam Street locked in combat early for second place. Both diced back and forth while Higgins continued to lead, and this remained status quo until lap 10 when the safety car was called for Oliver Chapman off at Paddock. Now with pressure from behind, Higgins had two laps to hold off a fired up Street who attacked straight away from the restart. Street’s chances, however, ran out on the final lap at Druids when he tangled with Higgins and he slipped to fourth. Higgins again defended from Chart and Callum Grant to the flag, winning the Historic Final with Chart second and Grant third. Street settled for fourth ahead of Gaius Ghinn in the top five.

Felix Fisher made a bid to join the Grand Final runners in the Last Chance Race, leading the first half of the race before losing it to Nolan Allaer, and this is how it would remain for the rest of the eight lap encounter as the Ammonite Motorsport man booked his spot for the Final along with Fisher on his tail. While Donal Downey took the final podium place, all the attention was on the remaining three transfer spots with Formula Ford legend Rick Morris putting in an astounding drive to hold off the younger drivers and machinery behind him. At the flag, he remained fourth and also went to the Final, along with Historic Final winner Higgins and Drew Stewart.

For the Grand Final, Smith lined up alongside teammate Sharp in an all-BM Racing front row lockout. Both men maintained position from the start with Murray locked on their tail in third, and right from the word go it was these three drivers who appeared to have the pace. Murray and Sharp quickly began scrapping for second, eventually going to the Irishman and he quickly set about chasing Smith for the lead. The top two were clear out in front, leaving Middlehurst to steal third and lead the train of cars for the final podium spot featuring Dempsey, Cooper, Kelly and more.

Murray pressured Smith as the two former Festival champions ran in tandem together, before Murray made what was simply the move of the Festival with a beautiful outside pass at Paddock Hill Bend. Not content with sitting in P2, Smith got his own back a couple of laps later with a sublime dummy inside at the same corner, snatching back the lead from Murray and taking thing back to square one. Another clean pass outside at Druids put Murray back in front, as Middlehurst now put himself into the mix early into the second half.

Unbeknownst to his rivals, Murray began experiencing an engine misfire eight laps from home and despite putting in a heroic effort to stay in the lead, eventually his engine cruelly cried enough with two laps to go, forcing him out of contention of what could have been his third Festival win. Smith retook the lead but now with Sharp and Middlehurst locked on his tail, but they seemed too focused fighting with each other over the final couple of tours. At the flag, Smith took the 2023 Formula Ford Festival win, his second of his career, with teammate Sharp making it a BM Racing 1-2 and Middlehurst claiming third ahead of late challengers Cooper and Dempsey.

It was a final that not only helped to banish memories of the unfortunate ending to the 2022 edition, but once again proved the magic of Formula Ford and the Festival. A superb drive from start to finish for Rory, a very deserving 2023 Festival champion!

The final rounds of the TCR UK Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch saw as many as six drivers still in contention to potentially claim the title for 2023, but in reality it looked as though Carl Boardley was firmly in line to clinch it with the ability to do so as soon as the first race on Sunday, provided he finished in the top four.

Jenson Brickley had been due to start on pole thanks to his best time in qualifying, but he was forced to start from the pitlane after a mechanical issue forced him to miss lining up on the grid with the rest of the pack. This put Callum Newsham on defacto pole, but outgoing champion Chris Smiley put the Honda Civic FL5 into the lead from the start with Ley into second, while Boardley was quick to get into that fourth place he needed to become champion before quickly slipping behind Adam Shepherd to fifth.

A safety car for Mark Smith’s CUPRA off at Paddock meant Smiley had to go defensive on the restart, but despite holding for a few laps as racing got underway again including a three wide moment with Alex Ley and Newsham, the troublesome Honda denied Smiley a chance to take a win after a character building season as he lost out to Ley for the lead first, and then was forced out with mechanical issues in the closing stages after defending from Newsham for several laps. Boardley, meanwhile, was locked in combat for fourth with points rival Shepherd which then became third after Smiley’s demise. While Ley rounded off a great drive to win with Newsham second, Boardley picked up P4 behind Shepherd to become 2023 TCR UK champions to his delight and that of his Hart GT team too. Joe Marshall picked up the final top five place, while a storming drive from Brickley from the pit lane earned him an excellent sixth.

With the title now decided, the final race of the year would really see the gloves come off. Unfortunately, a first lap tangle between several cars forced a stoppage to the first start, and on the restart Hutchison took the lead while Shepherd and Marshall tangled exiting Paddock, forcing the safety car to appear from the outset. Bruce Winfield put Hutchison under pressure on the restart and attacked outside at Druids, but it all kicked off moments later as Winfield dropped to fourth and a mistake from Hutchison gave Jac Constable the lead by the end of the lap.

The lead group was as frantic as it had ever been all season, with Ley elbowing teammate Winfield out of the way at Clearways to go third as Brickley gave chase to leader Constable. Brickley kept up the pressure lap after lap and soon enough the top two were in a race of their own. Once the early scrambles had calmed down, it was all plain sailing for Constable as he clinched the final race win of the season ahead of Brickley in second, while race one winner Ley was third from Newsham and new champion Boardley.

A very deserving champion in Carl Boardley in the end for TCR UK in 2023 – but will he be able to defend the #1 in 2024?

With three drivers fighting for the 2023 Milltek Sport Civic Cup title at the final rounds at Brands Hatch, the contest between Dan Thackeray, Max Edmundson and Alistair Camp was always going to be tense and dramatic. But nobody was quite ready for the twist that cruelly denied one of the contenders any chance of the title.

Thackeray and Edmundson took up the front row of race one together with Camp back in fourth place on the grid. Thackeray held on in the lead from the outset with Edmundson hot on his tail as the top two quickly ran away in a race of their own. Edmundson was relentless in applying pressure to Thackeray, but the points leader stood firm despite Max’s constant advances. It looked as though Dan would manage to hold on, but going into the second to last lap Thackeray’s engine suddenly expired with smoke pouring from the back. Forced to pull up with engine failure. Thackeray’s title chances were now hanging by a thread.

Edmundson went on to collect the win and the maximum points from the race, putting him in line now to grab the Civic Cup title in the process. Behind him in second place several seconds back, Dave Marshall took his FN2 Civic to the runner up spot overall ahead of Lewis Kent, making his second cameo appearance and collected a third place, ahead of Harvey Caton and Ryan Bensley in the top five.

Edmundson required a top six finish to become Civic Cup champion for 2023 in the final race of the year, but had to dodge Civics all round him as both pole man Owen Hillman and Tommy Knight were tagged sideways in separate incidents on lap one. Max had moved up to sixth as Alex Kite led, and over the next few laps he steadily picked his way up the pack to eventually move into the lead. From here, Max was unchallenged in front and collected the last race win of the year, and with it the 2023 Milltek Sport Civic Cup title. Kite and Hillman put two Pro Alloys Racing cars on the podium in second and third, ahead of Ryan Bensley in fourth and Alistair Camp in fifth.


The BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship wrapped up its best ever season in 2023 at the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, something that had been a regular fixture in previous years and returned for 2023. Ben Mulryan was in control at the head of the points standings and looking to claim the title both for himself, Race Car Consultants and a first for the new Mk7 next-gen FJC car.

Race one had an unfortunate multi-car incident heading towards Paddock Hill Bend on its first start, leading to the pack forming up a short while later for the restart. Mulryan’s pole position couldn’t convert into the lead as Ronnie Smith lept to the front from the outside of the front row. In fact, Mulryan ended up back in fourth also behind Jacob Hodgkiss and Jenson O’Neill-Going on the opening lap. A second red flag was called after newcomer Oskar Dix fell off into the Paddock gravel, followed by Smith’s Mk6 ST150 overheating and forced into the pits. 

This left Hodgkiss to begin start three from pole alongside Mulryan with Dan Lewis and Sam Neser just behind them. Hodgkiss led from the getaway with Lewis pressuring in second and momentarily passing him, but he eventually got through after Hodgkiss was shuffled wide exiting Paddock and scattered through the gravel. Now with Mulryan up into the lead, he looked on course to seal the FJC title a lap early, but unbelievably an attempt from Lewis to pass into Paddock on the final lap left both cars tangling and straight off into the gravel. All this put Hodgkiss back into the lead, and he would win to catapult himself into the title picture, while Jenson O’Neill-Going scored a first podium with second ahead of Ryan Micallef in third. Jenson Mason and Sam Neser completed the top five.

Ronnie Smith got the jump again from pole this time in the final race of the season, leaping into the lead in his now repaired car after his overheating problem the day before. However, a rapid start from Hodgkiss helped him up to third behind Smith and Lucas Hayden and soon enough he was on the tail of the pair and challenging for the lead. Diving past Hayden at Graham Hill Bend, he then took Smith a few corners later at Paddock and wasn’t haded for the remainder of the race.

Hodgkiss drove as hard as he could hoping that results could go his way to potentially snatch the title from Mulryan’s grasp, with Ben himself languishing back in eighth but still set to score just enough points to remain on top. Hodgkiss reeled off the remaining ten minutes after hitting the front unchallenged, charging home to win by several seconds in the end, while Hayden took Mk6 honours with second overall ahead of Micallef, Smith and O’Neill-Going in the top five. Behind them back in ninth, Ben Mulryan ensured he played it conservatively to score the points he needed to become Fiesta Junior champion for 2023 and to claim the first outright title for the Mk7 FJC car too!


With their regular season having concluded at Silverstone a couple of weeks prior, the Mini 7 Racing Club were back out with the BRSCC one last time in 2023 to conclude their special Winter Series at Brands Hatch. The single combined grid for both races saw all four classes – Miglia, Libre, Se7en and Se7en-S – all line up together with a decent field of more than 25 cars ready for the off in race one.

Rupert Deeth and Aaron Smith became the story of the weekend in their pair of Miglias, taking to the front row together for race one with Deeth on pole and dominating the race from the outset. Glued together from lights out, the pair swapped places several times while escaping both Colin Peacock and Phil Bullen-Brown behind them in their own battle for third. After some initial switch-arounds between them, Smith found enough pace to gap Deeth heading towards the second half of the race, making the most of lappery through the traffic to increase his lead further and further with each lap.

By the chequered flag, Smith was victorious by over 15 seconds after Deeth dropped out with mechanical problems, helping Colin Peacock pick up P2 from Phil Bullen-Brown, James Cuthbertson and Rob Howard in the overall and Miglia top five. Julian Proctor win the Libre class, Glen Woodbridge was first of the Se7ens home in eighth overall and Frazer Hack was an excellent tenth outright as Se7en-S winner.

The second race was all about Deeth getting back to the head of the Miglia field and right with Smith to continue their battles from thereon in. Both drivers were wheel to wheel and taking turns in front for lap after lap in typical Mini 7 Racing Club fashion, although at one stage there was an awkward coming together between the pair at Druids that almost left both cars wedged together as a result. This put a bemused Colin Peacock into the lead, but only for a short while before Deeth and Smith caught and repassed him a couple of laps later.

Through the traffic, leader Deeth had much better fortunes and was quicker to pick off the slower cars around him, helping him create a gap of his own in front – but only temporarily. Smith was back on his bumper in no time at all, and this continued again until the chequered flag with Peacock also for company. Eventually, a last lap move from Deeth gave him the final win of the Winter Series just ahead of Smith with Peacock a brilliant third place. Proctor was again top Libre home in 4th place, while Se7en and Se7en-S wins went to Darren Thomas and Frazer Hack respectively.

Scott Woodwiss


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