SMITH FORGES SUCCESS AT THE BRSCC FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL
The BRSCC South Eastern Centre’s second race meeting – the 49th Formula Ford Festival – took place over the weekend of October 24-25, with a scheduled 21-race programme, held as ever (well, since 1976) over Brands Hatch’s 1.208 mile Indy Circuit.
A reduction in Festival entry numbers meant there was no need to run a possible Heats Last Chance race on Saturday afternoon. Saturday’s forecast showers arrived to make the afternoon a miserable affair, while Sunday’s changeable conditions eventually saw a bright and dry afternoon.
Kicking off Saturday afternoon’s racing action following pre-lunch qualifying was a 15-minute race for HSCC Historic Formula Fords. With Tim Brise beaching his Merlyn Mk 20 in the gravel exiting Clark Curve, an early Safety Car was called. When racing resumed, Cam Jackson’s March 709 stayed ahead of Pierre Livingston’s fast-closing Merlyn Mk 20A and Linton Stutely’s distant Royale RP3.
Sunday’s second outing opened the day’s proceedings. Jackson made it a brace of wins on the damp track, with Stutely and Livingston reversing their Saturday positions.
Race 2 saw the first of three 15 minutes outings for the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup Championship. A Safety Car intervention became a Red Flag to assist the safe handling of Luke Herbert and his stricken car, with the rerun timed over 5 minutes. Sam Smith headed home Adam Bessell and Jack Sycamore.
The second race closed Saturday’s track action, Colin Bysouth emerging victorious ahead of Bessell and John Langridge. Smith returned to his winning ways in Sunday’s final qualifier, with James Cossins and Michel Knibbs completing the podium.
Race 3 reverted to single-seater action with a 15-minute outing for the HSCC Classic Formula Ford Championship. Henry Chart’s Van Diemen RF81 finished sufficiently clear of Cam Jackson’s RF80, with the pair well clear of Festival veteran Rick Morris’s Royale RP29.
Sunday’s second race resulted in a hat trick of weekend wins for Jackson, with Chart claiming second and Morris a distant third.
Race 4 marked the first 15 lap Festival Heat, with a number of fancied runners drawn together. With the track damp, staying on the tarmac was paramount. Rory Smith’s Medina JL18 kept it together, finishing ahead of polesitter Jordan Dempsey’s KMR Spectrum 011D and Chris Middlehurst’s Van Diemen LA10.
Similar conditions prevailed for Heat 2, with 2019 Festival winner Jonathan Browne starting favourite in his Ray GR18. And so it proved, with Browne finishing comfortably clear of Matt Cowley’s Van Diemen JL15 and Jackson Lee’s Ray GR19.
Neil MacLennan might have been expected to dominate Heat 3, but ran a very lacklustre race, compromised by incorrect tyre pressures in the adverse conditions, finishing in sixth. Ross Martin (Van Diemen RF99) coped best, with Jamie Sharp (Medina Sport JL17) and Maxwell Esterson (Ray GR15) completing the podium.
Sunday morning’s 15 lap Festival – Semi Final 1 sponsored by Avon Tyres got underway on a drying track, and Browne continued his dominance with an assured win ahead of Martin and Team US Scholarship recipient Bryce Aron’s Ray GR18.
Semi Final 2 sponsored by Avon Tyres enjoyed similar track conditions, and having got to the root off his Saturday woes, MacLennan was looking to improve his chances. An early Safety Car was called to retrieve stricken cars, with Smith heading the field as the race went green, but MacLennan was soon into the lead, maintaining it until the Chequered Flag, Smith taking second ahead of Jack Wolfenden’s Firman RFR17.
The weekend’s earlier races established the grid for the 15 lap Historic Final Sponsored by RaceParts, which saw BRSCC Club Chairman Peter Daly start in P2 in his Van Diemen RF88. Again an early Safety Car was called to retrieve Peter’s teammate Lorna Vickers’ Van Diemen RF90 from the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap. When racing resumed, he tailed Ryan Campbell’s Reynard FF89 until moving into the lead on lap 10, resisting attempts from Campbell and Tom McArthur’s Van Diemen LA10 to move ahead, punching the air with delight as he crossed the line.
Six grid slots were up for grabs in the 10-lap Festival Last Chance Race, and were claimed by McArthur, Matthew Wrigley, Morris, Campbell, Goffredo Pirro (whose illustrious racing dad Emmanuelle was present at the track) and Tom Hawkins.
The late-afternoon sun and dry spell meant the track was largely dry for the 20-lap Festival Grand Final, with Browne seeking tto become the first competitor to secure back to back wins in the event. Both he and Smith made good getaways and circulated nose to tail in the early stages before sneaking ahead just after half distance. MacLennan was running strongly in third but his mixed fortunes saw him depart on lap 14, promoting Aron to third.
Often the bane of Festivals, a Safety Car was called, but was only out for three laps, leading to a frantic closing four laps. Browne tried to wrest back the lead, with Aron set to benefit from any mistake. As it turned out, Aron became the victim of some late argy-bargy, dropping to sixth. Matt Cowley (Van Diemen JL15) was the main beneficiary, inheriting what became an eventual third, when Martin dropped down the order. Smith took the flag ahead of Browne, with Cowley’s placing replicating his 2019 result.
Saturday’s Race 7 saw more Mazdas, with a 15m race for the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship – Group A & C runners, with track conditions increasingly nasty. A Safety Car interruption failed to deter Oliver Allwood from taking a narrow victory ahead of Fraser Fenwick and Kian Donaldson.
The next batch out on Sunday morning were the A&C groups, with Matt Luff leaving it late in the race to pass erstwhile leader Brian Trott, with Joe Wiggin completing the podium.
Group B & C runners comprised the final grid for the category, and was another race to suffer from an early Safety Car, with Luff and Trott one again in the thick of the action. Further off-track excursions brought about an early Chequered Flag, with a postrace Clerk of the Course decision seeing Luff excluded from the results, leaving Trott, Mike Comber, and Fenwick as the top three.
Guesting on Sunday’s bill were a pair of races for Classic & Modern Motorsport Club members, with the first outing timed for 15 minutes. Front row man Ronan Bradley’s BMW M3 spun on the first Green Flag lap and the first racing lap, scuppering any chance of challenging eventual winner Rod Birley’s Escort WRC. Paul Watson and John Deveraux (both M3s) completed the podium.
Sunday’s second race over 20 minutes saw another torrid time for Bradley, with Birley and Watson repeating their earlier placings, with the same third place car, this time in the hands of veteran racer Mike Chittenden, in an impressive drive from the back of the grid.
The weekend (your correspondent’s 41st consecutive Festival) had a strange feel to it given social distancing guidelines etc.), but those unable to attend could catch the streamed live action, while the trophy presentation took place on the Start Line just after the Final.
We all fervently hope that the world and our sport has returned to some degree of normality in 2021, and look forward to pencilling in dates for next year in our diaries.
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