The BRSCC South Eastern Centre’s fourth and final race meeting of the season – the Formula Ford Festival – took place over the weekend of October 20-21, with a 20-race programme, held as ever (well, since 1976) over Brands Hatch’s 1.208 mile Indy Circuit. Both days were gloriously sunny and dry throughout, with unseasonably warm weather.

Following morning qualifying, it was apt that racing kicked off after lunch with Formula Ford action a 15-lap Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford qualifier, and what a classic it was! Polesitter Benn Tilley looked set to claim victory in his Merlyn Mk 20A until Tamworth’s Scott Mansell squeezed his Crossle 35F ahead at Paddock Hill Bend with a couple of laps to go. Mansell led as the cars exited Clark Curve, but Bourne man Tilley dived out of Mansell’s slipstream and nosed ahead on the line by a mere 16 thousandths of a second! Festival stalwart Rick Morris was a tad further back in his Royale RP29.

Tilley’s chances of doubling up in Sunday morning’s second outing were hampered by a tardy getaway from the grid, handing the advantage to Mansell. Tilley fought back and took the lead with four laps to go, only to see Mansell reclaim the lead a couple of laps later. However, in a repeat of race 1, Tilley snatched victory on the line, this time with a margin of 22 thousandths.

Second up on Saturday afternoon was a 20-minute race for the BRSCC Fiesta Championship with MRF Tyres. Swansea’s Sam Watkins and South Benfleet’s Danny Harrison (both STs) battled at the head of the field, and finished in that order, with local man Simon Horrobin third in his ST. However, the Snodland man’s misdemeanour in Sunday’s second outing saw him disqualified from the meeting, promoting Mansfield’s Ryan Faulconbridge to third in his ST.

Sunday’s second Fiesta outing saw Harrison fail to take the start, with the remaining runners taking part in a bruising encounter, Sam Watkins in particular receiving a hefty hit. Faulconbridge emerged victorious at the end of 21 laps, ahead of Horrobin and Watkins, but officials deemed Horrobin’s driving to be in contravention of MSA regulations and disqualified him from the entire meeting, promoting Watkins’ brother Josh’s ST to third.

Harrison reappeared for the third qualifier, but was again out of luck, retiring after six laps. Sam Watkins made it two wins out of three, ahead of Northampton’s Jamie Going (ST) and brother Josh. Post-race, the positions were reversed, with going having five seconds added to his race time for a misdemeanour. As for the championships, Jamie White not only wrapped up Class D after the first race of the weekend, but subsequently went on to successfully retain overall honours come the end of Sunday afternoon. Long time overall and Class C leader Harry Gooding was able to clinch the latter ahead of team boss Jamie Going despite conceding the overall crown to White, while Class A went right down to the last race between eventual champ Mark Court and rival Colin Newbold. Fortunes could have turned out very differently for Newbold, as an overheating gearbox forced him to stop with just a few minutes to go of Race 2, but while Court took the class win, he was subsequently excluded for a flag signal misdemeanour. Newbold lamented afterwards that, had he continued once his gearbox had cooled down, he could have secured the points needed to seal it for himself!

Third on Saturday’s programme was a 15-minute race for the Irish Supercars powered by Pirelli and the Reeltech Global GT Lights. Split grids and delayed starts for the latter should have ensured plenty of action, but two Safety Car interventions somewhat dampened the excitement. A Red Flag ultimately drew an early end to proceedings, with Cameron Fenton’s ASK Supercar taking overall honours, with Naas’s Jake Byrne the leading Global GT Light. Sunday’s second outing saw much more of a mix of the two categories, with Byrne taking overall honours, and runner-up Fenton once again the leading Supercar. 

Three 15-lap Festival heats closed Saturday’s race action. Milnthorpe’s Josh Smith lead away from pole in the Heat 1 sponsored by Raceparts, but his Van Diemen JL13 was passed by double Festival winner Niall Murray’s RF 89 a lap later, the Dubliner claiming a clear victory ahead of Meath’s Keith Donergan (JL13K) and Smith. (Note, all Festival cars Van Diemen unless otherwise indicated).

Heat 2 proved a closer affair, with Stalybridge’s Matthew Crowley (JL13) getting the better of Muir of Ord’s Neil MacLennan (Ray GR16) and Preston’s Chris Middlehurst. (LA10).

A lengthy Safety Car intervention ensued that Heat 3 would be the slowest, with Southampton’s Michael Eastwell (Spectrum 011C) finishing comfortably clear of Bath’s Olly White (Medina Sport JL17) and triple Festival winner Joey Foster (Firman 2018).

The 15-lap Festival Semi-Final 1 sponsored by Cam-Tech Security saw Murray convert pole to victory, with Eastwell’s chances of progression evaporating a couple of laps from home as the car pulled off exiting Clark Curve. Smith and MacLennan completed the podium.

Semi-Final 2 sponsored by Avon Tyres suffered an early Safety Car intervention as unavoidable contact between Middlehurst and Rory Smith (Medina JL18) along Cooper Straight left both cars immobile in a dangerous position. When the dust settled, White battled with Cowley for the lead, ultimately moving ahead at Paddock Hill Bend on lap 9. Peter Dempsey (Ray G18) took third.  

Having practiced and qualified on Saturday, the BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship with MRF Tyres had to wait until Sunday afternoon for their first 20-minute race. Bestwood’s Magnus Kriklywi converted pole into a dominant win ahead of St Albans’ Josh Steed and Otley’s Isaac Smith.

Steed and Smith both went one better in the second race, taking the top two podium positions. Kriklywi was close behind in third and thus secured the championship title in the process, becoming the first non-British Fiesta Junior champion in the series’ history.

The first start for the 25-minute Sports 2000 race had to be Red Flagged as Sheffield’s Charles Hall’s stalled Gunn TS11 was collected by two unsighted cars further back on the grid. The full rerun saw a win for Reigate man Tom Stoten (TS11) from Clapham’s Ben Cater and West Byfleet’s David Houghton (both MCRs).

Having wrapped up the title in the earlier race, Stoten opted to sit out the 30-minute second race. Cater had Swansea’s Tim Tudor (MCR) for company, the pair finishing in that order. Croydon’s Dominic Lesniewski (MCR) took third.  

Pre-event entries for the popular 11-lap Formula Ford Festival Masters sponsored by Avon Tyres were bolstered on raceday with the addition of main Festival runners who had failed to progress. One such runner, Craigavon’s Noel Robinson won in his JL012K, ahead of Warrington’s Tom McArthur (Reynard FF88) and Ballymena’s Ivor McCullough (RF00).

The grid for the Formula Ford Historic Final sponsored by Wilkins Kennedy was based on qualifying runners’ meeting progress. A feisty lead battle between Antrim’s Alan Davidson (Mondiale M89S) and McArthur went the way of the former. Wisborough Green’s Conor Murphy (Mondiale M89S) was a distant third.  

Out of position starts for Belgian Festival returnee Vincent Radermecker (Van Diemen) and Muir of Ord’s Michael MacPherson (Ray GR14) scuppered their chances of progressing from the eight-lap Festival Last Chance Race sponsored by Cam-Tech Security. Harrow’s Max Marzorati (Swift Cooper) inherited the win from Ballymena’s Ryan Campbell (Reynard FF89) and John Svensson (JL12K).

As is often the case, the 20-lap Festival Final contained the highest drama of the weekend. With the race starting in bright sunshine, Smith made a good start from third on the grid to move into second behind polesitter Murray, but his good work was undone when the Red Flag was thrown on lap 2 with two cars in a dangerous position. McCullough and Middlehurst were able to join in the 19-lap rerun as reserves.

Smith made another good start to snap at Murray’s heels and the race looked set for a titanic battle when a combination of incidents brought about initially a Safety Car and then a Red Flag. By the time the incidents had cleared, the early autumn sun was beginning to set and officials set the new race distance at eight laps.

Murray’s heart must have been in his mouth as his car stalled as the countdown started, eventually firing up after a push start. One again Smith made the best start and took the lead from Murray, who snatched it back on lap 2, but couldn’t shake off Smith, who was joined in battle by White, who attempted a daring move to pass both Smith and Murray as the cars rounded Druids on the last lap. As Murray defended the move, Smith took his chance to take a better line for Graham Hill Bend and emerged ahead, holding the lead to the line, denying Murray a Festival Hat Trick. White was a close third.

An amusing interlude occurred over the weekend as a group of marshals were asked to pose on the Start Line with branded umbrellas as part of a potential sponsorship deal.

Dates for 2019 are being finalised, and will appear on the website in due course, but early indications are that the Formula Ford Festival will be the last weekend in October.   

Click here for the BRANDS HATCH RESULTS.


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