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Stuart Jones won the second Pre 90 race in exuberant fashion. Photo: www.bournephoto.co.uk

Aspiring motorsport journalist and serial blogger Russell Hayes is going to be covering the BRSCC's Formula Ford Championships this season. Russell was at Oulton Park last Saturday and filed the following report;

On a cloudy, cold day at Oulton Park, the spirits of all in attendance were bright as the season’s opening round of the BRSCC Avon Tyres Northern Formula Ford 1600 Championship got underway. The pits and paddock area were bustling with activity with drivers and officials catching up after the Winter break, whilst mechanics and engineers put the finishing touches to the cars before they headed out for the first time this year. A fantastic attendance of 47 entries for the meeting, with both pre 90 and post 89 cars filling the grid, made the day not just extremely competitive but action packed as well.

Pre 90 Race 1

Immediately after lunch the first of the Pre 90 races began. Mike Mullins unfortunately could not start the race, a gear linkage failure in qualifying could not be repaired in time, resulting in a bad start to his season.

When the first red lights went out to officially begin the season, off the start Ian Parkington came from second to take the lead from pole sitter Nigel Dolan into Old Hall Corner. Elsewhere, Stuart Jones moved from fourth to third, taking Andrew Thomas, whilst Wayne Poole quickly moved up two places into fifth.

On Lap 3, Stuart Jones managed to get past Dolan to take second, whilst Barry Linley began to introduce himself to the front order by setting the fastest lap so far of 1.52.7 seconds in fourth place. Andrew Thomas managed to regain a place into fifth on Lap 4, with the top 6 now driving away from the rest of the pack behind. After being the fastest car on track on Lap 2, and running in the top 10, Stuart Dix had to unfortunately retire due to a water hose coming off his radiator.

Jones was certainly flying at this point, and on Lap 5 he asserted his authority by moving into first place past Parkington, whilst Wayne Pool took Dolan into third.

The turning point in the race occurred dramatically on Lap 6. With only six-tenths separating the top four cars, Barry Linley, in a borrowed car which he had only received a week beforehand, and who had not raced for a number of years, was able to get ahead of the three cars ahead of him into first place, taking Stuart Jones over the Start/Finish straight and into Old Hall, with Dolan almost losing it at the first corner. Thereafter the top three positions were fought between Linley, Jones and Parkington, with side-to-side scrapping on the straights, particularly between the front two, Linley only holding onto first by bravely going on the outside of Old Hall. This was the opportunity for Parkington to take Jones and move into second place. There was now a six second gap between first and fifth, with three seconds covering the top 4.

Elsewhere, Andrew Thomas spun on Lap 7, taking him out of the top 10, enabling Mario Sarchet to move up into seventh. The chequered flag came down with Barry Linley (Class D) taking a very impressive win, two seconds clear of Parkington in second, with Jones in third (Class C winner). The Class E winner was Graham Legget who finished a well driven 13thplace. Jones laying the blame of his apparent lack of place squarely due to constant misfiring.

Post 89 Race 1

The Post 89 season began in dramatic style right from the start. As the lights went out, Martin Short immediately burst through from third to take first, followed by Jamie Jardine from sixth to second, with pole sitter Neil Winn third. There then occurred two incidents, all before the first corner, with Steve Chapman sliding out and almost rolling over on the grass, whilst on the other side of the track, a large collision between Neil McArthur, Nigel Doe and Raymond Smith left Doe in the wall with the other two out as well. Kenneth Thirlwall crashing out on his own. The race was put under the Safety Car whilst all five cars were removed from the track, with Paul Mason retiring into the pits on his way back around.

On the resumption, the front two, who had done so well at the start to get ahead of the rest, decided to come together, with Jardine going for a gap which he believed was there, only resulting in him running over Short’s wheels and rolling his car, putting them both out of the race. Jardine later briefly commented “I only have myself to blame”. Once more a Safety Car was required with the new top three being Douglas Crosbie, John Murphy and Luke Cooper. The Safety Car finally pitted leaving the drivers a single lap dash to the line after only 3 laps of competitive racing. With Cooper and Crosbie fighting it out, John Murphy after getting ahead and into first place at Shell Oils Corner, agonisingly then went straight on at Druids, leaving Cooper to take the win ahead of Neil Winn, with Ryan Cullen in third. The race ending with more DNF’s than finishers, to the anger of the Clerk of the Course.

At the post race presentation, Cullen was happy with the way his season had started “I was very lucky to get third…it’s not a bad start to my rookie career”.

Pre 90 Race 2

Race 2 of the Pre 90 was a story of domination at the front by Stuart Jones. After ensuring his position halfway round the first lap, ahead of Ian Parkington and Nigel Dolan, he proceeded to stretch ahead of those behind to the extent that he was 8.67 seconds ahead of second place by lap 9.

Elsewhere in the early stages of the race, Christopher Stones made up three places to fifth, Mario Sarchet took Will Alterman for ninth, whereas David Gavan had to unfortunately retire to the pits. Wayne Poole took third with Barry Linley once again having another strong race taking fifth from Stones.

Halfway through the race the attention was mainly focussed on Dolan, Poole, Linley and Stones for third to sixth positions. Contact between Stones and Ellis on Lap 5 putting an end to Stones’ race. Linley continued to impress, taking Poole at Old Hall on Lap 7 who was then taken by both Ellis and Sarchet a lap later, leaving Poole down in seventh. Further down the order, Mullins took Swift for nineteenth. On the penultimate lap, Sarchet and Ellis went wheel-to-wheel at Old Hall resulting in Sarchet spinning and onto the grass, with Poole’s race going from bad to worse, himself spinning.

On the final lap Trevor Morgan took Stuart Dix for 16thplace; up ahead the focus switched to the Finish line and the battle for second between Dolan and Parkington, with Dolan taking it by a nose. Stuart Jones, clearly cruising his final lap ending three seconds ahead, crossed the line in exuberant style, wildly waving both hands in the air. Commenting at the post race presentation, Jones referred to his previous troubles in the first race of the day, “That’s what happens when you don’t have a misfire!”

Post 89 Race 2

The final race of the day was narrowly squeezed into the schedule due to time restraints. All participating drivers, having had a flea in their ear by the Clerk of the Course after the scenes that occurred in the first race, lined up on the grid with Daniel Hedlam stopping and retiring trackside on his installation lap. This left fourteen starters and we once again had an action packed start, with Ryan Cullen, buoyed by his third place finish in the first race, slicing through the pack from eighth to take the lead at Old Hall, whereas Luke Cooper span at the same first corner, resuming in last place, with Jay Wheals up into third. Cullen’s lead did not last long as he went wide at Old Hall on Lap 2, leaving him in fifth place, this enabled Douglas Crosbie to move into second and Neil Winn to take the lead which both duly clung onto. The battle was on however for third with Wheals, John Murphy and Cullen. Elsewhere, Vincent Jay decided to take a spin up Dear Leep on his way up to the Start/Finish straight.

By halfway through the race, all cars were beginning to separate out, with Jay Wheals dropping his fourth place under pressure from Kenneth Thirlwall and Martin Short, to resume in seventh behind Luke Cooper. The remaining laps were a story of two battles, between Short and Cooper for fifth, and Cullen and Neil McArthur for eighth.

Due to the time restraints, the last lap board was shown early and on the final Lap 9 Murphy held on by a nose on the line from Thirlwall to keep third, whilst Short held off Cooper for fifth and Cullen held onto eighth.

Neil Winn was clearly delighted with how his day had gone, with a pole position in qualifying as well as 1st and 2nd place finishes in the two races, “I couldn’t be happier with that. I started last June, I’ve not raced in Karts, I thought I’d do it the old way. The last race was tough, it was pretty carnage. It was the first race of the season and everyone’s adrenaline was going, but being told off a bit definitely calmed everyone down”.

Russell Hayes

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