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Start of a New Era in Formula Ford

With the National Championship kicking off at Silverstone last weekend, Connor Jackson looks at how the series has revitalised itself in recent years.

Credit: Rachel Bourne / Bourne Photographic

Last week saw the start of the BRSCC-run Avon Tyres Formula Ford National Championship. During the opening round from Silverstone, three different drivers won the three events, with Niall Murray coming away from the weekend with the championship lead.

In total 32 drivers were present and despite a few dropouts, 29 would take the start come Sunday afternoon. Unlike certain series in recent years though, the variety of chassis designs and teams has not led to domination from one brand or another. In fact, in no race during Silverstone did one manufacturer get more than one car on the podium.

After its demise in 2014, the British Formula Ford Championships successor, now called the F4 British Championship, prepares for its fourth season with 14 entries announced for this weekend. While BRDC British F3 ran its opening round with 17 cars (though had scheduled 20). Elsewhere, F1000 picked up 11 entries for their first race, while MSV F3 is not expected to match that. In fact, the only single-seater series in the UK that has recorded similar numbers so far is a fellow F.Ford series, the Northern Championship, which had 25 entries for its opener at Oulton last week.

Credit: Rachel Bourne / Bourne Photographic

While the Duratec and Eco-Boost era’s may have been recent pitfalls for the organisation, the success of the Kent engine for cheap and competitive racing has allowed F.Fords to once again be seen as a viable path for young drivers.

The polesitter in the first Northern race last week, Michael Eastwell found his weekend ended early due to an accident in race one, but the experience was vital as he stepped into the national series at the weekend, picking up three top ten finishes and fastest lap in the first race.

While Eastwell may not be fighting for the podiums just yet, in only his second full season, the 21-year-old, like many youngsters relished the opportunity to prove himself against older opposition, “The standard is so high,” he said in an interview last year. “You’re up against guys who might have been doing it 10-15 years or more in some cases.”

Credit: Rachel Bourne / Bourne Photographic

The lure of Formula Ford’s has clearly not just been for young drivers, Eastwell’s teammate Michael Moyers was one of the standout performers from Silverstone and the 33-year-old looks no closer to packing it in, having secured the Walter Hayes Trophy last year.

If there is one statement Formula Ford made at the weekend though, it was that their typical close-knit racing was not just reserved for the FF Festival and WHT.

Luke Cooper’s stunning drive through the pack in a second race that saw no less than six different leaders and as many drivers within a second by the flag. As a result, becoming the perfect advertisement for a series now looking to build up its profile.

Credit: TSL Timing Ltd.

While there is a slight irony in the former-second-rate F.Ford series partnering with an arguably second rate Touring Car series (depending on who you ask of course), the move has opened up TV deals and streaming options which gives the championship the perfect chance to showcase its abilities with a new crowd.

Finally the addition of the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship has proven that F.Ford is no longer an isolated case without a future, as Keith Donegan gets to grips with the USF2000 Series. While the route through Ginetta Juniors and F4 remain a primary option for young drivers, with last years F4 champion Jamie Caroline racing in the same car at Donegan, it opens up a genuine more cost-effective alternative for those with limited budgets.

Credit: TSL Timing Ltd.

Murray was clearly the winner from the weekend, picking up a podium in all three races, but he was far from without competition losing what could have been a sure fired chance to break away in race one and two when he temporarily led.

As for Moyers, contact at Brooklands ended his final race early, scuppering any chances of taking the championship lead he had from Murray going into the event. Amusingly, it was not the first time the pair had been tied, with both setting identical times to top Free Practice.

Both Cooper and Foster picked up wins, but were perfect casualties of F.Ford’s competitive field, with both finishing behind the top four despite being classified under five seconds from the winner. Meanwhile Matt Round-Garrido boasting the biggest improvement. From a time penalty dropping him to tenth in the opening encounter, he finished second in the final race, albeit six seconds behind teammate Murray.

Credit: TSL Timing Ltd.

Further images from the Formula Ford Championships can be found at www.bournephoto.co.uk

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