MAGIC MUR­RAY MAKES IT TWO

Na­tional FF1600 cham­pion takes se­cond Fes­ti­val win in con­vinc­ing style. By Stephen Lick­o­r­ish FOR­MULA FORD FES­TI­VAL

Motor Sport News - - Formula Ford Festival - Dom D’an­gelillo Fes­ti­val race by race, be­low Pho­tos: Gary Hawkins

Niall Mur­ray. Two words that were on the lips of vir­tu­ally ev­ery per­son in the For­mula Ford Fes­ti­val pad­dock last week­end. Any­one who can win 12 races in the FF1600 Na­tional Cham­pi­onship is a favourite for the fi­nal, but the way in which Mur­ray blitzed the field on route to semi-fi­nal one vic­tory meant he was al­most uni­ver­sally tipped as the man to beat.

Mur­ray had al­ready laid down a marker with the fastest time of any­one in qual­i­fy­ing be­fore emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous from heat two. But it was his four-se­cond win­ning mar­gin in his semi that re­ally turned heads.

“Com­ing into the week­end I knew I would have a pretty good chance but it was very close be­tween four or five cars in qual­i­fy­ing,” said Mur­ray, who car­ried the con­fi­dent aura of some­one in com­plete tune with their car all week­end.

Scott Malvern was the only per­son who could, per­haps, stand a chance of beat­ing him. He too had won his heat and semi – thanks to an amaz­ing move around the out­side of Luke Wil­liams through Pad­dock Hill Bend and up to Druids – and was de­ter­mined to put up a fight.

“I think the start is go­ing to be ev­ery­thing,” said the 2011 win­ner. “I’m go­ing to try and give him some­thing to worry about.”

He cer­tainly did. By dint of a safety car in his semi last­ing a lap shorter than in Mur­ray’s, Malvern started from pole. And, im­por­tantly, he kept ahead as the lights went out.

Mur­ray was not per­turbed and set about ha­rass­ing the Geva Rac­ing driver. Then on lap two came the move. Mur­ray’s Van Diemen RF99 drew along­side Malvern ex­it­ing Clark Curve and the pair banged wheels as they went side-by-side down the pit straight with Mur­ray even­tu­ally seal­ing the breath­tak­ing move into Pad­dock.

“He was try­ing to de­fend as best as he could,” ex­plained Mur­ray. “I knew what he was try­ing to do but there was just enough room to get through Pad­dock Hill Bend.”

Malvern was un­der­stand­ably frus­trated. “He was be­ing quite gen­er­ous with his push­ing of me,” said the dis­ap­pointed My­gale GV-15K racer. “I had the start I wanted – it all went to plan and I was hold­ing him up for a while.”

Third-placed Chris Mid­dle­hurst had a bril­liant view of the ac­tion in front. “I couldn’t be­lieve they both stayed on,” he said. “They in­ter­locked wheels and there was smoke com­ing off the tyres! I held back be­cause I didn’t want to be hit.”

But they were all able to con­tinue and once out front Mur­ray started to pull away. There was no way any­one could stop him. And sure enough he claimed his se­cond Fes­ti­val win (2013 be­ing his other tri­umph) by 3.7s.

“It was just amaz­ing,” he en­thused. “It’s never com­fort­able be­cause you know if you make a tiny mis­take they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to close straight back in. I lost con­cen­tra­tion a cou­ple of times and then I was just wind­ing down the laps.”

Malvern hung on to se­cond but ad­mit­ted to mak­ing a cou­ple of mis­takes in his at­tempts to keep pace with Mur­ray on the straights. “I feel we had a car good enough to win the race,” he com­mented.

Those mis­takes drew the chas­ing pack much closer. An er­ror at Clear­ways for Mid­dle­hurst meant that was briefly headed by Team USA Schol­ar­ship driver Oliver Askew, but he soon got back ahead while the Amer­i­can was out with a punc­ture ( see side­bar). It was then a fight be­tween Mid­dle­hurst, Wil­liams, Stu­art Gough and Chase Owen for the fi­nal podium spot.

After a ter­rific scrap it was for­mer For­mula Re­nault BARC cham­pion Mid­dle­hurst who took the place, while Wil­liams passed Gough for fourth at Clear­ways with a lap to go.

“I’m made up with third,” beamed Mid­dle­hurst, who con­sis­tently im­proved through­out the event. “That’s bet­ter than I ex­pected!”

Heat one win­ner Gough was left ru­ing a set-up change for the semi that didn’t work and meant he started fifth for the fi­nal. “Com­ing fourth or fifth is ir­rel­e­vant – I was hop­ing to get third,” he said, hav­ing rounded out the fi­nal podium for the past two years. “I got fastest lap and it’s good to be fight­ing up there – you’ve got to take the pos­i­tives from it.”

The other Team USA Schol­ar­ship driver, Kyle Kirk­wood, put in a strong dis­play to claim sev­enth from 16th on the grid. Any hopes of fin­ish­ing higher were dashed by an off for fron­trun­ner Pa­trik Pasma at Clear­ways in the early stages which split the top six away.

A num­ber of other po­ten­tial fron­trun­ners were al­ready out of the run­ning by this stage. A first-lap col­li­sion in the open­ing heat had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on sev­eral driv­ers’ week­ends. An over am­bi­tious move by 2004 Fes­ti­val win­ner Joey Foster on Owen and Cana­dian schol­ar­ship driver Parker Thomp­son ended in dis­as­ter. Owen wasn’t aware of Foster’s dive up the in­side and the duo col­lided, de­lay­ing Thomp­son, while Stephen Daly’s mis­er­able Fes­ti­val run con­tin­ued as he was caught up in the melee. Foster’s sub­se­quent grid penalty for his semi wrecked his chances.

Last year’s Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy win­ner Gra­ham Car­roll headed home after the semi thanks to en­gine woes, while fel­low Scot Neil Ma­clen­nan showed good pace be­fore hit­ting the bar­ri­ers in the se­cond semi when the safety car boards came out and his car snapped to the left when he slammed on the brakes.

But none of these driv­ers could get close to Mur­ray. “It’s been an amaz­ing sea­son re­ally,” he said. “Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy is the only thing left on the list and no­body has ever won the two ti­tles in the same year…”

Be­fore the il­lus­tri­ous fi­nale of the For­mula Ford Fes­ti­val, the win­ner of the His­toric Fi­nal had to be de­cided with a grid filled with Pre90 and Pre82 cars. The hon­ours went to Alan David­son; the County Antrim man nav­i­gated his Mon­di­ale from sixth on the grid to take vic­tory. After get­ting a blis­ter­ing start and tak­ing ad­van­tage of Job Van Uitert’s ex­cur­sion over the green­ery of Gra­ham Hill Bend, David­son soon found him­self lead­ing the pack.

With a faster car than his near­est ri­vals, David­son could stretch his lead to a com­fort­able mar­gin al­low­ing the scrap for the fi­nal podium places to en­sue. While Conor Murphy looked likely to claim se­cond, a resur­gent Van Uitert, who had fin­ished an im­pres­sive ninth in his semi-fi­nal, carved through from down the or­der after his first-lap blun­der to pip Murphy in the dy­ing stages of the race.

The fes­ti­val week­end also brought the re­turn of the For­mula Ford Mas­ters race, the one-off shot for supremacy be­tween for­mer stars of series, with Ire­land’s Stephen Daly the sur­pris­ing win­ner. Daly, who had been tipped for a place in the fes­ti­val fi­nal, had been blighted with bad luck all week­end, scor­ing a DNF in his heat and get­ting a punc­ture in the Last Chance race. As a late call-up to the grid fol­low­ing a num­ber of no-shows, the fes­ti­val timetable prov­ing too much for some cars. Daly be­gan from the back, but his Ray proved too strong for the rest of the pack. For­mer F3 driver Jay Bridger and Rory Smith rounded out the podium.

With Adri­ano Medeiros only need­ing one point to se­cure the Clas­sic For­mula Ford ti­tle, the Brazil­ian driver claimed it in em­phatic style tak­ing pole po­si­tion and both race wins. De­spite fin­ish­ing the first race and seal­ing the ti­tle be­hind the safety car after Alaric Ch­ester’s wheel came off at Gra­ham Hill, Medeiros man­aged to get a proper cel­e­bra­tion as he crossed the line 15 sec­onds ahead of Stu­art Kesten­baum in race two.

Alas­tair Kel­lett con­firmed his place as the Fi­esta cham­pion, be­com­ing the se­cond cham­pion from Class D to take the plau­dits in the past three years. The Ir­ish­man beat John Cooper and Jamie White in race one. But he couldn’t take the dou­ble, as a quick start from Cooper in race two meant the cham­pion had to set­tle for se­cond ahead of White, as the same trio took the top three places.

With the over­all cham­pi­onship all wrapped up, all eyes were on Class C to see who would take the in­di­vid­ual class cham­pi­onship. A clean sweep of pole, race wins and fastest laps still wasn’t enough for Spe­cial­ized Mo­tor­sport’s Si­mon Hor­robin as he had to con­cede the ti­tle to team-mate Sam Pri­est. Pri­est had led the cham­pi­onship for a num­ber of months and added to his tally with se­cond in race one and third in the fi­nale be­hind ju­nior grad­u­ate Aaron Thomp­son.

A brace of vic­to­ries for Bradley Burns wasn’t enough for him to pip Harry Good­ing to the 2016 Fi­esta Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship. De­spite go­ing off at Druids in race one and de­cid­ing not to go out in race two the Jam Sport driver con­firmed the ti­tle he’d had a grasp on for most of the sea­son.

There was a cham­pion’s pro­ces­sion in the Sports 2000 Pinto with Colin Fey­er­abend tak­ing vic­tory, while in the Du­ratec Cham­pi­onship Michael Gib­bins was crowned cham­pion with se­cond place be­hind Pa­trick Sher­ring­ton.

Andy O’brien cel­e­brated his 2016 cham­pi­onship vic­tory with two com­fort­able wins in the

Malvern couldn’t match Mur­ray

Mur­ray was un­stop­pable in Kent Mid­dle­hurst took hard fought third place in the fi­nal after Askew re­tired Malvern (right) makes stun­ning move round out­side of Wil­liams in semi

Askew was set for podium in fi­nal be­fore a punc­ture

David­son’s Mon­di­ale won His­toric fi­nal by over four sec­onds

Kel­lett wrapped up Fi­esta ti­tle with two podi­ums at Brands

OC­TO­BER 26 2016

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