Formula Ford Festival – 30th/31st October 2021
National FF1600 - Brands Hatch
The world-famous Formula Ford Festival returned to Brands hatch over the weekend of October 30-31 and this year was the historic 50th anniversary of this favourite annual event.
Unlike traditional championship-style race events, the Formula Ford Festival is a tense knockout contest in which competitors will put it all on the line for a chance to contest the final in their low-downforce, open-cockpit, single-seaters. This winner-takes-all format guarantees plenty of action; it’s a fantastic end of season spectacle and I was proud to represent Laser Tools Racing at the event.
Thursday and Friday were test-session days. Four test sessions each day, the weather dry and strangely warm for late October on Thursday but mixed conditions on Friday. This gave me some good seat time in the car and the opportunity to be able to readjust to Brands Hatch and the car, in preparation for what was looking to be a relatively wet weekend.
Conditions were wet for the 12-minute qualifying session, I was in Heat 1 which considering the conditions and the names in my heat, was going to be difficult, as many had been very quick in the two days of testing.
I was sitting in 5th for majority of the session with four or five other cars all putting in quick laps close to mine. A red flag brought all of us in and when we were released I was struggling to find a good bit of open air to push for a flying lap in the wet. With the conditions being so difficult and going back out onto track in the middle of the pack after the red flag, I was constantly coming up on slower traffic and unfortunately did not achieve another flying lap faster than one I did before the red flag. However, qualified in P8 which put me in a good position for Heat 1 of this knockout competition.
Starting P8 I was already comfortably through to the next step of the festival if I was even just able to finish where I started, as it is the first 12 that go through. A good warm-up lap in the tricky conditions lead to a good start and I was able to comfortably get away with the front 8 cars and form a train for the first few laps.
This front pack and I were able to pull away from the rest of the field and with some offs from some other drivers I was able to bring the car home in a comfortable 6th place, which put me in P12 for Semi-final 1.
If I was to finish where I was starting in P12, I was through to the grand final but I was wanting to make up some valuable and much needed positions to put me in a good position for the final. Another good warm-up lap in what was borderline weather and a fantastic start I was already up to 11th by paddock and a spin behind me meant that I didn’t have to worry about anyone being in my mirrors on the way up to Druids. It was quite a difficult race and with wheel-banging with another car, some last minute overtakes and defending, I was able to finish in a convincing 10th place after driving away from the car in 11th place behind me.
Due to Semi-final 1 being a much wetter race in comparison to Semi-final 2, it meant that my semi-final was the slower of the two and therefore I was starting the Grand Final in P20.
Starting in P20 and this being the Formula Ford Festival, carnage was expected and starting back on row 10 I had to be aware of what was happening in front of me heading into Paddock.
Track conditions were mostly dry but a big wet patch on the apex of Paddock was a big thing to be wary about. Another solid warm-up lap and good start put me up to P17 off the start, before getting involved in some battling which led me to drop back to outside the top 20. After two big accidents and a very long safety car I was able to work my way back to finishing P20 on the track but due to a disqualification further up the field I was promoted to finishing 19th in the end.
Overall, I am incredibly happy with how I performed this weekend and how the car was faultless in both wet and dry conditions. At the beginning of the weekend, I was unsure I was even going to be able to make it to the Grand Final without ending up in any of the “last chance” races. But with three incredibly strong performances in the lead-up to the final I had fully earned my spot on the grid at the final as an automatic qualifier.
Looking up the grid, the difference in seat time some of these drivers have in comparison to myself is massive, I have only been able to race 6 times in the last year due to many different circumstances and If I had just a fraction of the seat time that some of these drivers have, I’m 100% certain I would be up at the front giving everyone a good show!
Finishing P19 in a grid of over 100 cars with returning past winners, ex-F1 drivers and many very quick drivers I am very proud of what I and the team were able to achieve this past weekend. Now looking forward to the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone this coming weekend to do it all again! Stay tuned!