Thompson, Murray and Cooper come out on Top for Festival Qualifying


Credit: Jack Mitchell

In a tantalising qualifying session for the Formula Ford Festival, hundredths of a second separated the drivers at the front, with a few unexpected faces making a name for themselves. Over the three heats, it was Parker Thompson, the Festival favourite of Niall Murray and Luke Cooper who came out on top.

Heat 1

The first driver to set a competitive time was Stephen Daly. He was quickly knocked down the order as the times dropped. Stuart Gough was the first driver below the 51 second mark as the session approached half distance.

It soon became a battle between Gough and Chase Owen with Daly also remaining competitive. Gough remained on top for the majority of the session as the Team Canada Scholarship entry of Thompson gradually improved.

With two minutes to go, Thompson went quickest and remained on top with a time of 50.228. Owen went second creating a Can-Am front row. This ultimately meant that Gough was forced to settle for third, but it’s unlikely the #11 will be disheartened by the result.

Former Festival winner, Joey Foster was fourth as Daly pit before the end of the session. As a result, Daly was only fifth, leading the third row from Andy Charsley. The highest place Pre ’90 driver was Conor Murphy in sixteenth, while Laurie Hughes was the only Pre ’82 class driver, at the back.

Festival Favourite Niall Murray topped the standings in a narrow Heat 2. (Credit: Jack Mitchell / JAM Photography)
Festival Favourite Niall Murray topped the standings in a narrow Heat 2. (Credit: Jack Mitchell / JAM Photography)

Heat 2

To the surprise of none, it was Niall Murray who set the pace early in the session. The 2013 Festival winner was hardly running away with it though as Luke Williams traded blows with him, searching for revenge from last year.

As the session settled in a black flag was flown for the #80 of Mark Armstrong though remained the top Pre ’82 Class driver. Behind the top two it was Oliver Askew who settled into third as the session remained static. A surprisingly cool track saw many of the drivers pull into the pits, unable to improve.

No times improved with Murray remaining on top in his van Diemen RF99. Williams will line up second ahead of the Team USA Scholarship driver Askew. Chris Middlehurst had remained out on track until the chequered flag but was unable to improve and settled for fourth.

The top five was completed by Jamie Thorburn as a surprisingly quick time from Job van Uitert in his Pre ’90 class car brought him up to sixth.

Luke Cooper crashed in Heat 3, yet recovered to qualify on pole (Credit: Jack Mitchell / JAM Photography)
Luke Cooper crashed in Heat 3, yet recovered to qualify on pole (Credit: Jack Mitchell / JAM Photography)

Heat 3

The third heat stopped almost as quickly as it started. The cars were quick to get up to speed with Luke Cooper going top. It didn’t last long though as the Swift SC16 was spun to the inside barrier at Druids.

He got his car running and rolled down the hill. No engine power saw him forced to pull off, but didn’t have enough momentum to get to the exit on the outside of Graham Hill. A red flag was called as Cooper’s car was pushed off the racing line.

Cooper did return but it was Neil Maclennan who went top before Scott Malvern took the advantage. Those three soon made a close fight in qualifying with Jake Byrne improving to go fourth with 2 minutes to go.

A late push from everyone saw Cooper take pole, despite his earlier off. He’ll be joined on the front row by Malvern with Byrne and Maclennan behind. The Team USA driver Kyle Kirkwood managed fifth with Jordan Dempsey in sixth.