Niall Murray put his name into the history books with a stunning victory in the 2013 Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
At the end of a great debut single-seater season in Formula Ford 1600 in his homeland, the Irishman embarked on the biggest challenge of his open-wheel career so far in the prestigious event.
Despite weather conditions playing havoc with setup throughout testing on Thursday and Friday at the Kent circuit, Niall and the Murray Motorsport found the sweet spot for the wet conditions in qualifying to put their Van Diemen second on the grid for Saturday afternoon’s heat.
The former Ginetta Junior Ireland champion ran second for the majority of the race until contact put him into the gravel. With damaged steering from the impact, Murray was forced to nurse the car home in sixth.
Starting in sixth for Sunday morning’s dry semi-final, a strong opening saw Murray battle up to third position on lap two, running there for the remainder of the race.
That result put him fifth on the grid for the coveted Festival Final later in the day. After dropping to sixth at the start, Murray was able to quickly fight back to fourth before a short safety car interlude.
Running behind former Festival winner Wayne Boyd when the action resumed, Murray bided his time before grabbing third at Druids on lap nine. A lap later, a similar move on Oliver White promoted him to second, with Murray now only behind another former Festival winner Noel Dunne.
Another fantastic move down the inside at Druids gave him the race lead with eight laps to go. From there, a mature drive saw him hold off a charge from a resurgent Boyd to take the chequered flag and become the 42nd Festival winner, joining a roll of honour that includes Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Johnny Herbert.
“I’m lost for words to be honest,” said an ecstatic Murray. “I’m absolutely delighted to have won this race. I cannot thank everyone enough who have helped and supported me throughout the year.
“Most of the credit must go to Eoin, my dad Joe and Pauly at Murray Motorsport for a superb job on the car all year. Noel Dunne has been a huge help to us also, and of course my sponsors who’ve been fantastic and without them this would only ever remain a dream. Now it’s time to focus on the Walter Hayes Trophy next weekend at Silverstone!”