The Formula Ford Festival heats proved to be just as exciting as they always are with only one of the three heats resulting in a light-to-flag win. The heats, were won by Stuart Gough, #5 Niall Murray and Scott Malvern with the latter of the two taking the pole positions for the Semi-Finals.
Parker Thompson was hoping to recreate the success of his Team Canada Scholarship compatriot last year as he started on pole. Unfortunately, like 2015, he was knocked wide as Chase Owen couldn’t hold on around Druids. In the confusion one of the favourites, Stephen Daly, retired.
The calamity and spins in the opening sector saw Stuart Gough scythe through into the lead from Andy Charsley. A top four soon emerge as Oliver White in the #94 closed in on third place Noel Robinson. A safety car was later called as Jay Bridger spun off at the first corner, beaching in the gravel.
By this point the front row pairing of Owen and Thompson had worked their way up to seventh and eighth respectively. It was a disaster for them, but a festival comeback could still be on the cards for the Can-Am pair.
The race wouldn’t end under safety car though as Thompson made a determined run through the order and managed to regain sixth with Owen only managing eighth. Eion Murray in the Van Diemen RF02 would split them.
Gough though would break away to take the victory by half a second from Charsley and Robinson. An excellent restart from Joey Foster saw him take fourth from White in the closing laps. Meanwhile Conor Murphy was the top Pre ’90 car.
All eyes were on Niall Murray as the cars lined up on the grid. He made a traditionally strong start to the race and pulled away at the start with the Firman RF16 of Luke Williams settling into a rhythm.
The Team USA Scholarship driver Oliver Askew made a poor start, but managed to recover his position in the early stages. Further back, in fifth, the highly rated Job van Uitert made a strong start in his Pre ’90 Van Diemen RF89 holding up the drivers behind. His older machine was clearly not as quick, but excellently defended from Jamie Thorburn.
Robin Haslam was running in the Reynard FF82 so was not expected to lead, but found himself affecting the battle at the front as he temporarily held up Murray. This allowed Williams to close as the race remained green until the flag.
Murray took the win by a mere 0.45 seconds as Williams was forced to settle for second. Askew took the final podium place in a relatively uneventful race, though had been kept honest by Chris Middlehurst.
This saw van Uitert in fifth having fallen six seconds back as Graham Carroll crossed the line in sixth. The top eight was completed by Jason Cooper and Sebastien Melrose who gained two places from his grid position.
Luke Cooper had started on pole but it was short-lived as an excellent getaway allowed Scott Malvern to take the lead early on. The top two soon broke away as Neil Maclennan held off Jake Byrne in the fellow Ray machine.
An awful start for Kyle Kirkwood saw him drop to eighth from fifth on the grid with Jordan Dempsey making the most of the opportunity. Kirkwood was not prepared to give up though and diced with a number of competitors for seventh.
Back at the front, Cooper did not want to risk a move on Malvern as he maintained the gap. As a result of Malvern’s defensive driving the drivers behind caught, creating a five car fight for the lead. Maclennan made the most of Bryne’s failed overtake to reclaim third.
This left Malvern with a well deserved win from Cooper and Maclennan. Byrne was forced to settle for fourth from Jordan Dempsey. Meanwhile, another American fight back saw Kirkwood take sixth with Patrik Pasma following him through. The top eight was eventually rounded out by Tom McArthur.
The Formula Ford Festival returns tomorrow with the first Semi-Final at 11:00am.