Murray, Cowley and Eastwell take Festival Heat Wins

by Connor Jackson

It would be Niall Murray who once again proved himself to be the favourite at the end of a hectic Saturday at the Formula Ford Festival from Brands Hatch. The Irish driver will start on pole for the first Semi-Final ahead of Heat 3 winner Michael Eastwell, who equally dominated his race.

Elsewhere, Matthew Cowley won the second race and will start on pole for the Semi-Final 2 during a dramatic event in which the top four were split by only a second with Neil MacLennan and Chris Middlehurst populating the other two positions on the podium.

Murray had missed out on pole to Josh Smith, but engine issues for the #0 saw him drop to third behind Keith Donegan. Meanwhile Heat 3 saw the only safety car of the day, as Oliver White hung on in front of the recovering Joey Foster, who had struggled in qualifying.

HEAT 1

Winner: Niall Murray – Van Dieman RF99

Niall Murray took a well deserved victory in the opening heat, breaking away 7 seconds from Donegan. He made a break in the early stages after getting in front of Josh Smith. Sadly for Van Dieman JL13, a steering rack issue brought an end to his charge for the lead, with attention soon turning towards holding off Keith Donegan.

Donegan did eventually get past in the latter stages, but it was too late to challenge Murray up front, with Smith hanging on to a podium. Luke Williams had qualified fourth and kept the position throughout the race, putting himself in another strong position after Saturday running at the Festival.

Guillaume Archambault, the Team Canada Scholarship driver, continued to impress with a fifth, in front of Jonathan Browne’s Ray GR08’s. Andrew Blair was the highest placed Pre 90’s runner. A lack of safety cars put Murray in the prime position, eventually earning pole in Semi-Final 1 due to being the fastest heat.

National FF1600 Runner-up Michael Eastwell won the Third Heat by almost three seconds from Oliver White (Credit: Robbos Motorsport Photography)

HEAT 2

Winner: Matt Cowley – Van Dieman JL13

Matt Cowley recovered from a disastrous start to win the second heat from polesitter Neil MacLennan as four cars fought for the lead over the fifteen laps.

It was a disaster for Matthew Cowley at the start, bogging down, losing out to Jake Craig and forcing Chris Middlehurst wide in order to maintain third. Cowley would soon be back into contention though as MacLennan’s tyres started to wear making it four for the lead. After jumping past Craig, he found a run on Middlehurst with two laps to go to inherit the lead and the eventual win.

Middlehurst demoted the Team USA Scholarship driver Craig to fourth in the closing stages with the top four separated by less than a second over the line. Top six was completed by the charging Peter Dempsey and Stuart Gough. Tom MacArthur was the highest placed Pre-90’s car all day in seventh.

HEAT 3

Winner: Michael Eastwell – Spectrum 011C

A dominant win for Michael Eastwell will see him line up alongside Niall Murray for the first Semi-Final as a crash on the opening lap set the tone for the drivers. Eastwell would eventually cross the line 3 seconds ahead of Oliver White and Joey Foster despite smoke off the line initially causing concern for those watching.

The start proved to be the most dramatic of the three heats, with Henry Chart’s retirement at Paddock Hill Bend triggering a safety car, which only caused more confusion, with two further Formula Ford’s coming to blows at Surtees.

The National FF1600 Runner-up runner broke away in the early stages, as Oliver White diced with Matt Round-Garrido and later Joey Foster, holding on to second as he struggled for traction during the initial laps. White held firm though, despite Foster and Middlehurst’s late moves. Team USA’s Colin Mullen followed closely in fifth as Rory Smith completed the top six, dropping back slightly in the final laps. Alan Davidson in the Pre-90’s was eighth.

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