The 47th running of the Formula Ford Festival was set to be one of the most competitive festivals of the modern era, with booming grids in the National ff1600 championship and the other formula ford championships and series across Britain also producing great close racing, we really was in for a great festival of over 80ish cars and talent from across the world.
For me it would be my second festival and also my second outing in the new car. I took last year as more of a test to find my feet in this huge pool of class drivers, this year I would take as my first year to really prove and see what I’ve learnt in my first year of motorsport.
Wednesday - High winds, short heavy down pours and bright sunshine. Just what I didn’t want – but its what I got. Thanks to the Great British weather my first full days testing in the new car was nothing like simple, however it was very productive and I learnt a huge amount. My pace was good in the dry and was improving every time out in the wet (in which I’ve had barley any running in at all)
Thursday – Thursday was a little kinder on the weather front and the pace was good throughout the day I got my new personal best time in the second too last session and was consistently in the mid 52’s about 1.2 seconds faster than ever.
Formula Ford Festival Day 1
Saturday – I was drawn in Heat 3 qualifying wasn’t until 12.10, which incidentally was when the rain was due. I was pretty happy with how I was going in the wet at testing so I was still pretty confident.
A messy 15 minute wet qualifying session interrupted by 2 red flags wasn’t great, I couldn’t find a rhythm at all and with just 2 clear laps I could only manage 19th on the grid for my Heat later on in the day. Fortunately for me 2 cars in front got excluded from qualifying due to red flag incidences witch put me up too 17th.
Race 1 – The heat.
The rain had stopped and there was a drying line out on track I was starting 17th on the inside of the grid, I had a good get away and after a little wheel bashing off the line and made up the places before we got to Paddock, unfortunately I was a little to cautious on the loud pedal in the first few laps as I was unaware of how dry the track actually was- I guess this will come with experience. I did however make other move up the inside on lap 2 to make up another position, as the race run its course I managed to hold my position, with just the 2 faster cars that were excluded from qualifying making it back past me. After a couple of retirements up front my final position in the heat was P13, a great race and again plenty learnt in the tricky conditions.
Formula Ford Festival Day 2
Sunday – Having finished my Heat in 13th I was on row 10 (19th) in my Semi Final. The track was most definitely dry for this one and I was really looking forward to it, I had left myself lots to do to make it straight into the Final but I was confident to give it a good go – I would need to finished 12th or better to go straight into the final.
Race 2 – Semi Final
I got a poor start and lost 2 places on the start, I was down to 21st after the first lap. On lap 2 the safety car was deployed after an incident at Druids, the car was quickly dealt with and after 2 laps we was back on our way, I dropped a further place and at the fast left hander of Surtees I lost the back end and spun on the grass, I managed to get going straight away but had lost yet another 2 places. I was absolutely gutted but I could see I was much faster than the cars in front. I managed to claw back a further 3 places and with retirements up ahead I finished back where I started in 19th. A frustrating race where as I knew I had the pace to at least stay with the faster boys ahead.
After finishing 19th in the Semi Final my ticket straight to the final was no more, I would have to do it the hard way and get in, through the Last Chance Race- 30 starters and only the top 6 would progress to the Festival Final.
Race 3 – Last Chance Race
I lined up 14th on the grid for the short 8 lap Last Chance Race. I managed another ok start but was unable to make any places, it wasn’t my best race but I managed a good pace and set my fastest ever lap time on the last lap. Again the cars that fell off in front helped me to a final position of 10th.
Having finished 10th I was obviously not in the Festival Final but I was pleased to have got so close. I was called up as 3rd reserve in the final, which would mean if people couldn’t make the final race for some reason or if there was a red flag in the first 2 laps I may well get a chance to join the back of the grid for the restart. – A pretty unlikely chance but well worth getting ready for.
So I pull up at the exit of the pit lane with 2 other reserve cars in front. We see the race begin and on lap 2 we hear the commentator scream “There’s 3 off at paddock” right now I am latterly praying and shouting at everyone “red flag it, red flag it!!!” instead they kept the safety car out and got the race going again. GUTTED, the chance to race in the final was so, so close.
On reflection it was a great Festival, I had lots of time in the car in all different conditions which is great for my confidence, I managed to get some good racing in, making clean overtakes and defending well when needed, and too finish just 4 places outside of the final was great, I was up against drivers that have been racing most of there lives having come up through karts and other formulas, I sometimes forget that this is just my second year with no previous experience. I don’t go racing every weekend or every other weekend. Time in the race car for me is spread very sporadically across the year so to compete at the very highest level will be hard – but next year…I’ll be in that final!
Thanks to everyone that helped out over the week/end special thanks to Dad and Andrew for helping get me here, to the wife for putting up with me and letting me go racing and I have to say a very well done to Gavin Ray for building an absolutely beautiful car to drive, I know I’m not doing it justice at the moment but it will come, trust me.