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2019 International Formula Ford season review

by Elliot Wood

Photo: F1600 Canada

For the first time since 2014, Formula Ford joined the list of junior single-seater categories that Formula Scout reports on this year. Elliot Wood reviews what happened in FFord in 2019, from America to India

Australia

Following Hunter McElrea’s path to a Mazda scholarship and nearly the USF2000 title within a year of departing Australian FFord, there was renewed focus on the national championship in 2019 – its 50th year of existence.

Melbourne teenager Angelo Mouzouris won Sonic Motor Racing Services’ fourth title in a row, but it took a while for the third-year driver to take his first win.

After making the podium behind title favourite Zac Soutar in the second round at Queensland Raceway, Mouzouris came to fore at the Australian Supercars-supporting Winton round. He won all three races in a variety of weather conditions, and took another four wins in the second half of the season meant he wrapped up the title with a race to go.

Soutar started the season at Sydney by denying CHE Racing Team driver Tom Sargeant victory at the final corner of the race, and also won at Sandown and Phillip Island to finish runner-up in the standings.

Sargeant and 2017-18 New Zealand FFord champion Callum Hedge were third and fourth in the points and both won races.

Seven wins out of nine secured Tim Hamilton the Australian FF1600 title, with only Jarrod Costello showing him opposition. Hamilton also won the Queensland FF1600 title.

Brendan Jones won a fifth Victorian FF1600 title in a row, with Ben D’Alia taking the state’s FF1800 title. In New South Wales, Lachlan Ward [FF1800] and Mitch Gatenby [FF1600] were champions, while Tom Hamlett took success in Western Australia. Matthew Woodland became the South Australian champion for the second year running.

In February, a 50th anniversary event took place on the Bathurst 12 Hours support bill. Australian F3 runner-up Josh Buchan won two of the three races, with his surprise opponent being 2012 European Le Mans Series champion Mathias Beche.

Canada

Nissan ambasaddor Olivier Bedard (as a result of being a three-time Canadian Micra Cup champion) finally added a single-seater title to his resume by dominating the Ontario-based Toyo Tires F1600, which utilises Ford and Honda engines.

The season began at Mosport with a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle between Exclusive Autosport’s Bedard and Britain West Motorsport’s Zachary Vanier, who would later pick up the Team Canada Scholarship to race in the FFord Festival. A technical issue prevented Vanier from challenging Bedard all the way to the flag, and he finished behind Bedard in the other two races.

At Calabogie there were two track layouts used, and Bedard went unbeaten on both. Indy Pro 2000 star Daniel Frost, from Singapore, cameoed and took two podiums.

Bedard took another triple win on the second Mosport visit, but it was Vanier who was on top at Shannonville – where two layouts were also used. Vanier won the first race from pole, while Bedard’s engine cover flew off mid-race and ended up in the pitlane. It was Bedard who won the second race, after Varnier blew his pole advantage by going off on the first lap.

There was even more drama in race three, where Vanier hunted down Bedard and the pair fought through the last lap for victory. Bedard had just kept his lead out of the final corner, but his gearbox failed down the pit straight and Vanier won.

The absence of Bedard for the penultimate Mosport visit meant Vanier took three wins and the points lead. Bedard edged his rival to pole and victory in the first race of the season finale, and got another win in race two thanks to a NASCAR-style green-white-chequered flag finish that enabled him to pass Vanier for the lead.

A similar finish enabled Vanier to take revenge in the title decider, but Bedard was crowned a double champion. Along with a support event atthe Trois-Rivieres Grand Prix, the season finale formed part of the accompanying Super Series – the opening race of which was won by former International Formula 3000 racer and Atlantics race-winner Bertrand Godin.

James Lindsay won the FF1600-spec ‘B’ class in the Toyo championship and finished sixth overall in the Super Series.

The rivalling Quebec-based Formula Tour 1600 was convincingly won by Bedard, including both Canadian GP support races at Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve.

France

The FF1600 Trophy continued its international series, with visits to Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps to Zolder.

Old School Racing Team dominated the championship this year, and went for potential over experience with its driver line-up.

Adrien Laissac raced in motorcross and Legends for fun before switching to FFord part-time last year, but he almost immediately won. The 25-year-old was hired for a full season this year, along with 16-year-old karting graduate Milan De Laet.

Laissac won both FF1600 races from pole in the Ledenon season opener, and made it four in a row at Dijon in races that included torride weather and red flags in between battles with fellow Van Diemen RF92 driver De Laet. At Albi, Old School boss Geoffrey Horion jumped in a modern car and pipped Laissac to one win, but was bettered by his hire in the second race.

In July, Laissac took over the modern car to make a BRSCC National FF1600 appearance at Croft. Shortly after he had surgery on an unattended injury that had become infected, putting him out for the rest of the season.

De Laet went from 32nd on the grid to third overall at Spa-Francorchamps, with his driver coach Toon Bosmans taking over Laissac’s car and finishing just behind on his debut. The first win for De Laet came at Zolder, and he then shared the Kent-engined successes with Gislain Genecand at the tricky Charade circuit.

At the Val de Vienne finale, De Laet was crowned champion over Xavier Michel, who won the Continental FF1600 Cup. Laissac slipped to ninth in the standings, although he outscored all but Arnaud Dousse of the FF1800 entrants.

New Zealand

The battle to succeed the likes of Scott Dixon, Shane van Gisbergen and current Red Bull junior Liam Lawson as New Zealand FFord champion went down to the final lap of the final race of the season at Pukehoke.

Jordan Michels took the title with five wins out of 15, but it was six-time winner Josh Bethune who had the upper hand by six points entering the all-important final race.

Bethune had led the standings from the season opening race, and bagged pole (and an extra two points) for the three-race season finale. He beat Michels to victory in the first race, but had to settle for third behind rookie Callum Crawley and Michels in race two.

Michels had crashed heavily in free practice and borrowed spares from his opposition to continue his weekend, and lined up fifth for the title decider. He had only passed America’s Spike Kohlbecker prior to the last lap of the race, having not been able to catch the three-way fight for victory between Bethune, Crawley and Class B champion James Penrose.

Just a few corners away from title glory, Bethune spun out while fighting for the lead. Penrose also dropped down the order, with Michels crossing the line in second behind Crawley and taking a dramatic title win.

Bethune took his revenge in the South Island championship, where he won the title for a second year in a row. After his last lap crash in NZ FFord at Pukehoke, Bethune had to switch to an older car for the SI title decider at Timaru but this time his championship was all but secured.

He qualified and finished fifth in all three races of the season finale, while Michels took pole and won the first two races. He was beaten to victory by secondary class champion Penrose in the final race, which looks likely to be his last race in FFord.

Crawley won the equivalent North Island title at the start of the year, despite engine issues that plagued him throughout 2019. He failed to qualify for the NI title decider at Taupo, but went from 13th to fifth within one lap of racing getting underway and took a triple win to win the title – in rather stressful circumstances.

A terminal engine prevented him from winning the NI Winter Series, with Billy Frazer snatching the crown despite his own problems at the title decider due to an oil pressure sensor and some dramatic races.

South Africa

De facto the lead single-seater series in Africa, South African F1600 crowned a two-time champion this year in Scott Temple, who was usually up against fellow past champions Nicholas Van Weely and Julian Van der Watt, a USF2000 racer last year.

The season kicked off at the idyllic Dezzi Raceway, with Andrew Rackstraw taking a double pole in the damp. An immediate off at the start of the season opener sent him to the back of the field though, and Van Weely comfortably beat Temple to win.

Rackstraw took his first win in race two, holding off Sauber-backed Stuwie White and Temple as Van Weely fell down the grid.

With White absent for French F4, Temple took an easy pole at Zwartkops and then a double win after race one winner Rackstraw was penalised for a jumped start.

The nearly-70-year-old Killarney circuit held round three, where another Rackstraw jumped start led to two more Tempe wins. At Aldo Scribante Circuit, Temple once again hauled in the points with a double win.

Van der Watt was back for the second Zwartkops trip, and gave Temple something to think about by beating him in qualifying and both races. Temple extended his points lead over Van Weely, but now had a more serious threat. At East London it was much of the same, but this time Temple showed his racing mettle to take a win by the slimmest of margins. Retirement for Van Weely in the second race, which Van der Watt won, guaranteed Temple the title.

Another fighting drive from Temple almost denied Van der Watt a double win at Killarney – he came 0.089 seconds short. Red Star Raceway held the season finale, which champion Temple skipped to focus on his prize Walter Hayes Trophy drive. This made life easier for Van Weely, whose two second places behind Van der Watt meant he held on to second in the points.

In 2018, the FFord Kent title was decided post-season by a technicality, putting the two title contenders under the spotlight. They were relegated from the headlines this year by Jonathan Nash and Dean Venter.

They shared the wins at the Phakisa Freeway season opener, but Nash’s Zwartkops hopes were over after an engine failure in practice. Venter took pole in his absence but stalled and caused race one to be red flagged before winning the restarted race.

Reigning champion David Jerny edged ahead to win race two, before Nash took a double at Red Star – only made possible after a rival lent him an engine. Jerny’s 2018 rival Andrew Horne returned to the series and Temple drove in place of Nash on the second Phakisa trip, which contained two thrilling and super-close back-to-back races won by Venter and Horne.

Venter won the title after neither he or Nash turned up for the Red Star season finale, leaving Dalan Holton to control the weekend and move into third in the standings.

United Kingdom

For a second year in a row, Team Dolan’s Van Diemen RF99 chassis blew away the field in BRSCC National FF1600, but this time it was two-time Scottish champion Ross Martin at the wheel rather than Niall Murray.

The action at the start of the season was dwarfed by the announcement that Formula 1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh would be racing, but his results didn’t match the hype as Martin and Cliff Dempsey Racing’s Spike Kohlbecker set the pace.

Five wins out of six at Anglesey and Croft put Martin comfortably ahead in the mid-season standings, and wins for title rivals Kohlbecker and Kevin Mills Racing’s Neil Maclennan did nothing to lessen that advantage.

Michael Eastwell, the ’18 runner-up, ended a racing sabbatical for the overseas trip to Northern Ireland’s Kirkistown and scored his first win, where CDR’s Jonathan Browne and two-time FFord Festival winner Ivor McCullough also topped the podium.

Eastwell took a second of the season at Silverstone, as did B-M Racing’s Rory Smith, sandwiching a stunning last-to-first win for Don Hardman Racing’s returning Joey Foster. Martin was guaranteed the title if he didn’t attend the Brands Hatch season finale, which proved to be the case, although a win in the final race meant Kohlbecker actually outscored him.

Four years after his last success, B-M’s Tom McArthur took the BRSCC Northern title despite missing two of the seven rounds. He was pitted against Myerscough College’s Jack Wolfenden, who failed to win a race, and Sammarinese part-timer Davide Meloni, who showed hugely improved form from 2018 to take two wins.

Josh Fisher took his third Castle Combe club title, which puts him one off Gavin Wills’ and Bob Higgins’ record.

United States

Brandon Dixon was the man to beat for the second time in three years in F2000 Championship Series, although the first of his two wins at the Road Atlanta season opener came after just three laps of running behind the safety car.

He was kept off the top step at Watkins Glen by Misha Goikhberg and Steve Jenks, who won in the rain after poleman Peter Gonzalez ground to a halt on the final lap and Goikhberg span off while battling for victory.

Dixon was denied a double win at Mid-Ohio by cameoing former Indy Pro 2000 racer Brandon Newey, and then by series legend Tim Minor at Virginia International Raceway – who also won the SCCA National Runoff in Formula Continental.

The considerably less experienced Andrew Dobbie was Dixon’s chief opposition at Pittsburgh, taking two poles and a win on his second F2000 appearance. Jenks shared the wins at Summit Point with Dixon, who had the title all but assured. Almost all of the championship frontrunners skipped the New Jersey Motorsports Park season finale, which Dixon dominated with ease.

Pacific F2000 also crowned a double champion in Jason Reichert, who won eight of the 10 races he entered. British pensioner Peter West was runner-up, ahead of Harindra de Silva and Chinese driver Sicheng Li, who won three times.

Team USA scholar Jonathan Kotyk defended his 2018 SCCA National Runoffs – Formula F victory this year with K-Hill Motorsports, which also signed him to contest F1600 Championship Series.

Fellow Team USA scholar and Team Pelfrey drive Josh Green was his main rival, and the pair were unbeaten in the first 12 races of the season. F2000 driver Simon Sikes stepped down a category and interrupted that run at Pittsburgh, and when their dominance resumed it was Kotyk who had the advantage in the remaining six races.

The rest

Lucas Daugaard troubled the Formula 4 drivers in Denmark from the off in their shared races, and 14 of his 22 wins in the winged Danish F4 Lights came with overall top five finishes. At the twisty Jyllandsringen he even made it on to the F4 podium.

Jussi Kuivakangas finished eighth in one Formula Academy Finland race in his FFord car, and would have raced in the Estonian Grand Prix had the single-seater element not been cancelled.

Riddled by poor grid sizes, FFord Portugal nevertheless visited some iconic circuits and supported some major international events. Antonio Almeida won the first four racs of the season and the Zetec class title, while Antonio Correia took his older car to a double success at Algarve and topped the Funspeed points.

David McCullough, brother of Ivor, won the Northern Irish title and Martin Donnelly Trophy at Kirkistown. Taking just over half the wins on the way to his first Scottish title was Jordan Gronkowski.

Raghul Rangasamy made it back-to-back titles in India’s MRF F1600, although couldn’t redeem his Civic Cup UK prize drive.

Further reading
Jordan Dempsey dominates disrupted Walter Hayes Trophy final (November 2019)
Jonathan Browne wins Formula Ford Festival in dominant style (October 2019)
What drivers could learn from Jamie Chadwick’s FF1600 return (October 2019)
Bernard Dolan: making stars of the future using lessons from the past (February 2019)
Denmark: doing single-seaters differently (December 2018)