Home Featured 2020 International Formula Ford season review

2020 International Formula Ford season review

by Elliot Wood

Photo: Jack Elleker

With less races able to take place, entry lists grew at the events that could run in the Formula Ford world. There were lots of returning faces, and a few new names who are already rising up the single-seater ladder

Australia

There was no national championship in Australia this year, cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent inter-state travel restrictions, but the state series themselves still tried their best to go ahead once drivers were allowed to return to racing.

Victoria was one of the most successful, although its running was still very limited and no champions were crowned.

“We had one round of the Victorian Formula Ford Championship in February and we then organised a Kent [FF1600]-only meeting at Sandown after restrictions eased in November. We were also able to have historic cars at Phillip Island in March just before the coronavirus crisis started,” the championship told Formula Scout.

New South Wales started its season on August 1 with a triple-header at Sydney Motorsport Park, and Thomas Sargent won all three races. It returned there in mid-November, and Sargent was denied another triple win by just 0.3157 seconds by Cody Burcher – who starred in Australian FFord’s official Esports series.

The season finale took place at Wakefield Park in mid-December, and Burcher headed Sargent again to win the first race. Schoolkid Noah Sands won the final two, but Sargent still sealed the FF1800 title while Mitch Gatenby was FF1600 champion for the second year in a row.

Western Australia FF1600 also successfully got its season underway by June at Wanneroo Raceway, where Joshua Matthews won the season-opening race and then Craig Jorgensen claimed a double success to lead by nine points. It returned there for four more rounds, with Matthews winning five more races, Mark Pickett winning four, Jorgensen winning one and Andrew Malkin two – including the opening race of the November season finale by just 0.0252s.

Photo: WA Formula Ford

Matthews, who did the triple in round four, was crowned champion ahead of Pickett and Jorgsensen.

The South Australian series managed to hold a five-race round at Mallala, with its cars competing in open formula races on the weekend’s bill. Matthew Roesler won the first four, and Paul Di Biase claimed the finale.

The same occurred for another five-race round at The Bend Motorsport Park, this time even sharing the track with sportscars, and Roesler went unbeaten to make it nine wins out of 10 for the season.

Canada

Rather than even attempt at having a proper national series, Canada has just had championships in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec for F1600 – which utilise Ford and Honda engines.

The Ontario-based Toyo Tires F1600 got going after much delay at Mosport in July, and ex-W Series racer Megan Gilkes beat Mac Clark to pole by a tiny 0.051s.

Clark took the lead on the opening lap of race one, with 2019 Team Canada scholar Jonathan Woolridge slotting into third behind Gilkes. After almost eight laps of hassling, Gilkes finally reclaimed first place but Clark took it back a lap later and led to the finish ahead of Gilkes and Woolridge for his first win.

Again it was Gilkes on pole but Clark who led at the end of the first lap of race two, but it took less time for Gilkes to find a way back past this time. They traded positions almost every lap in the second half of the race and Clark snatched the win on the final lap. Woolridge again finished third. The weekend ended with another final lap pass for another Clark win over Gilkes, and a thrilling title rivalry to look forward to.

Photo: Toyo Tires F1600

In round two at the circuit the grid had grown to 21 cars, and this time Clark won the qualifying battle.

Gilkes got to pass Clark on lap one on this occasion for the race one lead, and the pair pulled away from the field with Woolridge in pursuit. Their domination wasn’t to last though.

At the end of a caution period, Clark tried passing Gilkes and Woolridge lined up both. Gilkes tried defending the inside, Clark went even further inside and Woolridge went to the outside. The result was a multi-car crash which had Gilkes briefly in the sky, Woolridge in the barriers and Clark pitting for new tyres.

Sam Baker inherited the lead, and after another caution period had just one lap of racing to secure his first win. But at the very last corner there was contact from behind and Baker spun, and national snowmobile racing champion Jack Polito came through to win. The next day he was summoned to the stewards though, having overtaken under full course yellows earlier in the race. He was penalised as a result, and it was Connor Wagland who became a first-time winner as a result by 0.051s.

The damage to Gilkes’ car ruled her out of race two, which Woolridge led before fading to third behind Clark and Polito after setting a new lap record. Clark dominated the final race of the weekend, with Gilkes ruled out again.

The renovated Shannonville Motorsport Park hosted round three, and Clark dominated the circuit’s opening race from pole.

A greasy track initially provided Gilkes with a lead advantage in race two, but an error dropped her to third and Clark won again. He made it five wins in a row with victory by 20.328s in race three.

The return to Mosport brought more Clark success, as well as title success with a round to go. He comfortably won all three races, and didn’t hold back two weeks later in the season finale at the circuit as he once again did the triple – with two of his wins over Gilkes coming in at over 20s.

Photo: F1600 Canada

Quebec’s Formula Tour 1600 kicked off at Mont-Tremblant, owned by Racing Point patron Lawrence Stroll, and it was Dominique Legrand and Jacob Moreau who took the first two wins of the season. The second visit to the circuit was the scene of more domination by Clark, who took pole and victory in race one, then did the same in race two. Legrand struck back to win by 0.281s in race three, the season finale, and become champion as a result.

France

FF1800 class driver Arnaud Dousse won the opening two races of the FF1600 Trophy season at Albi, with Monaco’s Geoffroy Horion – the 1994 European FFord runner-up – the top driver in both races in a car actually run with a 1600cc Kent engine.

The grids were split for round two at Dijon, and Horion won both FF1600 races. FF1800 was joined by FF2000 and Max Wutke was a dominant double winner.

They were merged again at the tricky Charade circuit, but the FF1600 cars were triumphant both times thanks to Horion and Gislain Genecand.

The FF1800 struck back on the long straights of Nogaro, with Augustin Sanjuan powering his way to a double win.

Dousse returned to the overall top step in race one at Val de Vienne, before the Van Diemen RF92-driving Horion beat the whole field to win race two. Horion and Dousse were crowned as the Kent and Zetec champions there, but the drivers returned to track for one more racing event at Le Mans where they joined up with Historic FFord France.

2010 FF1600 Trophy champion Nicolas Beloou dominated the first of the FF1600 races, prompting Horion to respond in race two and take victory by 0.358s.

Lotus’s Sarene Ziffel – who previously represented Bentley in her racing exploits – outduelled Dousse to win the first of the equivalent FF1800 bouts by a tiny 0.123s. She had no answer to him in race two though, finishing 25.924s behind.

Photo: Trophee FF Kent

New Zealand

By running its national championship over two calendar years, New Zealand mostly avoided the impact of the pandemic. However the 2019-20 season still started with limited racing taking place.

James Penrose converted pole into victory in the opening race of the season at Pukehoke, but just five corners into the race an incident occurred that required the appearance of the safety car. Attempts to then send the safety car back to the pits so racing could resume proved chaotic, with lights being shown incorrectly and then the safety car itself appearing on track in the wrong place. Less than a lap of green-flag action was completed.

Normality resumed in the remaining two races of that weekend, with Billy Frazer winning both.

Thomas Boniface almost won all three races of round two at Manfeild, coming just 0.106s short of Callum Crawley in race one and battled his way to victory in the other two. On the final lap of race three Crawley tried to pass Boniface for the lead but ended up in the gravel. The stewards deemed the clash a racing incident.

Frazer hunted down Crawley to win the opening race at Teretonga, the first round to take place in 2020, and he repeated his triumph in race two. He was denied a shot at a triple win when he failed to make it to the grid in time for race three, requiring him to start from the pitlane, and Penrose took the victory.

At Hampton Downs the first and third races went to Frazer, but the middle encounter was full of drama before it even began.

Penrose discovered pre-race he had a collapsed bearing in his gearbox, and he was effectively donated another driver’s car so he could start the race – albeit from the back of the grid. Boniface led throughout but his engine was smoking and on the final lap it blew up in sight of the finish. Frazer and Crawley came up either side of him and the cars were three-wide at the finish. Boniface somehow won, ahead of Frazer then Crawley, while Penrose finished fifth.

Photo: Tayler Burke

The points lead went to Frazer next time out at Pukehoke, where Boniface started the weekend with a win but was then disqualified due to damage picked up in the race putting his car outside of the technical regulations. Frazer inherited the win and the points lead, but his fortunes then flipped in race two when he collided with Penrose.

Boniface then looked set for a redemptive win before a final lap clash with Zac Stichbury that put him in the barriers, and it was Crawley who ended up victor. Fraser won what ended up being the final race of the season, as April’s Hampton Downs round was called off due to the pandemic.

The South Island championship also ran over two years, and started with a triple win for Bailey Paterson at Ruapuna. He added another two wins at Timaru, where eventual champion Jack Noble-Adams picked up his first, and was on the podium for all three races on the return trip to Ruapuna when interlopers Penrose and reigning champion Josh Bethune took control.

Paterson then skipped round four at Teretonga, where there was some spectacular incidents and Cameron Freeman moved into the points lead despite not yet winning a race. The final three rounds took place in 2020, and Frazer turned up and dominated the first two at Highlands Motorsport Park and Teretonga. Frazer’s win from pole in the first Highlands race was the first ever sanctioned FFord race at the circuit.

Noble-Adams and Paterson moved bast Freeman at the top of the points after Teretonga, with Noble-Adams having finished in second place in each of the last five races. But Paterson would be absent again for the Ruapuna season finale.

Noble-Adams returned to the top step in race one of the Ruapuna season finale, then finished second to Matt Butchart in race two. This put him 42 points clear of Freeman ahead of the title decider, more than the points usually available for a race win. But the all-important race would count for double points.

In the end that did’t make an impact, as Noble-Adams made a great launch off the line to lead and then hold off Freeman for the win and the title.

Over on the North Island, Crawley beat Frazer to the title. Frazer will be stepping up to the Toyota Racing Series in 2021, and his rival Crawley could join him.

Portugal

Portugal’s FFord series had to drop the manufacturer from its name this year, and was rebranded as… Single Seater Series.

After Danish Formula 4 it was the second single-seater series to get going again after lockdown, and started with a triple-header at the Algarve circuit in July. Reigning champion Antonio Almeida controlled the first race after rival Antonio Correia had start issues, then in race two he just held him off for a second win. Rosario Sotto-Mayor, who was series champion in 1993, got injured in race one but she ended up winning the final race of the weekend ahead of Almeida – although racing in her weakened condition was eased somewhat by much of the action taking place behind the safety car.

Round two took place at Estoril in September, and Almeida was quickest in qualifying. He dropped down the order at the start of the first and second races of the weekend though, meaning he wasn’t a victory contender.

In race one he sunk to fourth in the opening laps, before then being pincered by two other cars and escaping mostly unscathed in seventh. He stayed behind close to those two drivers though, and passed both at once at the first corner to rise back up to fifth, with fourth place becoming his not long after when a car ahead crashed out. Hugo Hernandez was the winner, ahead of Duarte Pires – returning to the series after two years out – and Joao Silva.

The recovery drive from the poor start went better for Almeida in race two, as he fought his way up to second behind Pires.

Photo: Bruno Ribeiro

It was another Almeida pole and another Pires win in race three, although this time Almeida didn’t mess up his start. Instead he was passed by Pires down the pit straight a few laps in, but a to-be-lapped backmarker enabled Almeida to reclaim the lead in a move reminiscent of Mika Hakkinen at Spa-Francorchamps as he and Pires went either side of the car and Almeida emerged from the move in the lead.

The top two continued to battle, and Pires repeated his overtake going into the final lap. It got close but Almeida couldn’t find a way back ahead before the chequered flag.

Tightening pandemic restrictions meant the Algarve circuit was called upon again to host the title decider. The first race was only classified as two laps long after Correia spilled oil on track, and Ricardo Leitao was the winner.

Rain then hit race two, and Leitao won again in pressing style. The final race ran for double points, and Almeida won the title with a return to the top step after Leitao retired with engine issues.

South Africa

De facto the lead single-seater series in Africa, South African F1600 had planned to award its 2020 champion a Formula Renault test in Europe this year, but it only managed to get one round in before national lockdown arrived.

The action at that Zwarkops event was exciting though, and it began with Andrew Rackstraw taking a double pole. The grid had a variety of experience, ranging from series boss Ian Schofield down to 14-year old Jarrod Waberski.

Rackstraw led the opening race for a few laps, before an error allowed Nicholas van Weely through and to ultimately take the win. Waberski finished his first race in cars in an impressive sixth.

Photo: Paul Bedford / Action Images

After his race one mistake, Rackstraw made up for it by taking a comfortable victory in race two over van Weely.

A third race was added to the weekend, and with a reversed grid too, leaving Schofield on pole in his secondary class car. Schofield successfully navigated the first lap without losing a position, while Waberski picked up damage and Rackstraw ended his race with an off.

The action behind the leader continued and Schofield ended up taking his first overall win in South Africa since the end of apartheid. Antwan Geldenhuys finished second and Waberski in an even more impressive third after holding off van Weely.

It was van Weely who ended the weekend with the championship lead over Rackstraw, but there was no more proper F1600 racing until the invitational competition at Red Star Raceway’s Extreme Festival in September where he fought hard with 2017 F1600 champion Julien van der Watt. After being narrowly defeated in the first race of the meeting, he struck back with a dominant win in race two.

The South African single-seater scene was tinged with sadness this year not only because of the reduced racing, but also after the passing of Donny Lamola. In May she was admitted to hospital, where she sadly passed away.

Lamola, a regular in F1600 for some years, was involved in a serious accident in late 2017 that resulted in a lacunar stroke deep in the brain and had her hospitalised for three months. The 24-year-old was back in the paddock by early 2018, and had returned to her work as a coach of a youth football team she had created herself. At the end of the year, she returned to track in a F1600 car in a hot lap at former Formula 1 track Kyalami, and in 2019 she was back in karts too in an inspirational recovery.

Lamola leading her Kyalami hot lap

United Kingdom

The BRSCC National FF1600 season was stripped down to just three events in 2020, all alongside the BRSCC Northern championship focused on older cars, and they were all spectacular to watch.

Wet weather impacted the two-race Oulton Park season opener, where there was a stunning 34-car grid out to race. Neil Maclennan got slightly lucky to win the first race from pole, after a safety car interruption denied Rory Smith the option of overtaking him for the lead and then a red flag brought the results back a lap after Smith did get through. Photo finishes decided some of the positions further down the order.

Maclennan, Smith, Chris Middlehurst and Jonathan Browne all ran side-by-side as they fought over the lead in race two, with backmarkers helping to keep them together, and Maclennan just held on to win again.

Team USA scholar Bryce Aron took pole for the second round at Brands Hatch Indy, and Maclennan had to rise up the order to beat 2013 FRenault BARC champion Middlehurst and reigning National FF1600 champion Ross Martin.

Maclennan should have had it easier from pole in race two, but he was passed by Middlehurst who went on to win despite a clash with a backmarker. Starting further back seemed to suit Maclennan more as he also won the reversed grid race three.

Work commitments meant Middlehurst missed the finale on Silverstone’s International layout, and after lots of frantic battling it was Maclennan who won both races there and the title. His sensational form continued into Brands’ FFord Festival, and he was running in second behind Smith in the final before crashing out. After a safety car pause and a three-lap shootout to the finish, Smith was crowned winner ahead of Browne and British GT4 star Matt Cowley.

The Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone a week later was marred by a horrific crash, but there was a popular winner in Ollie White and Joey Foster once again showed why he’s one of the best FFord racers of all time with victory charges in the wet.

The Scottish Renegades Cup replaced the cancelled Scottish FFord season, and Logan Hannah made history when she won the David Leslie Trophy at Knockhill. David McCullough won the Northern Irish title for the second year in a row.

Luke Cooper won Castle Combe‘s title and Carnival race, while Browne was a regular winner of the Champion of Brands races.

United States

For the third time in four years, Brandon Dixon was the F2000 Championship Series champion after going unbeaten in the first half of the season and ending the year with nine wins out of 12, while Mitch Regadas finished second despite not winning a race at all. Robert Allaer won the SCCA National Runoff in Formula Continental for the same type of cars.

Tom Hope won the West Coast-based Pacific F2000 title for a second time, following up his 2015 success.

The F1600 Championship Series performances of Simon Sikes earned him Team USA scholar status and a USF2000 debut before the end of the year, and he took a best finish of fourth from his brief stint in the Road to Indy.

In the end he comfortably won the F1600 title, heading karting graduate Dylan Christie and Dexter Czuba, and also was the SCCA National Runoff winner in Formula F.

Jackson Lee took two F1600 wins but missed a third of the season and ended up fourth in the points, this coming as his Team USA scholar status meant he went to England to race in the National FF1600 finale and the end-of-year classics, with his best result of 10th coming in the FFord Festival final.

Joining him in making the flight across the pond was Maxwell Esterson, who took one F1600 win and was 14th in the WHT.

Photo: F1600 Championship Series