Home Featured 2021 International Formula Ford season review

2021 International Formula Ford season review

by Ida Wood

Photos: Bruno Ribeiro

There were big names who took part in the end-of-year classics, but there was still a decent quality of young drivers who contested the regular races in Formula Ford in its varieties across the globe in 2021

United Kingdom

The BRSCC National FF1600 season may have started with pole for Chris Middlehurst, but his round one at Donington Park was otherwise a disaster. In race one he finished 10th after a spin in the wet, was lapped in race two and then retired from race three. His main rival Alex Walker meanwhile picked up a third and two wins after B-M Racing’s Rory Smith won the opener.

Walker’s winning form continued into Knockhill after a ding-dong battle with Middlehurst. They traded the lead several times until the race was red flagged when Walker’s team-mate Megan Gilkes stopped, and that meant the results were put back a lap and handed victory to Walker as he was ahead at the time.

They scrapped again in race two, which awarded the David Leslie Trophy, and this time Middlehurst was the winner. At this point he was 79 points back from Walker, with less than half of the points of the championship leader.

The pair were initially overshadowed in round three on Silverstone’s National layout, as category legend Joey Foster took pole by a massive 0.4 seconds. He then fought Road to Indy eSeries champion Max Esterson for the win until a collision between the pair spun Foster down the order, and brought Middlehurst and Walker into contention.

Esterson just pipped Middlehurst at the line for his maiden win, but received a five-place grid penalty for race two due to his Foster clash.

Leading at the end of lap one of race two was Kevin Mills Racing’s Tom Mills, and he stayed up front until halfway through the race a mistake dropped him behind Middlehurst. He regained his lead, only for team-mate Walker to get by as Esterson and Foster joined the action.

Photo: Jim Moir

Esterson moved past Middlehurst into third, but hit Walker’s rear as he challenged for second. Walker was sent out of control into Middlehurst, then into Esterson too, and the championship leader retired with suspension damage.

Middlehurst emerged damage-free, and regained the lead after Mills ran wide at Brooklands on the penultimate lap. He then held off Foster by just 0.086s to win. Esterson won the reversed-grid race three and took the points lead from Walker, who climbed from the back to finish eighth.

Middlehurst fended off poleman Esterson to win race one victory at Anglesey, while Walker dropped more points with a penalty for jumping the start leaving him in fifth. Race two was a repeat result at the top, with Walker in third, then Esterson opened up an even larger points gap in race three as he came second behind first-time winner Jamie Sharp while Walker was a distant seventh.

Walker returned to form at Brands Hatch, passing Esterson to win race one, then came off better from a clash with him in race two to finish fourth as Smith led Sharp in a B-M Racing one-two in the wet. Single-seater rookie Mills then did a defensive job in race three to finish second as Walker won by 8.278s and took back the championship lead by a single point from Esterson, who had to come from 15th on the grid to finish sixth. With two rounds to go, Middlehurst was 24 points behind.

The gap grew as Walker took pole at Oulton Park, then converted it into a controlling win over Esterson as Middlehurst came 10th after contact with Smith spun him around. Walker did it again, even more crushingly, in race two as Middlehurst finished sixth. In a wet race three Middlehurst came to the fore to win, but Walker extended his points lead.

Middlehurst was a massive 64 points back with three races to go, leaving 104 points left to score, but with each driver having to drop their four lowest-scoring races from before the final round it meant he actually went to the Snetterton finale just 38 points behind and with Esterson only 10 ahead of him. A title-deciding detail.

Photo: Steve Whitfield

Pole at Snetterton was taken by Walker, going 0.066s faster than Middlehurst with Mills and FF1600 icon and returnee Niall Murray third and fourth. Esterson’s fastest lap was deleted and he ended up qualifying fifth.

Middlehurst led the early running of race one until Mills gave Walker a hurry-up to get ahead, and ultimately win. He then battled with Murray for the second, and the latter took the position but as a guest driver was ineligible to score and so extra points were earned for Middlehurst and Esterson in fifth and sixth.

Race two began at the start of a rain shower, and Mills took a big lead as Walker slid onto the grass while Middlehurst cleared Team Dolan team-mate Murray for third and then passed Walker quickly too.

Murray briefly lost out to Esterson, but fought back and got down the inside of Walker. They went side-by-side until contact was made as they crossed a puddle. There was then a second hit and Murray ran Walker off the road with Walker going over Murray’s rear wheels as he tried to turn on the grass. Murray survived to finish sixth, but Walker had to park up later on.

Mills took a dominant maiden win in the shortened five-lap race ahead of Middlehurst and Esterson, meaning Walker went into the title decider 20 points clear of Esteron and 23 ahead of Middlehurst.

On the reversed grid it was Esterson who was the best placed in sixth, while Walker was down in 12th.

By the end of lap one it was Middlehurst who was the leader of the trio, and Walker in the middle as Esterson went off. Foster was the race leader, ahead of Murray and Team USA scholar Andre Castro.

Walker’s climb up the order was ended shortly after when he went to pass Dolan’s Morgan Quinn around the outside of Riches. They collided, and both went into the barriers.

This didn’t interrupt the race, but lifted Esterson up to 11th and put Middlehurst in position to steal the title. He gained a spot by passing Esterson’s Low Dempsey Racing team-mate Colin Queen, then moved into fourth when Castro fell down the order.

Foster had succumbed to Dolan’s Murray, Mills and Middlehurst by mid-distance, putting Middlehurst on the podium. He didn’t have the pace to challenge race winner Murray or Mills, and took the title in third place. Esterson recovered to eighth but dropped to third in the standings despite being the highest scorer over the year. He at least claimed some redemption in November by winning the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone, and was the first Champion of Snetterton early in the year.

Walker took the Champion of Donington honours on the side, but didn’t attend the FFord Festival or WHT after being totally disenfranchised by FF1600 with how the National championship finale had played out and the dropped score rule.

Souley Motorsport’s Jack Wolfenden won the BRSCC Northern title as the only driver to do five of the six rounds, while team-mate Ollie White claimed the Castle Combe crown after a season-long rivalry with Luke Cooper.

There were multiple Champion of Brands events (they will combine in a series in 2022), and the first was dominated by Matt Rivett in a Van Diemen RF91. White did the double in August, and Murray did the same in September as he debuted his upgraded 2021-spec Van Diemen BD21. The final two wins went to GB4-bound team Oldfield Motorsport’s Lucas Romanek. A second Snetterton event was held with a depleted grid, and won by Dolan’s rookie Ben Cochran.

Scottish FFord returned after a year off and Jordan Gronkowski claimed a second successive title before retiring from FF1600, while former Formula Regional Asian Championship star Jordan Dempsey was victorious in Northern Irish FF1600. Ivor McCullough won the post-season Martin Donnelly Trophy race.

United States

Photo: FRP

Global Racing Team’s racer and driver coach Trent Walko has been winning in F2000 Championship Series since 2016, but never really shown the form he had this year as a run of four wins across Pittsburgh, Road America and Summit Point established a successful title charge.

Over in the west, Pacific F2000 was narrowly won by Robert Armington despite missing two rounds. Peter West scored more points but as the only full-time entrant had to drop some and it meant he repeated his 2019 title runner-up spot.

USF2000 star Simon Sikes made his FF2000 return in the Formula Continental element of the SCCA National Runoff on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course and beat Walko to victory. Walko was then removed from the results and it left Sikes 26.215s in the clear.

Team Pelfrey’s Nicholas d’Orlando, brother of Sike’s USF2000 rival Michael, won the Honda-powered F1600 Championship Series. Over a 24-race campaign he dropped only three points despite winning half of the season’s races and making the podium in six others.

The first race of the year at Carolina Motorsports Park went to Ax Kametches after an incident between Joey Brienza and d’Orlando while disputing the lead led to the pair of them retiring. At Mid-Ohio, reigning champion Sikes made a comeback and won all three races, then Jonathan Lee turned pole into victory in race one at Barber Motorsports Park before d’Orlando took another two wins. He repeated that feat at Pittsburgh, then won once at Road America. Five wins in the remaining three rounds meant he wrapped up the title early, then for the National Runoffs’ Formula F competition he was absent and 2019 F1600 champion Jonathan Kotyk took a dominant 20.371s win ahead of Sikes.


Photo: FFord.org.au

Thomas Sargent was the name on everyone’s lips this year, and the 20-year-old impressed so much that he’s now set to move up to sportscars and onto a career trajectory that could take him to the professional ranks within a few years. He also bagged a Supercars test from his FFord exploits.

He dominated the four-round Australian FFord championship, winning nine of the 11 races. In round one at Sydney Motorsport Park he was unbeatable, and led lights-to-flag in race one at Wakefield Park which was also part of the New South Wales state championship. A double victory was denied by Cody Burcher, who hunted Sargent down and passed him at the last corner of the last lap to win.

Race three was set to initially go Sargent’s way too, before a massive airborne crash between two cars led to red flags and no results being declared for the national championship. Round three at Winton was postponed, while restrictions meant only the Victorian state entrants could attend round four at Sandown and so the national championship was pulled from the bill. It then got postponed too, while the Queensland Raceway and Phillip Island rounds got called off entirely.

Racing finally returned in mid-November at Winton, with Sargent winning two races from three. He was denied a lockout by Cody Donald, who punted his rear after a safety car restart in race two. That promoted Jordyn Sinni to a first win.

Sargent had the title in the bag ahead of the rearranged Phillip Island finale though, where he proved unbeatable again.

More rounds were rearranged in the Victorian championship and Sargent dominated, while Brendan Jones was similarly crushing in the FF1600 classification. In one round he only had one other car to beat.

Sargent was also in contention to win the NSW title, with Zack Bates and Cameon McLeod level on points and Sargent only two behind going into the double-points final round at Wakefield earlier this month. He didn’t attend the three-race event though, meaning he dropped to fifth in the standings.

Jude Bargwanna just won race one of the weekend ahead of McLeod and Bates, then had a more comfortable victory margin in race two as Bates put himself ahead for the title decider by finishing second to McLeod’s fourth.

The title was decided in a straight victory fight between the two in race three, and Bates triumphed.

Western Australia crowned Craig Jorgensen and Simon Matthews as its Gold Star and Silver Star champions respectively.

New Zealand

You may be hearing more about James Penrose in 2022, at least briefly, as the reigning NZ FFord champion will drive in the Toyota Racing Series’ sole event: the New Zealand Grand Prix.

The season was shortened to just three rounds, all in 2021 and all single-day events. The series combined grids with North Island FFord for the Hampton Downs season opener, and Matthew McCutcheon took pole by 0.701s over Penrose. He was swamped at the start of race one though and had to battle his way back into victory contention. Despite a pace advantage, he couldn’t overcome Penrose who won by 0.064s. In third was TRS race-winner and soon to be USF2000 racer Billy Frazer.

Race two was also a McCutcheon/Penrose fight, and this time some strong overtaking earned McCutcheon victory by 0.022s. Penrose was then penalised five seconds post-race, but still came second. Race three was a marginally more open battle for the pair, in that they finished 0.032s apart and with McCutcheon ahead.

The two series combined again at Pukehoke, and McCutcheon set another impressive pole lap. Penrose pushed him hard in race one, finishing 0.060s behind, and was 0.064s back in race two. He beat his rival in race three, by 0.011s, and went into the national finale at Ruapuna, which was combining with South Island FFord, 20 points behind McCutcheon.

Photo: FF NZ

More than 60 cars turned up for the decider, and Penrose on his turf took pole while McCutcheon qualified ninth. The hard-earned title advantage was flipped after race one as Penrose won and McCutcheon could only come sixth, but fastest lap did put him on race two pole. Penrose made a better start and led into the opening corner though, and won the penultimate race.

McCutcheon’s hopes were lifted by being on pole again for the decider, but Penrose again took the lead on lap one. The chasing McCutcheon couldn’t quite respond and Penrose claimed all the honours with victory. He immediately praised his rival post-race for their season-long battle.

Afterwards was the NZ FFord Festival race, with Australia having to cancel its equivalent, taking on the top 30 cars from earlier in the day. Penrose won again, and earned a Formula 4 test with Carlin as a result, and McCutcheon came second ahead of 1994-95 NZ FFord champion Shane Drake. Penrose’s prize was also supposed to include a FFord Festival drive.

After a practical merger this year, the NI and SI series organisers will now officially collaborate to run the national championship, and it was actually McCutcheon (North) and Penrose (South) who were the 2021 island champions.


The Ontario-based Toyo Tires F1600, another Honda-powered series, was won this year by Megan Gilkes’ younger brother Nick. At the end of the year they both raced in the FFord Festival.

Gilkes started his season at Mosport with pole by almost a second, but he was pipped to victory in the season opener by Team Canada scholar Jonathan Woolridge. Sam Baker then finished ahead of both in races and three.

The circuit also hosted the wet round two, and again Gilkes was sublime in qualifying. This time he could convert pole into victory in race one, but was pipped by Baker in race two and then Woolridge was second-best to Baker in race three as a trip across the grass after going three-wide left Gilkes down in seventh.

Photo: Toyo Tires F1600

The lengthy Calabogie hosted round three, and Gilkes’ qualifying advantages continued to grow as this time he took pole by 1.311s. But in a race filled with caution periods he was beaten to victory by Jack Polito, then Woolridge pipped him in the other two encounters.

All of the season’s second half took place at Mosport, and on the first of those return trips Baker snatched pole from Gilkes by 0.005s. His response was to obliterate the field in race one, but in a shortened second race which had a four-car lead battle he came third but just 0.883s behind winner Woolridge. Fastest lap earned Jake Cowden pole for race three, which had red flags after a Woolridge crash collected several other cars. Cowden won the restarted race by passing Gilkes on the last lap.

The Gilkes clan did the triple in round five, with Nick resoundingly winning race ones and two. His sister Megan turned up, set the fastest Mosport lap of the season, and won race three.

Cowden took pole for the final round, but Gilkes’ race form has been boosted and he took an astonshingly dominant triple win to become champion. He didn’t have a chance to add the F1600 Super Series to his CV as that was cancelled due to COVID-19, but he did turn up to Quebec’s Formula Tour 1600 and won there.

Its season kicked off at Mont-Tremblant and Gilkes beat Cowden in a photo finish in the opening race. He also won race two, while Didier Schraenen, who is in his 60s, won race three. At the famed Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, Gilkes took pole and claimed three street circuit victories.


The FF1600 Trophy gets to race at some great tracks, and this year the series took in five different circuits and joined in with the Marcel Albers Memorial Trophy at Zandvoort where Pascal Monbaron led a John’s Racing Team one-two in both races and the French Grand Prix Historic at Paul Ricard where teenager Christopher Aimable (below) just held on for a double win.

Photo: Trophee FF Kent

Aimable also claimed a win in the Albi season opener of the French series, but didn’t appear again.

Eric Heudicourt and John Svensson put 1800cc Zetec cars at the front in the two Dijon races, as Nicolas Belouu did the FF1600 double at Dijon. The few FF1800 cars had the advantage again at Val de Vienne, as Marco Gerarduzzi won race one, but Gislain Genecand claimed race two though ahead of Arnaud Dousse.

At the tricky Charade circuit, Dousse won race one then Genecand smashed everyone in race two. That form continued into the Ledenon season finale, as two FF1600 wins for Genecand brought him past Beloou to the top of the championship.


The confusingly named Single Seater Series shared its FFord grids with winged cars this year ahead of a planned Formula Libre format for 2022, and there were some recognisable faces driving.

A sodden Braga hosted round one in April, and crack Prema engineer Pedro Matos led the opening race lights-to-flag in tricky conditions. He lost positions from pole on lap one of race two, and Antonio Correia took his Funspeed car to victory on a drier track but a recovering Matos did chase him down at the end. Correia then had to fend off Matos again to win race three.

Round two was at Estoril in September, and pole was taken by Duarte Pires – sharing his car with Fernando Mayer Gaspar – with Joao Silva a second slower on the other side of the front row. Gaspar took to the wheel for race one and won by seven seconds ahead of Silva, then Pires just won race two after losing the lead to Silva mid-race.

A return trip to Estoril in November ended the season, and Miguel Matos was fastest in free practice in a Griiip G1 single-seater ahead of deceased American gangster and Formula Renault 2.0-driving Al Capone (who was actually Miguel Abreu).

The top FFord car was Gaspar, 16s off the pace. He found an easy route to pole though as mechanical issues inflicted Matos and Capone and stopped them from qualifying, and then from pole he won by a massive 17s and set the fastest lap. Pires was back in the car for race two and just beat Silva to victory after both he and Correia got past early on.

Silva won the FF1800 title, and Dennis Hauger’s engineer Matos won the Kent-80 title in FF1600.

South Africa

South African F1600 had big plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and it included 250,000 rand and a test in a Formula Renault 3.5 car for the champion.

Andrew Rackstraw was the recipient of those rewards, as he romped to 11 wins out of 12. His first double win was at Killarney, followed up with another at Zwartkops where rookie Josh le Roux stayed in his mirrors through race two.

At the Aldo Scribante circuit he set a new lap record in race one en route to another double win, then at East London he was on pole by half a second but was convincingly beaten to race one victory by Jarrod Waberski who took the lead off a very strong start. It was Rackstraw’s only defeat of the year, and was historic as it was the first single-seater win for DAW Racing since Waberski’s father Garth won in Formula GTi in 1992. Rackstraw’s pole lap had also matched Jack Brabham’s from the 1966 South African Grand Prix (a non-championship Formula 1 race at the time).

Another lap record came at Red Star Raceway, then Rackstraw was finally beaten in qualifying in the Zwartkops season finale by le Roux. The races went the way of the champion though to cap off a near-perfect season.