Ammonite Motorsport’s Max Esterson and B-M Racing’s Jamie Sharp took pole for the opening two heats as qualifying got underway for the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
Damp conditions greeted the drivers as the first session got underway, with a few early spinners at Surtees.
And it was FFord returnee Esterson that led the way with an impressive pace, taking over at the top of the timesheet early on from 2022 National FF1600 champion Jordan Dempsey.
GB3 race-winner Esterson continued to improve, ending with a best lap of 58.247 seconds to lead Kevin Mills Racing’s Dempsey by a huge 0.438s.
Team Dolan’s Morgan Quinn was third quickest, having briefly displaced Dempsey for second. Rory Smith, who won the Festival in 2020, was 0.058s behind Quinn in fourth place for B-M Racing and Team Canada scholar Kevin Foster qualified fifth on his Festival debut for Graham Brunton Racing.
Team DDR’s Ivor McCullough sat in sixth before losing two positions to Norway’s Christer Otterstrom (isiRacing) and Team USA scholar Elliott Budzinski (Ammonite) late on. TM Racing’s Tom Hawkins and British GT racer Matt Cowley (Dolan) rounded out the top 10.
The red flags were brought out no sooner than heat two qualifying had started, with Hawke driver Bob Lambert sliding into the gravel at Clearways.
Sharp set the pace once green flag running resumed before being briefly displaced by Ammonite’s Team USA scholar Thomas Schrage. Past Festival winners Joey Foster and Niall Murray both had a short spell at the top before Sharp set a 58.274s to edge Murray by 0.005s.
The chequered flag was waved with one minute remaining after Ian Jeary spun off in his Dulon LD9.
Schrage ended up third ahead of Foster and KMR’s Roberto Moreno protege Cadu Bonini. William Lowing was sixth ahead of Cameron Jackson, while Oldfield Motorsport’s Lucas Romanek was eighth.
Post-session, several drivers had laptimes disallowed for not slowing under yellow flag conditions, and as a result Schrage dropped from third to fourth, Bonini went from fifth to ninth, and Jackson went from seventh to eighth. Foster now starts third for heat two, and Pascal Monbaron jumps from ninth to sixth on the grid.
Sharp was one of the drivers who also had his fastest lap deleted, but it had no impact on his pole position.
Heat 1 grid
1 Max Esterson Ammonite Motorsport 58.247s
2 Jordan Dempsey Kevin Mills Racing +0.438s
3 Morgan Quinn Team Dolan +0.643s
4 Rory Smith B-M Racing +0.701s
5 Kevin Foster Graham Brunton Racing +1.149s
6 Christer Otterstrom isiRacing +1.326s
7 Elliott Budzinski Ammonite Motorsport +1.328s
8 Ivor McCullough Team DDR +1.373s
9 Tom Hawkins TM Racing +1.529s
10 Matt Cowley Team Dolan +2.725s
Heat 2 grid
1 Jamie Sharp B-M Racing 58.274s
2 Niall Murray Team Dolan +0.030s
3 Joey Foster Don Hardman Racing +0159s
4 Thomas Schrage Ammonite Motorsport +0.361s
5 William Lowing Souley Motorsport +0.812s
6 Pascal Monbaron John’s Racing Team +1.232s
7 Lucas Romanek Oldfield Motorsport +1.272s
8 Cameron Jackson Neil Fowler Motorsport +1.281s
9 Cadu Bonini Kevin Mills Racing +1.397s
10 Chris Goodwin PA Motorsport +1.579s