Home Formula Ford Middlehurst and Romanek share United FFord spoils at Donington Park

Middlehurst and Romanek share United FFord spoils at Donington Park

by Steve Whitfield

Photo: Ida Wood

Team Dolan’s Chris Middlehurst won the season-opening United Formula Ford race at Donington Park, but mechanical failure handed race two victory to Lucas Romanek.

Middlehurst, the 2021 BRSCC National FF1600 champion, raced less last year after his car was heavily damaged in Dolan’s factory fire.

And he wasted no time in getting up to speed in his rebuilt Van Diemen in race one, making a great launch from fourth to be second at Redgate before taking the lead away from poleman Romanek.

Elliott Budzinski also moved ahead of Romanek before the end of lap one, with Brandon McCaughan also getting involved in the battle, while Middlehurst took advantage to pull almost 1.5 seconds clear.

Budzinski’s Ammonite Motorsport team-mate Nolan Allaer joined the squabble for second, but was ran off track and lost a couple of seconds. Budzinski, Romanek and McCaughan started to work together to catch Middlehurst, bringing the deficit down to 0.9s at the halfway stage.

Romanek briefly lost third to McCaughan before reclaiming the position, meanwhile Budzinski was able to break the tow and close to within 0.3s of the lead.

The gap came down further to under 0.2s, but a collision between Adam Fathers and three-time FFord Festival Zetec class winner Neil Tofts at Redgate brought out the yellow flags and prevented Budzinski from challenging, with the chequered flag then waved a lap early.

Middlehurst won by 0.184s, while Romanek prevailed against McCaughan in a thrilling fight for third. McCaughan had wrestled back the position after going wheel-to-wheel with Romanek for several corners, but his Oldfield Motorsport team-mate regained the final podium spot at Macleans a lap later.

Middlehurst was pleased with his return and is planning to do the second round at Silverstone as well as National FF1600.

“In 2021 we ran the car, then it was in a fire, he said. “Apart from the chassis. we lost the rest of the car. We bought another car, a complete one, and used the [original] chassis frame. It feels good.”

Allaer came home in a lonely fifth on his UK racing debut ahead of James Hadfield, while real-world racing debutant Jacob Tofts – son of Neil – recovered from a qualifying mistake to edge Tom Hawkins to seventh in a Medina JL17 sporting the iconic Duckhams livery.

“Ideally we needed a dry day on Friday,” said Tofts Jr, who is a multiple Esports champion. “The only thing I’ve struggled with is the rain, I’ve not got feeling that the karters have, that’s what I’ve lacked. In the dry you have time to feel it and catch it. It’s learning about braking later and sliding in the corners.”

Middlehurst led again in race two ahead of Romanek, but his chances of doing the double were ended after his rear-left upright snapped approaching Old Hairpin, with his driveshaft also failing, putting him into the gravel. Romanek, who by then had a comfortable gap to his rivals behind, inherited a lead he would retain until the finish.

“We had a problem with the car in the first race,” Romanek revealed. “We tinkered with it and fixed it for this race. Middlehurst had a mechanical failure, after that it was just about keeping our heads down.”

Budzinski came home seven seconds behind after prevailing in a fight for second with McCaughan, while Allear improved from race one by finishing close behind in fourth.

“It was fun, very different to what I’m used to in the States,” said Allear, who is planning duel campaigns in United FFord and National FF1600 this year. ”It’s a very competitive class. Pretty happy with it for the first weekend out.”

Tofts Jr improved further in race two by holding off Hadfield and Hawkins for fifth and will continue to compete in United FFord before making his Festival debut at the end of the year.

Results round-up
Race 1 (16 laps)
1 Chris Middlehurst Team Dolan 19m43.230s
2 Elliott Budzinski Ammonite Motorsport +0.184s
3 Lucas Romanek Oldfield Motorsport +6.103s
4 Brandon McCaughan Oldfield Motorsport +6.304s
5 Nolan Allaer Ammonite Motorsport +15.980s
6 James Hadfield Simon Hadfield Motorsport +29.645s
7 Jacob Tofts Souley Motorsport +37.271s
8 Tom Hawkins TM Racing +37.450s
9 Ben Cox Souley Motorsport +42.849s
10 Joe Porter Porter Motorsport +1m13.206s
Pole: Romanek, 1m15.674s
Fastest lap: Budzinski, 1m13.217s

Race 2 (17 laps)
1 Romanek 20m58.584s
2 Budzinski +7.087s
3 McCaughan +10.358s
4 Allaer +10.848s
5 Tofts +27.458s
6 Hadfield +27.674s
7 Hawkins +28.087s
8 Cox +35.401s
9 Adam Fathers AF Racing +58.905s
10 David Porter Porter Motorsport +1 lap
FL: Middlehurst, 1m13.264s