Double Formula Ford Festival winner Niall Murray overcame three other previous Festival victors to dominate the fourth heat of this year’s edition.
Rory Smith, the defending winner, initially got away well from pole but ran wide on the exit of Druids on lap one and dropped to fourth place behind Murray, Kevin Mills Racing’s Neil Maclennan and Ivor McCullough.
Murray then was able to pull away from Maclennan and completely dominate the 12-lap race, which proved to be the fastest of the four heats in easily the best conditions of the day so far.
He was able to open up a gap of 3.586 seconds and take the victory ahead of 2020 National FF1600 champion Maclennan and Smith.
B-M Racing’s Smith was able to get ahead of Team DDR’s McCullough but couldn’t close up to Maclennan at the end.
McCullough finished what became a relatively lonely fourth, as a gap emerged between himself and 1992 Festival winner Jan Magnussen who came out on top of a brilliant battle with W Series race-winner Megan Gilkes and Tom Hawkins for fifth place. It was Magnussen’s first single-seater race this century, and his first FF1600 start (and it was a slow launch with no standing practice in pre-event testing) since his 1992 win.
KMR’s Gilkes and Springbridge Motorsport’s Hawkins were fairly close behind, with Gilkes making the move to nail sixth late into Clearways, and LOH Motorsport’s Robbie Allen chased them in eighth. GT World Challenge Europe regular Chris Goodwin and Drew Stewart rounded out the top 10.
United States Formula 4 runner Jeremy Fairbairn was able to recover after a difficult qualifying to automatically qualify for the semi-finals, and Souley Motorsport’s Chris Acton also went on a recovery drive to take the crucial 12th position after running in the top eight and losing spots late on.
Race results (12 laps)
|1||Niall Murray||Team Dolan||10m23.632s|
|2||Neil Maclennan||Kevin Mills Racing||+3.586s|
|3||Rory Smith||B-M Racing||+4.786s|
|4||Ivor McCullough||Team DDR||+7.393s|
|5||Jan Magnussen||Low Dempsey Racing||+18.179s|
|6||Megan Gilkes||Kevin Mills Racing||+19.309s|
|7||Tom Hawkins||Springbridge Motorsport||+20.941s|
|8||Robbie Allen||LOH Motorsport||+30.389s|
|9||Chris Goodwin||PA Motorsport||+31.693s|
|10||Drew Stewart||SC Motorsport||+32.576s|
|11||Jeremy Fairbairn||PWR1 Racing||+33.023s|
|12||Chris Acton||Souley Motorsport||+34.377s|
|13||Philip Harris||Harris Racing||+45.811s|
|14||Leanne McShane||Souley Motorsport||+45.960s|
|17||Stuart Kestenbaum||Shaws Motorsport||+1 lap|
|18||Laurie Hughes||+1 lap|
|19||Alan Slater||+1 lap|
|20||Daniel Mavlyutov||PWR1 Racing||+1 lap|
|21||Philip Attwood||+1 lap|
|22||Terry Walkingshaw||+1 lap|
|Ret||Michael Gray||Graham Brunton Racing|
|Fastest lap: Murray, 50.917s|