Home Formula FordFFord Festival Murray takes first semi-final, reigning Festival winner Smith spins out

Murray takes first semi-final, reigning Festival winner Smith spins out

by Craig Woollard

Photo: Ida Wood

Team Dolan’s Niall Murray won a delayed first Formula Ford Festival semi-final as 2020 winner Rory Smith went off in torrential conditions.

The first FF1600 race of the day was delayed by 40 minutes due to torrential rain during the morning, and during the two green flag laps the conditions started to worsen once again.

Murray was one of two drivers to go off on those laps, as well as Robbie Allen, but both couyld continue.

In appalling conditions, Kevin Mills Racing’s Neil Maclennan got the best launch from third and led into Paddock Hill Bend. There was contact behind between Tom Hawkins and Robert Barrable.

Further around the lap, brother and sister Megan and Nick Gilkes clashed on the exit of Druids and ended up in the barriers, necessitating a safety car intervention.

Smith had made his way to second but did so after it was called, so gave two positions back.

When the race resumed on lap eight of 14, Murray had a brilliant restart and was able to get by Maclennan into Druids, just after Smith spun into retirement.

This means that he will be a reserve for the Last Chance Race, so provisionally his Festival defence is over.

Andrew Blair and Drew Stewart also went off in the awful conditions just as the sun started to come back out.

At the front, Murray controlled the gap to Maclennan as Vamos Racing’s Jonathan Browne lost third to B-M Racing’s Jamie Sharp late on.

Things got worse for 2019 winner Browne as he went off at Clearways on the final lap and dropped to seventh position, but still makes the final.

Behind Murray and Maclennan and Sharp was Team USA scholar Andre Castro, who benefitted from Browne’s off.

Ivor McCullough took fifth ahead of Dolan’s Chris Middlehurst and Browne. Alan Davidson, Ian Gough and Graham Brunton Racing’s Logan Hannah rounded out the top 10.

Barrable recovered to 11th ahead of returnee Jan Magnussen, who just squeezes into the guaranteed final spots.

Luke Cooper came from towards the back to take a front row spot for the Last Chance Race in 13th.

Race results (14 laps)

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Niall Murray Team Dolan 17m57.866s
2 Neil Maclennan Kevin Mills Racing +1.194s
3 Jamie Sharp B-M Racing +2.102s
4 Andre Castro Low Dempsey Racing +5.103s
5 Ivor McCullough Team DDR +7.213s
6 Chris Middlehurst Team Dolan +8.228s
7 Jonathan Browne Vamos Racing +11.624s
8 Alan Davidson +14.225s
9 Ian Gough Oldfield Motorsport +17.967s
10 Logan Hannah Graham Brunton Racing +18.720s
11 Robert Barrable Motorsport Car Preparations +20.061s
12 Jan Magnussen Low Dempsey Racing +20.127s
13 Luke Cooper Swift Cooper +36.469s
14 Brandon McCaughan Hugh Ried Racing +39.626s
15 Jeremy Fairbairn PWR1 Racing +40.589s
16 Chris Acton Souley Motorsport +42.995s
17 Tom Hawkins Springbridge Motorsport +43.351s
18 Chris Goodwin PA Motorsport +45.254s
19 Lewis Fox Team Fox Racing +46.479s
20 Robbie Allen LOH Motorsport +47.472s
21 Jack Kemp +47.678s
22 Adam Fathers AF Racing +47.962s
23 James Hagan +50.555s
24 David Parks Vertical Racing +50.689s
25 Drew Stewart SC Motorsport +52.100s
26 Chris Knox Enigma Motorsport +56.353s
Ret Andrew Blair
Ret Rory Smith B-M Racing
Ret Megan Gilkes Kevin Mills Racing
Ret Nick Gilkes Kevin Mills Racing
Fastest lap: Sharp, 1m01.157s