The end-of-year classics once again attracted big names, but the national and regional series in Formula Ford in its various forms also had strong grids this year. Here’s what happened across the world
This year turned out to mark the end of BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600. For two years there have been two national series in England for modern cars, with United FFord being the rival offering from James Beckett Motorsport and run under MotorSport Vision Racing’s watch. From 2024 onwards only the latter series will continue to run.
This big change was shared with and then reported by Autosport in August, with the National FF1600 teams then putting out a statement once the news became public:
FF1600 National are excited to share the news that National FFord will have a new home next year after the BRSCC announced a collaboration with MSVR. This shake up will see the professional teams move from the National championship over to the United FFord championship, where the co-ordinator James Beckett is working on building an exciting and enticing calendar for the 2024 season.
As professional teams within FFord, we are hugely excited by the move and want to assure all our current and future customers that our usual expert service, alongside the brilliant and entertaining racing that FFord offers, will remain at the forefront and we will continue to bring you all the action from each of the rounds next year. We all truly believe in and recognise the importance of FFord within the landscape of UK motorsport and are all dedicated to seeing the passion remain and the grids grow in the future.
United FFord later announced its 2024 calendar, which retains an England-only schedule (while National FF1600 has had a history of racing in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) but does include a first ever trip to former World Rallycross Championship venue Lydden Hill.
What happened at race meetings this year gave just as much to talk about as what was happening behind the scenes, and in National FF1600 it was Team Dolan’s Jordan Kelly who won the title. Kelly won seven races, and really hit form in the second half of the season as he went unbeaten at Knockhill and Silverstone. His other victories came at Snetterton, Kirkistown and Brands Hatch.
Oldfield Motorsport’s Lucas Romanek was his title rival and led the points for much of the campaign, winning the Oulton Park season opener then taking further victories at Snetterton, Donington Park and Kirkistown. He was disqualified from the results of the entire last round at Silverstone due to an incident that occurred once he and Kelly got out of their cars.
Ammonite Motorsport’s Elliott Budzinski – a Team USA scholar in 2022 – came third in the standings with one win, and Romanek’s team-mate Brandon McCaughan was fourth with two victories. Chris Middlehurst did little more than half of the season but by winning three races the FF1600 veteran was able to come sixth in the standings.
Another name to watch though the year was Kevin Mills Racing’s Lucas Blakeley. The Esports star made an impressive transition to real-world racing, and even won a race at Brands Hatch.
Romanek won the United FFord title by a huge margin, scoring 65 points while runner-up Jacob Tofts only scored 25 and no other drivers scored more than 18. One reason for Romanek’s domination was that he did most of the rounds, unlike almost everyone else, and won 10 of the 14 races. Middlehurst (Dolan) won the season-opening race at Donington Park, while Tofts (Souley Motorsport) took his only win in a depleted field of six at Oulton Park. The next round at Brands Hatch however was used by 28 drivers as a warm-up to the FFord Festival, and Rory Smith (B-M Racing) won both races.
Brands also hosted the season finale, where Romanek lapped everyone up to and including fifth place as he took two wins.
After almost a decade racing in Castle Combe FF1600, TM Racing’s Felix Fisher finally won the title in 2022 after a season-long battle with Luke Cooper. Their lengthy rivalry continued into 2023, and Fisher came out on top for a second time.
He started the season as he meant to go on by winning from pole, and he went on to win the next three races. Cooper struck back with a double in round three, then in July the winning streak of Cooper and Fisher families dating back to 2021 was ended by Romanek who won a damp race. The rain got worse later in the day when race two was held, and Fisher won again.
Romanek got another victory a month later in dramatic fashion. Fisher beat Cooper to pole by 0.61s, but Cooper got ahead on lap one of race one and resisted Fisher until they clashed going over Avon Rise on lap eight in a racing incident. First place was inherited by Romanek. In race two Fisher bounced back to take his sixth win of the year, which meant even with Cooper winning both races of the final round he was able to take the title by four points.
Another driver who had a successful title defence was Team DDR’s David McCullough, who became Northern Irish FF1600 champion for a fourth time. Alan Davidson took his far older car, a Mondiale M89, to a win and second in the standings, while Kelly and Jordan Dempsey also picked up victories. Dempsey’s win earned him the Martin Donnelly Trophy.
The SCCA National Runoffs in October featured races for Formula Continental (which uses FF2000 cars) and Formula F (where 1600c engines from Ford and Honda are used). Nolan Allaer was the FContinental winner for the second year in a row, beating his dad Robert to victory by 5.389s, and also was the FF winner at Virginia International Raceway but only by 0.051s over Jonathan Kotyk in a photo finish.
The F1600 Championship Series lacks the second ‘F’ because of its use of Honda rather than Ford engines, but is the USA’s answer to National FF1600. Porter Aiken claimed the 2023 crown with a campaign that featured seven wins, a pole and five fastest laps.
His title-winning margin was 94 points, with Team USA scholars Ayrton Houk and Jack Sullivan coming second and third in the standings. All three headed to the FFord Festival afterwards, with Aiken replacing Romanek in Oldfield’s line-up while the Team USA duo joined Ammonite Motorsport.
Winning the equivalent Team Canada Scholarship was 16-year-old Logan Pacza, who dominated Ontario’s Toyo Tires F1600 series. He became champion despite missing the last round, having topped qualifying at all five rounds he contested and won 12 out of 15 races. He finished second in two others, with only one start in the series not leading to a podium.
Australia has its national championship, but the huge country also has state series that continue to be the starting point for drivers whose racing careers take them across the world and into different categories.
Matthew Hillyer became Australian FFord champion by a huge 90-point margin with a total score of 352 points and 13 wins. He won all three races at Winton Motor Raceway and at Phillip Island, with double wins at three other tracks.
Jake Santalucia was championship runner-up with four wins, and Zak Lobko was third with two wins. The only other drivers to win were Xavier Kokai, who is moving up to USF2000 in America this year with Velocity Racing Development, and Harrison Sellars. Kokai’s victory came at Symmons Plains Raceway, a track on the island state of Tasmania which has only hosted the championship twice in the last decade.
43 years on from winning the Australian F2 title, Richard Davison won the Victorian FFord championship’s Kent class, while Joe Fawcett topped the points table for drivers in cars with Ford’s Duratec engines. Santalucia was runner-up again, this time by just 21 points and after missing the opening round.
In New South Wales, Lobko and Kaleb Belak both scored 188 points in the championship’s Fiesta class and both went unbeaten in the two rounds they did each. There were more drivers using Kent engines and they competed for the John Smith Trophy. Thomas Kalamakis took top honours with five wins from 12 races and Will Liston, driving a car from 1986, came second in the standings.
In the combined Duratec and Kent classification of the Queensland championship, Liam Loiacono became champion by taking pole and winning the final four races of the season at Morgan Park Raceway. He had started the campaign by finishing 14th, 16th and 11th in the opening three races. One win was enough to put Oliver Loiacono second in the points, and Jeremy Mattea was the top Kent driver in fourth.
The Western Australia title was won by 16-year-old Logan Eveleigh, with Marc Redman pipping Brock Brewer to the runner-up spot by one point. Motorsport journalist Andrew van Leeuwen came 14th in the standings.
Alex Crosbie became New Zealand FFord champion for a second successive year in the final round of the season at Ruapuna after several duels with title rival Blake Knowles.
The title-deciding 12-lap finale counted for double points, and William Neale started on pole with points leader Crosbie in fourth. Knowles led the early running, then several laps of trading first place with Neale enabled Crosbie to close in on and then pass both to win the race and the title. Second place for Knowles earned him the 2022-23 South Island FF1600 crown and second in the national standings.
The Tony Quinn Foundation has organised for this year’s champion to get prize tests in Formula Regional Oceania’s car and in a Formula 4 car in the USA. The latter “will be with a team that has a close association with an IndyCar team”. The champion of the Class 2 title in the 2023-24 North Island FFord season will get a prize test in an old Toyota Racing Series car.
It took until the final lap of the final race to determine who would win the 2022-23 title, with Dylan Grant leaving Manfeild as champion. He entered the final round with a 33-point lead, equivalent to a 10th place finish, with Blake Dowdall and Mason Potter chasing him.
Dowdall set the pace in qualifying, with Grant third fastest but not taking long to get into the lead of the weekend’s first race. Once ahead he could not be passed, and he took victory ahead of Zac Blincoe and Dowdall.
Blincoe won races two and three, the latter awarding double points, with Dowdall beating Grant to second place in both. Grant had a difficult job holding on to third on the season’s final lap though, with championship chairman Shane Drake an Potter pressuring him hard. But he held on, with third place earning him the title and a test in a TRS car.
Matthieu Midy was the benchmark driver of Trophee FFord Kent in France, beating Arnaud Dousse to the title by over 100 points. But Dousse did finish 11 seconds clear of Midy to win the European FFord Festival final at Circuit de Croix-en-Ternois, and in Midy’s absence at the Historic French Grand Prix pre-season Dousse won race one and was pipped to race two victory by just 0.045s by Gislain Genecand.
Portugal’s vaguely named Single Seater Series attracted very few FFord entries in 2023, although Al Capone (not to be confused with the dead American gangster) competed in the Formula Renault class. Fernando Mayer Gaspar was the top FFord driver by 44s in race one at the Estoril Top Motor Show, then beat Capone to overall victory in race two by 17s.
The South African Formula 1600 season began at Kyalami in February, and Troy Dolinschek comfortably set the pace in qualifying. But his engine cover came loose at the start of race one and Gerard Geldenhuys swept by into the lead.
Although Dolinschek had the pace to run in second, he was required to pit due to the flapping bodywork and Nicholas Van Weely became Geldenhuys’ closest rival. But he didn’t have the pace to battle for victory, and Geldenhuys pulled away to win. Dolinschek finished 12th, but bounced back to win race two.
Killarney hosted round two a month later, and Antwan Geldenhuys took pole on a damp track. Dolinschek could only qualify 11th, but he came through to win race one. Geldenhuys spun away his pole advantage on the opening lap, while Dolinschek climbed six spots, and by lap three he was in a podium position. It wasn’t long before he was leading, passing Jason Coetzee who had a 30s penalty for jumping the start.
Race two went to Gerard Geldenhuys, while Dolinschek’s recovery drive this time brought him up to third.
Next up was Zwartkops in May, and Dolinschek took pole and both victories to move into the championship lead. The on-track battles tightened up in round four at Aldo Scribante, with Antwan Geldenhuys, Coetzee, Dolinschek, Alex Vos and Van Weely split by just 0.14s at the top of the times in qualifying.
Dolinschek rose to the front to win twice, but only by 0.547s in race one and 0.986s in race two. Coetzee finished second in both to become Dolinschek’s closest championship rival. After losing the lead on the opening lap of race one, Geldenhuys fell down the order and eventually retired when he collided with Vos.
Round five was at former Formula 1 venue East London, and Dolinschek very almost added another two victories to his tally. He did win race one, after a dramatic late pass on poleman Siyabonga Mankonkwana that cost him several places, but lost race two in a photo finish. Van Weely beat him to the chequered flag by 0.088s.
The field then returned to Killarney, and the close action continued. Dolinschek beat Gerard Geldenhuys to pole by 0.093s, and grew that gap to two seconds to win race one and the title, then led home Coetzee in race two.
There was still lots up for grabs in the final round at Zwartkops, and it was Vos who edged Coetzee to pole in qualifying. Championship runner-up Coetzee finally took his first win in race one and by just 0.203s, with Mankonkwana and Vos completing the podium, while in race two Mankonkwana also became a first-time winner.
South African F1600’s 2022 champion Josh le Roux moved into the Global Touring Car Championship last year, and Dolinschek got a prize GTC test by winning the 2023 F1600 title.