Home Featured Rory Smith wins the Formula Ford Festival in thrilling final

Rory Smith wins the Formula Ford Festival in thrilling final

by Ida Wood

Photo: Ida Wood

Rory Smith became a two-time Formula Ford Festival winner in a thrilling 20-lap final at Brands Hatch.

The B-M Racing driver started on pole ahead of team-mate Jamie Sharp, Team Dolan’s Niall Murray and Chris Middlehurst, Luke Cooper, Jordan Kelly and Jordan Dempsey.

The front row duo made great launches, but Murray closed in on them at Druids and he was able to pass Sharp at the end of lap one. But he then had a slide at Paddock Hill Bend and dropped behind Sharp who went around the outside of him at Druids.

Sharp had his own mistake though, running wide at Clark Curve and being passed by Murray and Team Dolan’s Chris Middlehurst as they went into lap three. A late-braking move enabled Sharp to reclaim third from Middlehurst at Paddock Hill Bend, while Murray set fastest lap after fastest lap as he closed in on Smith.

On lap five Middlehurst went down the of inside of Sharp at Paddock Hill Bend and there was contact, with Sharp briefly going off exiting the corner but rejoining having only lost out to Middlehurt.

A lap later Murray finally got onto Smith’s gearbox and nosed the leader at Graham Hill Bend. They were split by just 0.043 seconds going into lap seven, and Murray went around the outside of Smith at Paddock Hill Bend for the lead. He then cut across to the inside before Druids, and Sharp also picked up nose damage with a brush against the rear of Murray’s car.

They remained close, while Middlehurst, Sharp, Dempsey and Cooper (who was shown a black-and-white flag for track limits abuse) were over two seconds behind.

Smith made what he described as a “monster move” on lap 10, taking the outside line at the end of the pit straight then switching to as tight a line as possible for Paddock Hill Bend and moving back past Murray who drifted into the gravel.

They finished the lap 0.061s apart, and Murray tried the outside of Paddock Hill Bend then nosed Smith exiting Druids. The next lap it was a 0.048s gap, and Murray went for a move at Paddock Hill Bend then tucked back in behind. But Smith had a mid-corner wobble so Murray then had the opportunity to go around him at Druids. There was not enough room to get the move done there, but he had the inside line for Graham Hill Bend and took the lead.

That battle brought Middlehurt onto their tail, and Smith cut across on the Cooper Straight to keep him behind. Murray’s gravel trips earned him a track limits warning flag on lap 15, but he was keeping the pressure on Smith until a suspected misfire on lap 18 sent him down the order and then into retirement.

Sharp had carried loads of speed into Paddock Hill Bend on that lap and gone around the outside of Middlehurst for third, which was now second place. He did not threaten Smith in the remaining two laps, instead having to focus on keeping Middlehurst at bay to complete a team one-two.

Dempsey had been challenging Sharp in the first half of the race, but he got passed by Cooper on lap 11 and eventually finished fifth.

Morgan Quinn came from 21st on the grid to finish 11th, and his Team Dolan team-mate Isaac Canto da Silva celebrated becoming the youngest ever FFord Festival finalist by finishing 20th from 30th on the grid.

Race result (2o laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Rory Smith B-M Racing 17m01.600s
2 Jamie Sharp B-M Racing +0.372s
3 Chris Middlehurst Team Dolan +0.443s
4 Luke Cooper Swift Cooper +0.774s
5 Jordan Dempsey Motorsport Car Preparations +1.182s
6 Jordan Kelly Team Dolan +2.333s
7 Jeremy Fairbairn PWR1 Racing +2.863s
8 Brandon McCaughan Oldfield Motorsport +7.833s
9 Jack Sullivan Ammonite Motorsport +8.020s
10 Tom Nippers +8.224s
11 Morgan Quinn Team Dolan +9.755s
12 Logan Pacza Graham Brunton Racing +13.837s
13 Alex Berg Graham Brunton Racing +13.867s
14 Ayrton Houk Ammonite Motorsport +14.164s
15 Porter Aiken Oldfield Motorsport +14.240s
16 Nolan Allaer Ammonite Motorsport +17.687s
17 Felix Fisher TM Racing +18.569s
18 Jonny McMullan B-M Racing +18.661s
19 Charlie Mann Mann Motorsport +19.001s
20 Isaac Canto da Silva Team Dolan +23.751s
21 Sam Street Swift Cooper +24.732s
22 Donal Downey +25.529s
23 Tom Hawkins TM Racing +27.319s
24 Drew Stewart +34.922s
25 Richard Higgins Beastworx +35.073s
26 Drew Cameron B-M Racing +35.247s
27 Rick Morris +45.258s
Ret David McArthur B-M Racing
Ret Jason Smyth Team Dolan
Ret Niall Murray Team Dolan
Fastest lap: Murray, 50.067s