The United Formula Ford grid exploded in size for the penultimate round at Brands Hatch, with 28 drivers racing.
That was a stark contrast to the six that contested last month’s round at Oulton Park, which took place on the same day as the BRSCC National FF1600 championship raced on Brands Hatch’s Indy layout.
The United FFord round also took place on the Indy layout, as will the FFord Festival will next month, and the 20-lap distance of the day’s two races matched that of the Festival final.
Unsuprisingly, many drivers used it as an opportunity to warm up for the Festival and this included past winners Rory Smith (B-M Racing) and Niall Murray (Team Dolan).
They were split by just 0.016 seconds in qualifying, with Smith pipping his rival to pole. In third and just 0.062s behind was PWR1 Racing’s factory Ray driver Jeremy Fairbairn, and Oldfield Motorsport’s champion Lucas Romanek was 0.177s back in fourth. The top 16 were covered by 0.924s.
Before race one began there were several twists, with rain leaving the circuit wet and an electrical failure ruling Murray out.
That meant Fairbairn effectively started second, but was not in a position to challenge Smith going into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time and in fact fell behind Romanek.
Smith built a lead of 1.956s on lap one, and continued to grow that as Romanek and Fairbairn squabbled. Fairbairn reclaimed second on lap three, but Smith was already almost three seconds clear and managed to grow that to five seconds once the pair started encountering cars to lap.
Romanek never let Fairbairn get more than a second ahead of him, and laptimes improved throughout the race as the track dried
Smith ended up winning by 5.36s over Fairbairn, with Romanek a further 0.599s behind and then a gap of five-and-a-half seconds to the lengthy battle that had gone on for fourth.
Dolan’s Morgan Quinn initially held the position over Oldfield’s Brandon McCaughan and B-M’s Jonny McMullan, with McMullan passing McCaughan on lap two.
McCaughan then got sucked into a fight with TM Racing’s Tom Hawkins, while Quinn soaked up the pressure from McMullan. On laps 15 and 16 it looked like McMullan had made a move, but Quinn had enough exit speed out of the corners to stay ahead until the last lap when he lost fourth by 0.023s in a photo finish.
Hawkins passed McCaughan on lap six, then lap nine contact sent McCaughin spinning down to 14th. He recovered to 10th.
Race one’s results set the grid for race two, the Bert Ray Memorial Trophy, and Smith won while Murray charged from 28th to eighth.
Smith had some brief early pressure from Fairbairn, then a safety car period after Hawkins retired brought the top two back together for the final three laps. It was no issue for Smith, who finished 0.505s ahead as Fairbairn held off Romanek for second.
Murray gained eight places on lap one, and jumped from 11th to eighth when the race was neutralised.
Race 1 (20 laps)
1 Rory Smith B-M Racing 20m03.859s
2 Jeremy Fairbairn PWR1 Racing +5.360s
3 Lucas Romanek Oldfield Motorsport +5.959s
4 Jonny McMullan B-M Racing +11.503s
5 Morgan Quinn Team Dolan +11.526s
6 Tom Hawkins TM Racing +22.553s
7 Tom Nippers +34.071s
8 Charlie Mann Mann Motorsport +35.748s
9 Jason Smyth Team Dolan +36.098s
10 Brandon McCaughan Oldfield Motorsport +36.264s
Pole: Smith, 50.392s
Fastest lap: Romanek, 57.998s
Bert Ray Memorial Trophy (20 laps)
1 Smith 20m05.685s
2 Fairbairn +0.622s
3 Romanek +0.859s
4 McMullan +1.419s
5 Quinn +1.682s
6 McCaughan +3.298s
7 Jacob Tofts Souley Motorsport +3.593s
8 Niall Murray Team Dolan +4.760s
9 Smyth +5.756s
10 Nolan Allaer Ammonite Motorsport +6.563s
FL: Smith, 50.654s
1 Romanek 65 2 Tofts 19 3 David Porter 16 4 Allaer 16 5 Gaius Ghinn 15 6 Smith 14 7 Elliott Budzinski 14 8 Fairbairn 13 9 Ben Cox 13 10 Innes Hickman 11