The FFord Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy delivered on-track action, and off-track storylines to follow
The two biggest Formula Ford 1600 events in Britain, and possibly the world, once again attracted big entry lists and created lots of drama this year. There may have not been the ex-Formula 1 stars queuing up to take part as in the last two years, but the category’s own icons and a group of young rising stars made for two entertaining weekends of racing.
In addition to the inevitable on-track drama in winner-takes-all events, there was also lots of stuff happening off-track that Formula Scout got the lowdown on:
Anticipation builds for future of ‘national’ championship
The British FFord championship ran from 1976 to 2014, although for several seasons it ran using FF1800 cars and later Ford EcoBoost-powered machines rather than the 1600cc engines the category and then championship was launched on.
From 2015 onwards the BRSCC’s National FF1600 championship took on the mantle of being Britain’s premier series and included not only races in England, Scotland and Wales, but Northern Ireland too. Despite links to the Road to Indy and more recently GB4, young drivers have not flocked to it and instead it has been category long-timers that have more often populated grids. Scottish FFord collapsed last year, and local team Graham Brunton Racing has heard no noises of a revival.
In fact there were only four full-time drivers in the 2023 season, and rumours swirled that there would be a big change for next year. There was still some uncertainty at October’s FFord Festival about what the future would bring, but at last weekend’s Walter Hayes Trophy everyone in the paddock seemed to finally understand what was going to happen next: BRSCC National FF1600 would come to an end in 2024 and James Beckett’s United FFord championship (which is organised under MotorSport Vision’s watch) would become Britain’s premier competition for the category.
“I think it will be a blessing in disguise,” Ammonite Motorsport’s team boss Andy Low told Formula Scout. “I think someone who wants to do it will now be doing it, so that’s the key to hopefully a strong championship.”
Team Dolan boss Bernard Dolan said: “It’s going under a new umbrella. Really looking forward to working with MSV to try and build our championship.”
Foster swaps roles for a weekend
Joey Foster is a two-time overall winner of the FFord Festival, and has a record four WHT wins. He was aiming for success in both events once again this year, but only in one as a driver.
The FFord Festival entry list featured a team called ‘Joey Foster Racing’, which had Samuel Harrison as its driver in a Firman RFR21. That’s a car Foster would usually race, and he explained why his name appeared in the ‘team’ cell rather than ‘driver’.
“So I was never going to race the Festival this year. Budget restrictions and it was either the FFF or the Hayes, and keep the car [good for one]. We had the car sat here, I thought it would be perfect to get [working on it]. This car’s pretty much brand new right through. Sam was looking for a drive, so it made sense to get Sam in the car.”
Harrison had not driven the Firman before the final day of pre-event testing, and set high expectations on himself in terms of results. So he was “beating himself up” after being 0.674 seconds off pole in qualifying.
“Obviously it’s a huge challenge, everyone brings their A game to the Festival. And you’re up against it if you’re not completely 100% tuned into the car,” Foster said. “We’ve got the set-up from 2022. But really it’s about lines around here and confidence. And if you’re just grasping it, in the heat of the moment [it’s tough]. This morning in qualifying was the first time he’d driven the car in proper rain. So to be two tenths off [two-time FFF winner] Niall Murray, I don’t think is a very bad shout at all.
“So while he’s disappointed, I think you’ve got to be quite realistic and say that if you’re going to do the Festival, you need to have experience of Brands Hatch in that car if you’re going to be right at the sharp end.”
He added: “Sam’s driving it very well. He was only two tenths off Chris Middlehurst I believe in the dry in testing. And that’s on last year’s tyres.”
Harrison was seventh in his heat, and on course for sixth in his semi-final until engine issues struck and ended his weekend.
“I’m obviously doing a side of it which I’ve never really done before, so it’s [interesting],” said Foster of being a ‘team boss’. “I’m not hating it. But we’ll see [if I do it again].”
On hand to help him was Don Hardman, who usually runs Foster and at the WHT ran both him and Harrison, and he chipped in by saying: “I’m the repair man! I just make sure it [works on track].”
To which Foster replied: “Don keeps wandering over to get me out the crap, when there’s something I don’t understand. Don’s been looking at these engines for a very long time.”
Two weeks later at the WHT, Foster finished fifth and Harrison followed up fourth place in his qualifying session with fifth in his heat and was running in fourth in his semi-final when engine issues struck again.
Rackstraw vows 2024 return after stunning WHT pace
KMR Sport’s Andrew Rackstraw was arguably the star of the WHT.
The 2021 South African F1600 champion was supposed to contest the National FF1600 season but had to pull out a week before round one due to getting pneumonia and missing so much university off the back of it that he had to retake exams.
He instead raced touring cars in his home country, and when he turned up at the WHT he was rapid in pre-event testing then in a wet qualifying was fourth fastest. Two offs meant he finished his heat a lapped 20th though, and meant he was put into the progression race. He utterly dominated that from sixth on the grid, and did the same in the last chance race. This time he went from 21st on the grid to sixth in a lap, and won the 10-lap race by 8.787s.
Next was the semi-finals, and Rackstraw rose from 27th to finish fifth and get a more competitive grid spot of eighth for the final. He converted that into third place on the podium, just 0.722s away from what would have been an incredible victory.
South African talent Andrew Rackstraw tells Formula Scout about his astonishing pace at Silverstone this weekend and vows he will come back to the #WalterHayesTrophy in 2024 to win it! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/rxGks8dnXo
— Formula Scout 1600 (@ff1600website) November 5, 2023
Two teenaged FF1600 stars enter GB4 shootout
Oldfield Motorsport’s Brandon McCaughan, 19 and Team Dolan’s Nathan Yu, 17, are this year’s finalists in the annual GB4 shootout for the top teenagers in BRSCC National FF1600.
McCaughan came fourth in the standings with three wins, while Yu came ninth in the championship after doing three rounds. The shootout takes place on Friday at Snetterton, and £20,000 will be up for grabs to go towards a GB4 seat. Fortec Motorsports is running the cars for the shootout.
National FF1600 runner-up Lucas Romanek was also set to enter the shootout, but the Oldfield driver withdrew “as he looks to pursue other motorsport opportunities”.
Colin Turner’s return
Turner lost his lower legs in a crash at the 2020 WHT, and last year did a demo run at the event to much applause. He made his racing return this year at Croft, and also did the last Historic FFord round at Silverstone. After a six-and-a-half hour journey towing his Merlyn Mk20A down from Scotland to the circuit for pre-event testing, he then had an enjoyable weekend having set out “to survive”.
He was slowest in the very wet qualifying session for his heat, which he finished a lapped 21st in, then he came 15th in the progression race. That was enough to make it to the last chance race, but finishing 28th in that meant he missed out on the final. However he also got to race in the Carl Hamer Trophy for pre-1983 cars, finishing 15th in the pre-final and final.