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Champion of Brands Classic Formula Ford Features Historic Formula Ford HSCC

Three series in one weekend with Chris Porritt

The first of two slightly belated weekend roundup posts features Formula Ford 1600 racer Chris Porritt, who started five races over the long weekend in his Lola T200.

He started the weekend with a seventh place in the Champion of Brands event on Friday, as the only pre-’72 car on the grid. The winner was Matt Rivett in a 1991 Van Diemen, followed by James Hadfield in a Van Diemen RF03. Hadfield appears occasionally in Classic Formula Ford and races a number of historic cars alongside his father, Simon.

“I had a bit of fun with my old girl with the newer cars,” is Porritt’s take on the Friday race.

“The only difference [with modern cars] is that they’re very narrow, so they create much less slipstream than an older car. So with an old car, they can all just queue up behind me and just drive past me on the straight!”

He is used to multiple starts during a weekend.

“I normally race a car in the Aurora series as well as Formula Ford.

“It’s a little bit less stressful in one car, unless the races are directly one after the other, like they were at Donington.”

Wear and tear on a car can also be a factor when it is getting this much use, but Porritt isn’t too worried.

“I’ve got some spares for this car if I need them. And I’m not super hard on it, like the boys at the front.”

He will next be in action at the Silverstone Classic, driving in the Formula 2 race.

Image courtesy of Dan Bichener

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Classic Formula Ford Features FF2000 Historic Formula Ford HSCC

Brands Hatch Superprix: ones to watch

The HSCC visits Brands Hatch from tomorrow, with all of its Formula Ford series in action over a long weekend. Expectations are high after the superb showing at Donington; who is likely to shine, who’s new and who might cause an upset?

Historic Formula Ford 2000 gets underway tomorrow (Friday) with two heats and a final on the Indy circuit. Graham Fennymore will be hoping to capitalise on the absence of Benn Simms, whose car developed serious problems at Donington, and multi-champion Andrew Park. Ian Pearson was in the mix at Donington and his Royale RP30 is in the opposite qualifying group to Fennymore’s Reynard SF81.

A decent contingent of Van Diemen RF82s will join the Classic F3s, with championship leader Murray Shepherd the likely victor.

FF2000 also gets a run on the Grand Prix circuit on Saturday, adding an extra challenge and an unknown factor for some of the new drivers on the grid.

Classic Formula Ford will be sharing a grid with Historic Formula 3. Cam Jackson has elected not to enter this time, so Henry Chart and Jordan Harrison are likely to resume their battle at the front. Former champion Ben Tinkler will return to to Classic championship for the first time in a while, driving a Van Diemen RF80, and cannot be ruled out as someone who will cause an upset at the business end.

Ross Drybrough is making a rare Classic appearance in his March 709, as raced in Historic by Cam Jackson in 2020 and Max Bartell at the start of this year.

Jackson will be taking his place in Historic Formula Ford as well as sharing a Lenham GT with father Simon in the Guards Trophy. Fireworks are guaranteed as Tom McArthur has decided to join in, following his victory at Donington. Linton Stutely continues to be absent and Callum Grant is sitting this one out, but Horatio Fitz-Simon will be at the front, waiting to pick up as many points as possible and get in position should the leaders get it all wrong. Will Nuthall has entered his Jamun T2 and he may also be quick; the Jamun has proved an effective weapon at Brands in the hands of Richard Tarling..

The Over 50 class has a new challenger with the welcome return of Ted Pearson to the driving seat. Championship chairman Pearson sat 2020 out due to major surgery, but now his son Tom has a rival for their Merlyn Mk11/17.

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Classic Formula Ford Features HSCC

Meet Joe Ahrens

Another new face on the Ford-engined grids at Donington was Joe Ahrens, driving an Enigma Motorsport Van Diemen RF80 in Classic Formula Ford. He had a strong debut, earning a seventh and fifth place and showing good overtaking skills in on-track rivalry with PRS driver Paul Britten.

This is rather remarkable considering that the first Classic race was actually his first-ever race in cars. He has competed in international karting and has been around senior motorsport as a driver coach and a mechanic.

Ahrens found it relatively easy to adapt to the Formula Ford.

“Apart from the suspension, it’s not too dissimilar to a go-kart,”, he explained.

“It’s about as close as your can get really, in a car.”

More nerve-wracking than getting used to a new machine was having the car’s owner, 2017 Historic Formula Ford champion Richard Tarling, watching over him.

“It’s a little bit more expensive than a go-kart.”

Ahrens will be in action again at Brands Hatch this weekend and will be hoping to build on his great start. He is planning to race for the rest of the season.

Image courtesy of Richard Towler

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Features Historic Formula Ford HSCC

Meet Nikki Cottrill

Nikki Cottrill made her HSCC Historic Formula Ford debut at Donington, coming away with one Newcomer class win and a class fastest lap.

Cottrill’s Lotus 61M was one of two newcomer cars on the grid, both of them driven by women. Her class rival was Zoe Newall, in a Palliser.

This was Cottrill’s first circuit race, but she has been involved in motorsport for about 15 years, competing extensively in hillclimbs. The Lotus belongs to her family and is one of a few cars she has regularly taken up the hills.

“We’ve got a Pilbeam and I’ve used that for four or five years,” she explains. “I’ve just got back into this (the Lotus) to do this really.”

“We also have a Brabham BT30 that my husband did a little bit of circuit racing in two years ago, before all the madness. He really enjoyed it, and I looked at the Formula Ford and I thought, I could have a go at that.”

This was not a spur of the moment decision, however.

“I got myself all ready, did my ARDS test in 2019, wanted to do it last year, obviously didn’t, so I thought, now’s the chance to have a go.”

She admitted to finding sharing a track with other cars, rather than screaming solo up a hill, somewhat daunting.

“My plan is to stay at the back and keep out of trouble.”

She wants to do some more Formula Ford racing this year, but will have to fit it in around the hillclimb season, where she is still competing, now alongside her son.

Image courtesy of Richard Towler

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Features FF2000 HSCC

A race to the grid

Fraser Collins had a race against time to get on to the Historic Formula Ford 2000 grid at Donington.

A visit to the garages at Donington on Saturday morning revealed Fraser Collins’s Lola T580 and Collins’s father John Hayes-Harlow working on the car, but a conspicuous absence of the driver himself.

He arrived with about ten minutes to spare before qualifying, having endured “trial by Covid regulations” to get on the track at all.

“I was on holiday a couple of weeks ago and today was my day five for Test and Release,” he explained on Saturday.

“When Madeira [where he was on holiday] went on to the amber list I thought, oh god, now I’ve got to quarantine. Luckily with the day five Test and Release I could get here.”

He took his test at the earliest possible opportunity, hiring a courier to take the test to the lab in the early hours of the morning to give himself the best chance of being able to race.

It was a tense wait for the results, but they came back negative just in time for Collins to jump in his car with his full kit already on and make the hour-and-a-15 minute journey from his home to Donington.

Once the government red tape was safely snipped, Collins had another slight problem at the circuit itself.

“I couldn’t find my ticket. I had to try to get in, then when I finally did get in, leap in the car. We were running early as well.

“It was worth it through, I qualified well and then led the first few laps of the qualifying race.”

Collins was sixth in the Saturday qualifying race but unfortunately couldn not finish the main race due to contact from behind. A seventh in the Sunday qualifying race led to 16th place in the feature race, with a class win.

Image courtesy of Richard Towler

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Features Historic Formula Ford HSCC

Stanzl’s spare car

Before the rules changed, it used to be fairly common for Formula 1 drivers to jump into a spare car when theirs was damaged in practice. It isn’t such a common occurrence in Historic Formula Ford.

Championship regular Kevin Stanzl had a nightmare qualifying for the Silverstone International Trophy; his Merlyn Mk20 had an engine blow-up, breaking a crank before he even completed a lap.

This could easily be the end of his weekend, but Stanzl took a chance on fetching another car he had at home.

The Crossle 16F had been in the garage since last year’s Oulton Park races and was far from ready to run. It was also in Woking.

“It was an hour and half drive, then get the car prepped, get the ratios changed, set it up,” explained Stanzl.

This was all done in less than a day and he was back at Silverstone late on Saturday evening.

“The gearing needed doing, the brakes needed sorting out, the wheels, tyres, getting it off its stand, check through it quickly, and we’re here.

“It was a bit of work! Then got it in the van, got back here and then begged, and borrowed to get out and do my practice laps.”

The car was now ready for Race 2, but qualifying was long gone. Luckily, a way was found for Stanzl to get on the grid.

“They let me out for two laps, then the third lap was the green flag lap, so then I could race.”

Stanzl came from the back of the grid to finish 22nd in Race 2.

Image by Dan Bichener

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Features Historic Formula Ford

Scott Rawlinson goes Historic

Scott Rawlinson is one of this season’s new recruits for the HSCC Historic Formula Ford championship, having traded contemporary machinery for vintage at the end of 2020.

His first outing in the green Merlyn Mk11A was the Jim Russell Trophy at Snetterton, where he finished the two races in 16th and 15th place, earning his first point.

Rawlinson, born in Merseyside, previously raced in the BRSCC Northern Formula Ford series, but acquired the Merlyn at the end of 2020. It was built by Nigel Grant, familiar in the HSCC paddock as a car preparer and as father to double Historic champion Callum Grant. The car is now run by DB Motorsport.

“It was fairly positive, we had one or two little issues with the car which we managed to sort out in testing,” said Rawlinson of his first time out in the Merlyn.

“I had a great first race, I made a minor error towards the end which I was a bit disappointed with.

“Race 2 was decent because we were able to make up what we lost after Race 1 and come out with a point.

“It challenged me because it’s a new car, a new club, a new championship.”

The meeting was another first for Rawlinson as he had never competed at Snetterton before.

He is upbeat about his chances for the rest of the season.

“It’s been a great weekend, lots of learning, now I’m looking forward to Silverstone.

“It’s all positive.”

(Image copyright Scott Rawlinson)

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Classic Formula Ford Features Historic Formula Ford HSCC

Champion’s chat

Cam Jackson talks tyres, speed and his Formula Ford plans for 2021

2021 Classic Formula Ford champion Cam Jackson showed at Snetterton that he was still the driver to beat. He may have lost his HSCC Historic FF1600 crown to Pierre Livingston in 2020, but he was back on top straight away with four Formula Ford wins, plus another his his Brabham Formula Junior.

His phenomenal qualifying pace at Snetterton – a second and a half quicker than his nearest rival, Tom McArthur – raised a few eyebrows. With the new, more durable Avon compound being introduced this year, was he taking a chance on last year’s fast, but quick-to-degrade rubber?

“No, we’re running the new tyre which is supposed to be harder, but the car felt great straight away on that tyre,” he explained.

“I mean, I got a massive tow, but the car in clear air will do a very low 4, maybe even a 3. I’ve always said, this car, the chassis is incredible, and it suits me so much.”

Jackson suggested at the end of last year that he was probably not going to commit to a full championship, but has his early success changed this plan? Although a relative newcomer to the Classic series, the last time he ran a part-season in Historic was 2017.

“I don’t know if I’m going to,” says Jackson. “I just thought I’d do the first round because I’ve got the time to do it. It might change later in the year.

“I might not do Classic all the way through, because it’s quite hectic and it’s a lot of running on the car.” (He is racing the same Winkelmann in both championships.)

The reason for this reduction in schedule is that Lincoln native Jackson is relocating to London this year with his family.

“Bit of a work thing, family thing, school thing,” he explains.

“This summer is going to be frantic.”

Anyone hoping to capitalise on his absence will have to wait for at least a while. He is going to enter the Silverstone rounds in May as he is racing in the Guards Trophy with father Simon, driving a Lenham GT.

(Image courtesy of Andrew Ellis)

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Features FF2000 HSCC

Molly Dodd makes her debut

There were several newcomers in Formula Ford machinery at Snetterton; Molly Dodd stood out among them.

Although car troubles meant that she did not get to finish either of her races, many observers were impressed by the Spalding teenager’s lap times and confident driving style. This was all the more remarkable as this was the first time she had driven a single-seater competitively.

“It’s the first time driving a single-seater in real life and my first time driving this car,” is how Dodd described it at Snetterton.

It was also her first time in historic machinery, apart from a few practice laps in a friend’s Clubman. All of her racing so far has been in junior categories, mainly the BARC’s Junior Saloon Car Championship, where she competed from 2018 to 2020. Despite her lack of experience with a car like her Royale FF2000, she immediately felt at home.

“I drove front-wheel drive cars before this. My main experience has come from Saxos.

“Whether it’s a case of it matching my style, or…a combination of maybe just experience, a bit of confidence. I feel confident here. Comfortable.”

Single-seaters have always been her ultimate aim, but getting a foot on the established career ladder is difficult.

“The mainstream, certainly junior single-seaters, things like Formula 4 and Formula 3, are quite expensive. This is what we went for in the end, a bit of experience.”

Dodd is a member of MSUK’s Driver Academy and her FF2000 activities are complementing the scheme’s physical training programme.

“The one thing I’ve found particularly is neck, which I’ve not had to do before. When you’re in a tin-top, you’re quite supported. I definitely need to work these muscles. But I was pretty physically prepared.”

Neck strain aside, she was enthusiastic about her experiences on the FF2000 grid.

“It’s a cracking experience really, learning from people around you as you’re on the move.”

FF2000 is back in action at Cadwell for the Wolds Trophy on the 5th and 6th of June.

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Features Opinion

Hope is the sound of an old Ford engine

The return of club motor racing is a huge step towards a world we recognise.

On-track action from Formula One and Formula E has been back on our screens for a while now and international sportscar racing has begun again across the Atlantic, but it was only when my accreditation arrived for the Snetterton HSCC meeting that I started to feel part of motor racing once more.

This post-event opinion column was meant to discuss possible championship rivalries, new drivers, new cars and the latest controversies, but it’s really just a huge verbal sigh of relief that club motorsport was still there waiting for us all along.

We’re relieved that the FF1600 tyre issues that plagued last year appear to have been resolved over the off-season. We’re happy that grid sizes at Snetterton were healthy, with a good sprinkling of newcomers and plenty of existing talent. We’re pleased that on-track action was clean and competitive.

Most of all, we’re just glad to be back.

Now, navel-gazing over.

Normal service to be resumed.