There’s a new face on this year’s Historic Formula Ford 2000 grid, and he’s waited a long time for the opportunity.
Ollie Roberts will be taking to the track in a Reynard SF79 run by Souley Motorsport, almost 15 years after he last raced at the 2007 Walter Hayes Trophy.
Following a real hero drive in the Walter Hayes – he came through every consolation race to reach the final after breaking down in his heat – a sponsorship deal to run in Formula 3 and Radicals fell through and that phase of his motorsport career ended.
Lockdown was one of the catalysts for getting back into a car.
“I was having a conversation with loads of old racing mates over lockdown,” he explains.
“They’d all said, when are we going to see you back in a car? And then my parents in law, when I spoke to them about it, they said the same thing. So I started looking.”
The next step was to acquire a car and he was drawn to FF2000.
“It seemed like the best category to go into, other than 1600s, without treading on old ground.
“I was looking at the value of the cars and they were very reasonably priced.
“It’s a very busy formula with very good grids in a really pretty car.”
The Reynard itself was formerly owned by Matt Wrigley and the two made a deal after the car was advertised online. With a car in his garage, it was now time to find someone to run it. Enter Brian Soule, more often found in the FF1600 paddock.
“The engineer at the time for the team I was racing with (Kevin Mills Racing in 2007) has his own team now. I rang him and said ‘if I bought a race car would you run me?’ and he was like, ‘absolutely'”.
Roberts will be supporting himself this year, having used his time away from the track to develop a career and make his own money. He sees this as a positive thing, having “whole-heartedly” been a spectator for so long.
“This will be the first season that I really get to enjoy it.”
He is not rash enough to think he is a championship contender in his first year, especially not in such a competitive series.
“I think I would like to get a couple of top-threes, if not a win.
“There are some good guys in there. You’ve got the current champion Graham Fennymore, Andrew Park, Benn Simms – it’s a strong grid, and they’re big grids. The bigger the mistake, the larger the overtaking manoeuvre you’ve got to make.”
He rates his chances highest at Donington and Silverstone National.
“Silverstone National is just a great track, because it’s short and fast. I would have said Snetterton, but Snett’s changed since I last did it.
“The thing with Donington is, I don’t think I’ve ever been there dry. That’s why I’m so confident round Donington.”
Since our conversation, Roberts has finally fitted a seat and undertaken testing. This was the first time he drove the car, in preparation for the first round at Brands Hatch on Saturday. He will be out in Group B.
(Image courtesy of Ollie Roberts)