The second and final race before the lunch break at Castle Combe was for the Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford Championship, a series that always provides good racing. As the spectators eagerly anticipated their latest fix of the ever popular Formula Ford category, it was Mike Gardner who claimed pole position in his Crossle 30F. Simon Davey shared the front row in the first of many Van Diemen RF80 cars, whilst Chris Stuart and Stuart Kestenbaum completed the second row.
As the lights went out both front row men made good starts, as Mike Gardner took the early lead. After qualifying a whopping 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else, it should not have been a surprise to see Gardner streak away from the rest in the early stages. Helping out Gardner to build an even further lead was the fact that Chris Stuart and Simon Davey were fighting amongst themselves for 2nd, constantly passing and re-passing each other as they slowed themselves up.
By the end of lap 4 Gardner’s lead was already up to six seconds, meanwhile row three starter Kevin Mansell was now challenging Stuart for 3rd position on lap 5. Long time series front runner Stuart Kestenbaum was now looking to join the fight as he passed Mansell for 4th on the inside at Tower corner later on in the lap, as Davey briefly distanced himself from the squabbling Stuart,Kestenbaum and Mansell.
Stuart Kestenbaum was on the move again on lap 9 as he overtook Chris Stuart for 3rd, whilst behind him a lap later Mansell and Stuart swapped places before switching back again on the exit of Quarry. As the race entered it’s final laps Mike Gardner had built an incredible lead of almost half a lap, meanwhile behind him it finally seemed like the squabbling was coming to an end as everyone was now evenly spaced out.
After 16 laps and 20 minutes it was Mike Gardner who claimed as dominant a Formula Ford victory as your ever likely to see, eventually winning by 27 seconds. Even a 10 second post race penalty failed to deter him from victory, with Simon Davey the best of the rest in 2nd position. Stuart Kestenbaum battled to claim the final podium position, with Chris Stuart behind him in 4th. Finally it was Kevin Mansell and Steve Pearce who completed the top six.
The Classic Formula Ford grid lined up much later in the afternoon to looming grey clouds overhead as they started their formation lap. With the very crowded scheduling of the day’s meeting earlier delay’s meant this race was unfortunately reduced from 20 to 15 minutes to help with the scheduling, although it still promised to be an exciting race.
Much like with many other series, the grid for this second race was determined by the finishing order of the first race. This meant that Mike Gardner was once again on pole position, with Simon Davey again sharing the front row with him. Stuart Kestenbaum and Chris Stuart completed row two. At the front there were no major surprises at the start, as Gardner and Davey broke away from the rest by the end of the opening lap.
It didn’t take long for the fighting to begin in the pack as Kestenbaum and Mansell carried on their race one battle as they fought over 3rd in the early laps. After being wheeled off the grid in the opening race from 5th on the grid, Ted Pearson was keen to make up for it in this second race as he immediately rose through the pack, going from 18th and last to 6th by the end of lap 2.
It didn’t take long for Mike Gardner to assert his dominance again, as he led by roughly five seconds by lap 4, as once again a big battle was developing for 2nd between Davey,Kestenbaum,Mansell,Stuart and Pearson. On lap 5 Stuart began a charge up the order by passing Mansell for 4th, and then passed Kestenbaum for 3rd at the Esses a lap later. Stuart then completed his remarkable charge a lap after that by passing Davey for 2nd position going up Avon Rise and into Quarry. Ted Pearson also got involved on lap 7, as he passed Mansell for 5th to further his charge from the back.
Just as Chris Stuart was looking good in 2nd position he undid all his previous hard work by running wide at Camp on lap 7, which left him as easy prey for Simon Davey and Stuart Kestenbaum as he dropped to 4th by the time the reached the braking zone for Quarry corner. After re-passing Kestenbaum he look comfortable in 3rd, although a final lap drama meant he once again dropped behind Kestenbaum.
After twelve laps it was Mike Gardner who claimed another comfortable victory, as he proved himself to be the class of the field in both the day’s races, and this time he had no post-race penalties to sully his dominance. Simon Davey once again finished a distant 2nd, and after Chris Stuart lost drive temporarily coming out of Camp on the final lap, Stuart Kestenbaum was able to out drag him and claim the final podium place on the short drag to the finish line. Kevin Mansell almost crashed into him on the run to the line, although had just enough to momentum to pip him to 4th as Chris Stuart was classified 5th. Ted Pearson was further back in 6th.
Although on the surface two dominant victories for Mike Gardner didn’t seen the most entertaining of races, that would be doing disservice to the epic battles for the other podium places in both races, which were more than enough to keep everyone entertained throughout. The Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford Championship is a regular at Castle Combe for a reason, with everyone I’m sure hoping they will return again next year.
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