The resident Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship has always been a fan favorite, with the series running since 1969, making it the longest running single make championship in the country. For this televised round, grizzly conditions greeted the drivers as they headed out to the grid. The threat of rain appeared imminent in the grey clouds above, ensuring a very greasy circuit for the drivers.
After qualifying it was Michael Moyers who claimed pole for Kevin Mills Racing in his Spectrum chassis, with the returning ex-champion Ben Norton taking second on the grid. Nathan Ward and Felix Fisher would share row two. At the start it was Moyers who made the best getaway from pole, as he claimed the early lead. The rainfall began almost immediately, with a light rain covering the circuit in a light layer of moisture.
Michael Moyers was able to build an early lead of several seconds from the chasing pack, although he undid his hard work at the end of the opening lap as he spun whilst putting the power down exiting the Bobbies chicane. His quick pirouette left him in on the fringes of the top six, as he worked to get back to the front. Ben Norton inherited the lead, with Josh Fisher having a remarkable opening few laps to rise from 9th on the grid to challenge Norton for the lead. Wet weather specialist Luke Cooper and Roger Orgee were all fighting with Norton for the lead in the early laps.
Ben Norton was just about able to hold on to his lead, although he was the next to throw away his chances of victory as the conditions caught him out at Camp on lap 4, with his spin onto the wet grass eliminating him from contention as he was forced to retire, as the talented Josh Fisher therefore inherited the lead.
With Norton’s car in a precarious position at Camp, the Safety Car was scrambled on lap 6 to safely recover it. This took no time at all, therefore the Safety Car was only out for one lap before returning to the pits at the end of the lap. Fisher set about building a gap to the rest, who squabbled behind him. His cushion didn’t last long however, with Roger Orgee and Luke Cooper challenging him for the lead on lap 8. A lap later and Orgee managed to breach Fisher’s defenses, taking the lead with a great move on the outside of Quarry.
From here Orgee was able to just about hold on for the remaining one and a half laps, as he secured his first victory of the season as he looks to avenge his final race title defeat last season this year. Josh Fisher will have been delighted with his second from 9th on the grid, especially as this season’s he’s racing a Class C 1989 Reynard car against much newer machinery. Wet weather specialist Luke Cooper was another driver in an older spec car as he claimed the final podium place.
Reigning double champion Adam Higgins came home a solid 4th, from the recovering Michael Moyers in 5th and Josh’s brother Felix Fisher in 6th. This was another entertaining race for the Castle Combe spectators, once again proving a great advert for the circuit own resident championship’s. It’s a shame however that the conditions were not better for the drivers as they struggled in the very slippery conditions. For more information on this amazing series please visit their website below. http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/formula-ford-1600/
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.
With next month being the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Formula 3000, the junior racing category that between the years 1985 and 2004 catapaulted many young drivers into Formula One, now seems to be an appropriate time to look back on the popular final step to F1. I’m going to focus on the late 1990’s period of the series, when the series was as exciting as F1. At it’s peak there were forty full season entries battling for twenty six spots on the grid. Despite have a spec Lola chassis and Zytek engine package, the series provided great racing during the late 1990’s, before rising costs ruined the championship by the early 2000’s.
The series seemed to take on a new step during the 1996 season, where a new for 1996 spec Lola chassis and Zytek engine package produced a titanic title battle between the RSM Marko driver Jorg Muller and Super Nova racer Kenny Brack. A contentious collision at the final race of the year at Hockenheim settled the title in Muller’s favor, with the series showing itself to be a series on the up going into 1997.
Kenny Brack in action during the 1996 F3000 season at Silverstone. Photo credit goes to unknown from Flickr.com
1997 once again provided a title battle that went on until the business end of the season. Once again it was RSM Marko and Super Nova drivers who were fighting it out for the title, the only difference being the drivers involved as the Brazilian Ricardo Zonta turned the tables on RSM Marko to claim the title by 1.5 points from the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya for RSM Marko. The series featured a talented crop of drivers as the likes of Jason Watt,Jamie Davies and Max Wilson established themselves as men to watch in their rookie years. 1997 would see the profile of the championship rise as the series gained mainstream television coverage from ITV,further enhancing the profile of the series for the future.
1997 champion Ricardo Zonta in action during the opening race of the year at Silverstone. Photo credit goes to unknown sourced from Flickr.com
For anyone also interested in this period of F3000 racing, EdwinTV9 has kindly posted the 1997 ITV season review on Youtube. The link is below, feel free to view it.
1998 was a stellar season for F3000, the last year of the Lola T96/50 chassis produced a thrilling title battle between Super Nova driver Juan Pablo Montoya and the young German Nick Heidfeld. The profile of the series continued upwards in 1998 as established F3000 teams such as Super Nova, DAMS and Astromega were joined by the likes of West Competition team and the RTL Team Oreca. These were big for the series as the West Competition team was a McLaren junior team to help Nick Heidfeld progress, with the RTL Team Oreca being a BMW junior team also. This showed the growing manufacture influence with the F3000 series.
On the track Juan Pablo Montoya prevailed over Nick Heidfeld after a final round showdown, with the Williams test driver Montoya taking his talents to the highly competitive CART series in America, a title he duly won in 1999 before winning the prestigious Indy 500 in 2000 and returning to the F1 paddock with Williams in 2001. Of the rest Gonzalo Rodriguez impressed in his second year with two wins in the final three races, with Jason Watt once again showing his talents in 1998 for the Den Bla Avis team.
Also individual videos reviewing the 1998 F3000 season can be found on Youtube. The coverage come from ITV highlights and the first round link can be found below. Feel free to watch.
1999 was arguably the most successful year for the F3000 series during it’s existence as the new Lola B99/50 chassis produced grids of close to forty cars fighting over twenty six grid spots. The 45 minute qualifying sessions suddenly became like races themselves as everyone fought to get into the main race. By now the series was supporting the F1 races the entire year with every race supporting a European F1 grand prix weekend.
This link to the F1 paddock was now becoming far more obvious in F3000, with the West Competition team fielding Nick Heidfeld again as his dominated the year to comfortably win the title, with Gonzalo Rodriguez finishing third posthumenously in his Benetton backed Team Astromega entry, whilst Stephane Sarrazin impressed in his second year in the category for the Gauloises Formula Prost junior entry. Other teams dipping from F1 into F3000 included Williams with their all Brazilian Petrobras junior team, Sauber with their Red Bull junior/RSM Marko team and the short lived Portman-Arrows team, which only survived three races despite Arrows F1 support.
1999 would prove to be a year of both tragedy and transition for the category, with firstly the tragic death of paddock favourite Gonzalo Rodriguez whilst qualifying for his second CART race for Team Penske at Laguna Seca. Soon after this second place driver Jason Watt was involved in a motorcycle accident during a magazine photo shoot, leaving him paralyzed and therefore ending his single seater racing ambitions. Along with Nick Heidfeld moving up to F1 for 2000, the series was looking for a new crop of talent to come to the fore in the upcoming 2000 season.
Nick Heidfeld celebrating victory in Hungry during his dominant title victory in 1999. photo credit goes to Formula1.com
2000 was largely similar to 1999, the only major difference being a rule implemented before the start of the season to limit the grid to fifteen teams of two entries, meaning several of the smaller team were forced out of the series after poor 1999 seasons. This made the grid a lot more stable throughout the year, which was another classic season of F3000 as third year drivers Bruno Junqueira for the Williams affiliated Petrobras junior team and Benetton backed D2 Playlife Super Nova drivers Nicolas Minassian. Junqueira was the second half of the Williams shootout for a race drive in 2000, infamously losing out to Jenson Button before claiming the F3000 title. The series struggled to produce a crop of incoming talent to F1, as both Junqueira and Minassian taking their talents to Chip Ganassi Racing in the CART series for 2001.
This seemed strange as the series F1 links grew stronger in 2000 with the European Arrows team being set up as a junior squad for the F1 team, with eight F1 test drivers racing in the category in 2000. Behind Junqueira and Minassian rookie’s Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso impressed, with Alonso joining Minardi for the 2001 F1 season, before Webber replaced him for the 2002 season. In retrospect it appears the 2000 season was a watershed moment for the F3000 series, with sadly the series having it’s final days in the sun in 2000 before the series began to implode as rising costs ruined the series.
Bruno Junqueira on his way to winning the 2000 F3000 title in his brightly coloured Petrobras junior racing entry. Photo credit unknown sourced from Paul11f1.wordpress.com
The series lost more back marker teams with the grid reducing from 30 to 26 cars for the 2001 season. The series incorporated a inaugural fly-away round to open the season, supporting the Brazilian Grand Prix. The F1 only grew even stronger this year with Minardi sponsoring the Coloni team to become European Minardi for 2001, although the grid did lose the McLaren junior team after a difficult 2000 season for the team. Coca-Cola also came on board sponsoring the Nordic racing team, showing the prestige the series held at this time.
The Coca-Cola support of Nordic racing was timely as their driver Justin Wilson dominated the series to claim a comfortable title, beating Benetton backed Super Nova driver Mark Webber, team mate Tomas Enge and DAMS driver Sebastien Bourdais. The standard at the top of the grid was as good as ever, although the overall quality of the grid was slipping slightly from the landmark years of the series in the late 1990’s.
Justin Wilson in action during his F3000 title year in 2001. He went on to impress when he could during a short F1 career after this.
Photo credit goes to LAT.com sourced from AtlasF1.autosport.com .
From here the series dwindled in both popularity and relevance to F1 during the next few years, with the only champion between 2002 and the series end in 2004 to get an F1 drive the following year was Tonio Luizzi, and he shared a half season drive with Red Bull Racing in 2005. 2002 champion Sebastien Bourdais took his talents to America, winning the Champ Car series four years in a row between 2004 and 2007, before impressing in flashes with Scuderia Toro Rosso in one and a half years of F1, before being dropped halfway through the 2009 season. 2003 champion Bjorn Wirdheim has never started a F1 grand prix, becoming a third driver for Jaguar racing in 2004, before switching to Champ Car and subsequently establishing himself in the Japanese Super Formula single seater and Super GT series over the last several years.
F3000 was sadly replaced by GP2 for the 2005 season, something which was a shame but ultimately necessary as the F3000 series had simply run out of steam. The series was fantastic whilst it lasted, with it’s glory years surely making the series the most high profile junior category ever. We will likely never see again a grid full of forty cars competing to even qualify for an F1 supporting event, which simply shows the strength the F3000 series once had. It is a sorely missed final step on the ladder to F1.
Any thoughts on this article feel free to post a comment good or bad on the F3000 series.
Next up on track for the penultimate race of the Championship Finals Raceday was the Castle Combe Formula Ford Carnival, a regular end of season one-off race for victory which has been going since 1996. This year’s entry was abit smaller than previous years although most of the championship regulars wheeled out their cars for one final race in the season. Nathan Ward was once again on pole in his Spectrum with the talented returnee Luke Cooper alongside him in his older Swift SC92 model. Michael Moyers was 3rd with Roger Orgee completing row 2.
At the start it was the two Higgins brothers who made the best getaway’s as Richard rose quickly from 6th on the grid whilst recently crowned Combe Formula Ford champ Adam shot from 8th, after he only completed 1 qualifying lap for this to save his car for the earlier final round of the Formula Ford championship. Nathan Ward managed to retain the lead however, until lap 2 when a determined Roger Orgee passed him on the inside going into Tower.
From here it seemed both Orgee and Ward had the edge on the others for pace as they opened a small gap back to Combe debutant Michael Moyers in 3rd by lap 3. Later on in this shortened 12 lap affair Orgee showed he was aiming to avenge his earlier title loss as he opened a lead of just over a second, whilst behind him Ward was now fighting Moyers, Adam Higgins and Luke Cooper for 2nd place. Unfortunately this battle was split apart on the next lap as contact between Moyers and Higgins at the Esses delayed the rest, and left Moyers with sidepod damage that was enough to force him into retirement at the end of the lap.
Now Nathan Ward was free of those behind him he once again set about challenging Orgee for the lead in the last few laps, although it seemed he was unlikely to find a way through. Behind them, a great battle for 3rd was now developing between Adam Higgins, Luke Cooper, Jonathan Hoad, Ed Moore and Richard Higgins. The final few laps were set to be frantic and unfortunately things once again ended in tears, as Richard Higgins was dumped off the track after a last lap collision.
Back at the front and Roger Orgee salvaged a Carnival win from his earlier title loss whilst Nathan Ward came home a close 2nd. Completing the podium was 2013 and 2014 Castle Combe Formula Ford champion Adam Higgins. Luke Cooper was 4th in his return to the circuit, with Jonathan Hoad bringing home his iconic Duckhams Van Diemen RF90 racer 5th whilst ex-champion and serial winner Ed Moore completed the top 6.
Whilst this year’s Carnival failed to live up to the glory days of the race in the mid-2000’s this year’s race was yet again a classic with a great battle between Orgee and Ward for the lead and even further down every podium place was hotly contested. The Carnival brought the curtain down on an amazing 2014 Castle Combe Formula Ford season, my only hope is that the action and level of entries can be sustained into 2015, with maybe even a few more faces to challenge at the front although that may simply be wishful thinking.
Carrying on the Formula Ford theme of the day’s Castle Combe Championship finals race day, the Pre-1982 Classic Formula Ford Championship grid took to the track for their 20 minute race. The sizeable grid was headed by Andrew Smith on pole with long time series front runner Stuart Kestenbaum alongside him on the front row. Simon Davey lined up 3rd with Ted Pearson completing row 2.
From the start it was Stuart Kestenbaum who made the best getaway to steal the early lead with the rest following on behind. It took until lap 3 before pole man Andrew Smith was able to claim the lead from Kestenbaum at Quarry. Things soon got worse for Kestenbaum on the exit of the corner as he was demoted to 3rd by an opportunistic Simon Davey. The major talking point of the race occurred a lap later at Quarry as the top 3 were all eliminated in one incident, with the rest scrambling to find a way through the carnage in front of them. It appeared leader Andrew Smith spun with Simon Davey and Stuart Kestenbaum also collecting him and leaving all three strewn on the grass run off on the outside of Quarry.
In the aftermath of the leaders collision it was Ted Pearson who now led, however he had lost his nosecone in the melee and it was clear from his heavily blocked radiator that he’d been grass cutting in avoidance of further contact at Quarry. Despite the large amount of grass in the radiator Pearson was able to continue for another lap in the lead, before a gear linkage failure forced him to slow at Hammerdown and coast round into retirement. Chris Stuart was the new leader after making rapid progress from 6th on the grid whilst also benefiting from others mistakes. Stuart opened a small lead over Kevin Howell and Kevin Mansell in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Kevin Mansell sensed a chance at the victory and dived inside Kevin Howell for 2nd at Tower on lap 7. It seemed Howell might of had a potential problem as he then lost 3rd on the next lap Philip Michael Wrigley. Any hopes Mansell had of claiming victory were ruined with a spin at Bobbies on lap 9, as he dropped from 2nd to 7th. Going into the final laps a scintillating battle for the lead was developing between Stuart, Michael Wrigley and Roger Newman. Newman was the man on the move as he stole 2nd from Michael Wrigley at Quarry on the penultimate lap, although he was unable to wrest the lead from Stuart. So after a dramatic Pre-82 Classic Formula Ford race it was Chris Stuart who outlasted the rest to claim the victory, with Roger Newman and Philip Michael Wrigley completing the podium.
Kevin Howell recovered from his late race spin to claim 4th with Leandro Guedes taking the iconic Jesus Saves Van Diemen RF79 to 5th whilst the Wrigley family could be happy with Matthew claiming 6th to join Philip Michael in 3rd. All in all, it was a very interesting race with plenty of action, in other words a proper Formula Ford race. For more information on the series please visit the link below. http://www.classicformulaford.com/
The Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship has been hotly contested all season, with the three consistently stand out drivers of 2014 all in contention for the title going into last weekend’s final race. After the dropped scores had been applied it was reigning champion Adam Higgins who went into the race with a 1 point lead over Roger Orgee, with young star Ash Crossey an outside contender 14 points behind.
Lining up on pole was the perennially unlucky Nathan Ward, who has been in a position to win a lot of races this year but for a multitude of reasons has been prevented from doing so. Roger Orgee was the first of the title contenders in 2nd, with Ash Crossey lining up 3rd from title rival Adam Higgins in 4th. From the start it was pole man Nathan Ward and Adam Higgins who made the best starts off the line, with the top 3 of Ward, Higgins and Orgee making an early break on lap 1 from the pursuing train of Crossey, Michael Moyers and Richard Higgins.
By the next lap Ward had opened his advantage to roughly 2-3 seconds whilst it appeared Adam Higgins was now holding up those behind him including Roger Orgee directly behind him. From here Higgins and Orgee eased away slightly from those behind him, being led by Crossey, over the next few laps to solidify themselves in their own private battle for the title.
By lap 6 Ward has built his lead to a massive 4.4 seconds over Higgins behind, who was still only just holding off Orgee behind him. A few laps later and the pressure finally told on Orgee in 3rd as he suffered a small off and was passed by Ash Crossey, which also let Higgins off the hook now in 2nd. After this an almighty battle developed for 3rd between Crossey, Orgee, Moyers and R Higgins by lap 11. A lap later and Orgee’s title hopes were finally dealt a hammer blow as he went off for the second time, this time dropping to 7th as Crossey was now well ahead of the rest in 3rd.
Back at the front and now Adam Higgins was well clear in 2nd and Orgee was struggling he seemed to set loose in the final 5 laps as he set a string of fastest laps to reel in Ward in the lead. Going into the final lap of the season Higgins was right with Ward for the lead, and his finally completed his fairy tale afternoon as he slid inside Ward at the Esses to take the lead at the death as he motored home to his third victory of the year and his second consecutive title, which leaves him only one short of distinguished father Bob Higgins accolade of three consecutive titles between 1981 and 1983.
Higgins was clearly overjoyed with his second title as he jumped up and down in the car throughout the slowing down lap, with Ward gracious in defeat with 2nd whilst rising star Ash Crossey completed the podium. Combe debutante Michael Moyers was an impressive 4th with the hugely impressive dominator of Class C David Cobbold came home 5th with Adam Higgins brother Richard completing the top 6. Orgee came home a very frustrated 7th but was magnanimous in defeat.
Adam Higgins proved in this race alone why he deserves to be the 2014 champion, and as it seems the Higgins family will be back in 2015, you would have to be a brave man to bet against Adam Higgins claiming a third consecutive title, although he will face stiff competition from the likes of Roger Orgee and Nathan Ward especially.
After the exciting opening race for the Monoposto series, next up on track was the HSCC Formula Ford 2000 series, who lined up for the first of their double header races to round out their season. The title was still up for grabs amongst three drivers and it was the 2nd man in the points, Ben Tusting, who claimed pole from title leader Ben Simms. The title outsider Andrew Park line up 3rd with frequent race winner and local favourite Nelson Rowe completing row 2 in 4th.
At the start of their opening 15 minute stanza it was 3rd man Andrew Park who shot into an early lead and at the end of lap 1 it was Park and Nelson Rowe who were making a small break at the front from the Ben Simms and Tom Smith, up from 5th, behind them. A lap later and Park began opening a gap to Rowe in 2nd also as Park looked very strong in the opening minutes. Things were going slightly pear shaped for title leader Ben Simms as he lost 3rd on lap 2 to Tom Smith, with the outside bet for the title Andrew Park streaking away up front.
By lap 3 the top four of Park, Rowe, Smith and Simms were now well clear of the rest of the field, which was bad news for the pole man and 2nd in the point Ben Tusting, who seemed to be struggling with the much drier conditions now compared with the extremely wet track they faced for the earlier qualifying session. A lap later and Simms re-took 3rd from Smith, with the top 4 now evenly spacing themselves out at the front.
From here it seemed Andrew Park was destined for a lights to flag comfortable victory, however he suffered a difficult moment on lap 10 as bad traffic for him halved his gap to Rowe to 2.4 seconds, however after this minor blip it was plain sailing for the final two laps for leader Andrew Park, who claimed a dominant victory to boost his title chances going into the final race of the season. Nelson Rowe came home 2nd whilst title leader Benn Simms claimed the final podium place. Tom Smith was 4th whilst pole man Ben Tusting and Andrew Storer completed the top 6 respectively, in a great opening race for the HSCC Formula Ford 2000 Championship as the title was set to be decided in the final race of their season later on in the afternoon.
Much later on in the afternoon the HSCC Formula Ford 2000 series ventured out on track again for their final race of the season, with an earlier accident in the resident Castle Combe Saloons series relegating this race from 15 to 12 minutes because of the previous long stoppage. With dropped scores the title was realistically between title leader Benn Simms and race 1 victor Andrew Park. The grid was based on second fastest qualifying times and therefore it was again Ben Tusting who claimed pole, with title contender Andrew Park alongside him on the front row. Nelson Rowe and title leader Benn Simms completed row 2. From the start again Andrew Park made a great getaway to lead as Benn Simms was right in his wheel tracks off the line.
The opening lap was tight as the field were very close with one another from the start, and the first to make a mistake was local man Nelson Rowe, who ran wide at Bobbies on the opening lap and dropped from 3rd to 7th in a matter of meters. His recovery was swift however as he made up a number of places in the ensuing laps to rise to 4th by lap 4. Both pole man Tusting and Rowe were now closing back up to the leaders. Rowe was on the move again on lap 6 as he passed Tusting for 3rd at Folly, and was soon challenging Park for the lead later on in the lap. The battle for the leader was now between title contenders Benn Simms and Andrew Park with local man Nelson Rowe the interloper in 3rd.
The two title rivals Simms and Park were constantly changing positions, with Rowe now getting in on the act as he passed Park for 2nd at Quarry on lap 8, as he then passed Simms for the lead at the Esses a lap later. This move was then followed by a brilliantly opportunistic move by Park as he passed Simms for 2nd around the outside at Old Paddock, which is a move rarely tried by drivers let alone a move that is completed. From here the status quo remained as ex Historic Formula Ford champion Nelson Rowe claimed victory at his local circuit, with the two title contender Andrew Park and Benn Simms completing the podium.
Pole man Ben Tusting was 4th whilst Tom Smith and Graham Fennymore completed the top 6 respectively. After frantic calculation both from the championship coordinator and the two circuit commentators it was announced that after dropped scores Benn Simms was the champion by 4 points from Andrew Park. Both were in good spirits after the race when being interviewed, which shows the camaraderie amongst the drivers in this thriving HSCC Formula Ford 2000 Championship. This series provided two great races at the Championship Finals race day here at Castle Combe, and I hope the Formula Ford 2000 community is welcomed back to Castle Combe next year. For more information on the series please visit the link below.
The second of the resident Castle Combe series came onto the track next, as the circuit’s Formula Ford grid trickled out for the start of their 15 lap race. The aim of this race would surely be just staying on the track with their light cars in these tricky conditions. With this being the penultimate round of the championship their was added pressure on the drivers in contention for the title.
It wasn’t one of the title contenders who took pole as the always fast Nathan Ward claimed pole from championship leader Roger Orgee in 2nd. On row 2 were the returning old favourite Felix Fisher and another title contender is Ash Crossey. At the start Ward took an early lead and set about building an opening lap lead of 1 second. From here things only improved for Ward as he built his lead to 4 seconds by the end of lap 3. It appeared Ward had pace no one could match in the early stages, which was strange as the race was slightly processional at this point which isn’t seen often with this series especially.
The first 5 were spread out by lap 6 as Ward kept building his lead to around 7.5 seconds by the end of lap 7. On lap 9 the conditions finally caught out one of the front runners as title contender Ash Crossey suffered a lengthy off and dropped well down the field to 9th. By the next lap it became clear he was now on a mission as he quickly clawed himself back to 7th and began scything into the gap between him and Ed Moore ahead in 6th.
By the later stages Ward has now maintained his lead at around 12 seconds, a staggering amount which he held to the end in what was the most dominant Castle Combe Formula Ford victory seen for several years . Roger Orgee settled for 2nd and a decent haul of points from one-off returning driver Felix Fisher who completed the podium. Reigning champion Adam Higgins would have been slightly disappointed to lose ground to Orgee in the title race with 4th, with brother and team mate Richard Higgins outlining his recent improvement with a consistent 5th. Finally despite the frantic charge Crossey was unable to challenge Moore for 6th who just held on at the flag.
The championship will go down to the final meeting although with dropped scores to be taken into account it suggests the title race will be between leader Roger Orgee and reigning champion Adam Higgins. That race should be worth a visit to Castle Combe for the 5th October meeting alone. For more information on this scintillating series please visit – http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/formula-ford-1600/
For the local spectators, one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the day was for the resident Castle Combe Formula Ford championship. This series always has tremendous competitor report and often produces scintillating races in arguable one of Britain’s most competitive Formula Ford championships. After a remarkable one-off return for previous champion Ben Norton at the double header meeting last time out, championship contenders Ashley Crossey, Roger Orgee and 2013 champion Adam Higgins were all looking to reassert their championship challenge in this race.
In qualifying it was Crossey who claimed yet another pole from team mate Nathan Ward whilst Orgee and Higgins had to be content with the second row after a wet qualifying session. A dry race however meant plenty of opportunities to challenge for the win, and Crossey grasped the first one with a great start off the line to grab an initial lead. The man on the move at the start was previous champion Ed Moore, who finally looked to have his Van Diemen JL013K sorted as he rocketed from 8th to lead at the end of lap 1 after diving inside Crossey at Camp to complete a first lap reminiscent of Ayrton Senna at Donington in 1993.
Next up to challenge Crossey was Adam Higgins, and he finally made a move stick on the inside at Tower on lap 3 to demote Crossey to 3rd. Unusually for a Castle Combe Formula Ford race, Moore was able to build a gap to rest of several seconds by lap 5 as he appeared to be cruising. He gap to the rest was short-lived however as the Safety Car was deployed on lap 6 to recover the Swift of guest driver Freddie Hunt, son of 1976 World Champion James Hunt, who had spun on oil and the Esses and was unable to continue.
By the end of lap 7 the Safety Car came in leaving Moore to defend his lead. Initially a two car break developed at the front consisting of Moore and Higgins, although the crucial moment of the race occurred on lap 9 as Moore also spun on the oil at the Esses, demoting himself to the rear of the top 10 as Higgins now led from the chasing pack behind. From here this 15 lap race turned into a 5 lap sprint as Higgins, Crossey, Ward and Orgee were fighting it out for the victory.
Lap 11 saw Ward make his way past team mate Crossey for 2nd and two laps later Ward went one better as he went inside Higgins into Quarry to take the lead. Ward’s lead was cut short however by a mistake at Bobbies on the same laps, which dropped him to 4th now. By the final lap the leading quartet had become a trio as Orgee drifted off the back of them as Higgins, Crossey and Ward battled for final lap glory.
A grandstand finish was all set up however the drama was provided slightly earlier than expected as Ward tried an ambitious move on team mate Crossey for 2nd on the inside at Tower, with the smallest of gaps for Ward closing up as he made significant contact with Crossey exiting the corner to spear both cars off into the outside tyre wall, thankfully without injury despite initial concerns. The removal of the Kevin Mills racing twins left Higgins free to take the victory, from a delighted Orgee in 2nd whilst Adam’s brother Richard Higgins continued his impressive rate of improvement to complete the podium.
Old circuit favourite Paul Barnes came through delighted with a 4th, his best result in years whilst Michael Bradley and Mark De Rozarieux completed the top 6 in another thrilling Formula Ford race at Castle Combe. Adam Higgins was delighted with his win and a 3rd for his brother will have made father and multiple ex-champion Bob Higgins very happy with their day’s racing. Crucially for both Higgins and Orgee their top 2 placing’s coupled with a non-score for championship leader Crossey means the title race is developing nicely heading into the final two meetings of the year.