BRSCC FF1600: First Win for Round-Garrido
 May 21, 2018| 
  • Feeder Series
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KNOCKHILL, Scotland – The picturesque valley setting of Knockhill played host to the second round of the Avon Tyres National FF1600 championship, as the UK’s top young drivers continued their quest for a place in the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout at the end of the season. 

It was the series' first time racing on the circuit's unique reverse layout configuration, although several drivers gained some valuable pre-event practice a week earlier when Team Dolan's Matt Round-Garrido and former Mazda Road to Indy finalists Jamie Thorburn and Ross Martin (Cliff Dempsey Racing and Graham Brunton Racing respectively) took part in the Scottish championship round, with Round-Garrido and Martin claiming victories.

Round-Garrido kept his form alive come Saturday's qualifying session and took pole position from CDR rookie Nico Gruber by just over two tenths of a second. Another to have gained track time the previous weekend, Austrian teenager Gruber was particularly impressive in his Ray to secure his first front row start in his maiden season of car racing. 

The first of three races was an FF1600 classic, as Round-Garrido prevailed in a race-long battle with series returnee Neil Maclennan to claim his first National victory.

Following a brief full-course caution, it was business as usual with Round-Garrido maintaining his advantage out front, but Maclennan came under pressure from Niall Murray's Van Diemen. The Irishman got the better of Maclennan in the closing stages to take second place at the flag. 

Brimming with confidence, Round-Garrido looked set for his second victory in a row. The pole-sitter was robust in his defence of Murray's attack at the first corner in Race Two, forcing his Team Dolan stablemate wide on exit and dropping the Irishman as low as ninth.

Murray's brilliant recovery and a stuck throttle for Round-Garrido on the fourth lap paved the way for the unlikeliest of victories for the 2016 champion. With Round-Garrido out of the race, Murray made swift work of those in front of him and worked his way into the top three approaching mid-distance. He then made a decisive move on Maclennan with five minutes remaining. 

Murray was assured of his victory one lap early as Graham Brunton Racing's Ross Martin ran straight on at Clark's with a stuck throttle of his own, bringing out the red flags.

The final race of the day had to be split into two parts following a red flag – and subsequent postponement to the end of the schedule.

Murray, who had been involved in the incident which necessitated the red flags, was out of luck again soon after the restart as his Van Diemen ground to a halt with mechanical trouble. Maclennan and pole-sitter Luke Cooper (Swift Cooper) were embroiled in a ferocious battle for top honors, with the Scotsman pulling off a sensation round-the-outside move at Clark’s to take the lead. The CDR man fended off several attacks from Cooper to take the win in his first outing since last year's Formula Ford Festival. 

Californian Carter Williams bounced back from a trying opening weekend at Silverstone in April to achieve a trio of encouraging results in his Don Hardman-run Ray. Williams admitted to driving tentatively during the pre-event tests during the week, aiming instead to build momentum throughout the weekend. After qualifying 10th in a closely packed field – notably just ahead of teammate and 2017 Formula Ford Festival champion Joey Foster – Williams gradually picked up his pace to finish a strong eighth in the final race of the weekend, merely 1.6 seconds behind race winner Maclennan.

The American now has some momentum on his side as the series heads next for Brands Hatch in June.

Words by Stephen Brunsdon; image courtesy of Rachel Bourne.
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