BRSCC FF1600: Murray Conquers Europe
 May 18, 2016| 
  • Feeder Series
ZANDVOORT, Holland – The best Formula Ford 1600 drivers from across Europe gathered at Zandvoort – the former Grand Prix circuit that nestles in sand dunes on the Dutch coast – over the weekend of 14th/15th May for the Marcel Albers Memorial Trophy which has been established to honour one of the Netherlands’ rising stars who was killed in a British Formula 3 Championship race at Thruxton in 1992.

Two of the four heats which decided the grid for the final were also rounds of the Avon Tyres UK National Formula Ford 1600 Championship – this is the only time the series is venturing away from the British mainland in 2016. The series brought to Holland many top quality drivers who are looking to win the title and claim their place at the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout where they will compete for the US$200,000 scholarship to contest the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

After his double victory at Silverstone three weeks earlier, Niall Murray confirmed himself as a strong contender to represent the UK’s National Championship at the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. He coped best with the difficult conditions of qualifying when the track dried out from a very wet initial state. The Irishman in the Bernard Dolan Motorsport Van Diemen RF99 took pole with a time four tenths faster than James Raven who was driving a Ray GR15/16 tended by Cliff Dempsey Racing.

At the start of his first race, Niall did not get away as well as he would have wished and dropped to third but as the field returned to the long pit straight he was already up to second and, having got a good exit from the Arie Luyendyk Corner, Murray was able to overtake the early leader Raven on the run down to the Tarzan Hairpin.

Although he missed out on some classic Formula Ford 1600 dicing amongst the rest of the competitors, Murray would not have been too concerned as he stormed to a six-second victory. The podium was completed by the Mygale GV15-K of local ace Melroy Heemskerk (who was not eligible for points in the UK series) and Ray GR11 man Stephen Daly who pushed Raven down to fourth during the course of the contest.

Once again, in his second race, Murray had troubles at the start. Having been beaten off the line by Daly he drove with caution – and one eye on the championship – in the opening stages as the other drivers fought ferociously around him. He dropped as low as sixth at one point before the race settled down and he picked off those ahead to hit the front with a couple of laps to go as Heemskerk and Daly joined him in the top three once more.

Murray has won all four of the last quartet of races in the UK National series although his luck ran out in the non-championship Marcel Albers Memorial Trophy final. Looking to make his first decent start of the weekend, he edged forwards very slightly just before the red lights went out. Although he took the lead, the officials issued a drive-through penalty. Niall battled back from this setback to claim fifth despite a broken rear anti-roll bar.

Having come close to winning the Formula Ford Festival on two occasions and just missing out on the Walter Hayes Trophy last year, Stephen Daly finally won a major FF1600 prize at Zandvoort when he went home with the Marcel Albers Memorial Trophy. 

Following a 12th-place finish in his first heat Patrick Pasma did plenty of soul searching on Saturday evening and was transformed on Sunday when he crossed the line 0.6 second behind Daly at the end of the final. The Finnish driver only had his first car race at the beginning of April and, if he can maintain his new found form, the Mygale SJ08 pilot will surely be someone to watch. Heemskerk upheld local honour in third.

Rounds 7 and 8 of the Avon Tyres UK National Formula Ford 1600 Championship will be staged on the road circuit at the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, England on 11th/12th June.

Words by Dave Williams; Photo courtesy of Rachel Bourne/Bourne Photographic
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