BRSCC FF1600: Neil’s Oulton Joy
 May 12, 2017| 
  • Feeder Series

LITTLE BUDWORTH, UK – Rounds 4 and 5 of the BRSCC Britcover National Formula Ford 1600 Championship with Avon Tyres saw the drivers continue their quest to win the title and a place in the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout by visiting the picturesque circuit of Oulton Park, deep in rural Cheshire, on May 6. Neil MacLennan returned to his home in Scotland with two winner’s trophies – his first ones at this level of the sport.

With racing on Sundays limited at Oulton Park, the qualifying session and two races all took place on the Saturday. Having set the pace against the clock at Brands Hatch a month earlier, Luke Williams recorded the fastest time in qualifying once more. His best lap in the Firman RF16 around the 2.69 International Circuit was an astonishing 0.425 second quicker than anyone else could manage – it was lap record breaking pace.

Williams converted the pole into the lead of Race 1 but he had the early championship leader, James Roe Jr., right in his slipstream. The pursuing driver in the Bernard Dolan-tended Van Diemen RF99 made his move on the outside in the braking area for the Hislops chicane on Lap 2 but he had contact with the rear of Williams’ car which induced a trip down the escape road.

Just prior to this incident, the Rays of Cliff Dempsey Racing team mates Neil MacLennan and Jamie Thorburn swapped places at Old Hall with MacLennan moving up to third which became second when Roe Jr had his problems at Hislops.

MacLennan then closed in on Williams who was using the whole of the circuit and a little more to establish a new Formula Ford 1600 lap record. In fact, he was using too much more of the real estate because, before the 20-minute race was over, the stewards had issued him with a five-second “track limits” penalty. This meant a very happy MacLennan was promoted to the top step of the podium. Williams was classified second ahead of the Ray GRS17 of Ross Martin who was making an impressive debut in the National Championship for the Graham Brunton team.

Williams’ bad luck continued when his clutch failed as he left his awning to take his place on the outside of the front row for Race 2. It is testament to the camaraderie in the BRSCC Formula Ford 1600 paddock that personnel from rival teams rushed to his aid and got the Firman mobile although he didn’t have time to properly warm up his tyres and bed-in the new brake pads that had been fitted.

When the red lights went out Martin got the jump on Williams to take second from where he pressured the leader, MacLennan, but a missed gear change saw Martin drop to third behind Williams. Possibly due to his new braking components, Williams then ran wide at the banked Shell hairpin. Martin went for a gap that briefly appeared but the two drivers ended up occupying the same piece of tarmac.

The ensuing contact caused damage which forced Martin to pit although he later rejoined to finish well down the order. Meanwhile, Williams dropped to fifth. Heroically, despite missing most of his right hand side-pod and his radiator hanging off, Williams was able to set the fastest lap once again as he overtook a couple of cars to finish third.

With all this drama going on behind him, MacLennan comfortably took his second victory of the day. Runner-up was a delighted Luke Cooper who didn’t think he would be competing at this meeting when a piston melted on his Swift SC16 at Castle Combe on May Bank Holiday Monday, but Barnett Racing Engines rebuilt his power unit in two days.

Having qualified third for the opening encounter, Cooper ran wide at the first corner and dropped to 10th before storming back up the order to take the checkered flag in fourth. By starting the second event in that position he was the beneficiary when Williams and Martin collided.

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