Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival report by Rod Birley

A rather small, but very competitive, grid assembled for the Avon Tyres/Image Wheels intermarque series at Brands Hatch. This was another prestigious meeting as it was the annual Formula Ford festival, which is always a popular fixture at the Kent circuit. Qualifying took place on a wet and slippery track following early morning rain. Pole position for race one went to Steve Burrows, who won the last race here back in August. Lining up next to him would be the similar Vauxhall Tigra driven by Malcolm Blackman. These were the only two to set a time below 60 seconds. Next up were the Mercedes mounted Smith brothers, with Lewis just edging out Daniel. Row three contained the impressive Mick Robertson (who was also the leading senior runner in his VW Corrado) then came Colin Smith (back in his Tigra) Paul Knight (Vauxhall Tigra) and Philip Blackford who was going well in his Peugeot. John Steward (Mercedes) and Eric Boulton (Tigra) rounded out the top ten, followed by Scott Aprigliano (Peugeot 206), Philip Young (Mitsubishi Colt) and newcomer Kirk Russell (Tigra).

It was still wet for race one, which saw Blackman burst into the lead, with Daniel Smith following him into second spot. Burrows held onto third for one lap until Lewis Smith also sneaked past. These four had broken away from Boulton, who soon became a bit lonely in fifth. Steward was heading the seniors in an impressive sixth overall, as Robertson had slid to the tail of the field. Mick then produced a stunning climb back through the field to eventually take sixth overall and win the senior category. Meanwhile the battle for the lead was hotting up. On lap 3 Daniel Smith took the lead, then a lap later Lewis appeared at the front until lap 7. Lap 8 and Daniel was back in the lead, as Lewis dropped back with a misfire caused by a failing battery. Blackman was now in second with Burrows in close pursuit, until he slipped off at Clearways and lost ground. At the chequered flag Daniel Smith took the win with Blackman second. Burrows held onto third with Lewis Smith coming in fourth. Boulton was good for fifth, with Robertson getting sixth. Knight and Steward battled race long and kept Robertson on his toes. Blackford held off a fast closing Colin Smith who had a pirouette going through Surtees. Aprigliano, Young and Russell completed the finishers as all 13 cars completed the race. Steward was awarded the driver of the race trophy, as he showed improved pace.

Mick Robertson’s mechanic John kindly pulled out number 9 for the second race grid draw, which promoted Blackford to pole position. By now the track was dry, but surprisingly three drivers elected to start on wet weather tyres (Blackford, Aprigliano and Russell). Sadly their choice was not successful and eventually all three retired as the race progressed.

Making a storming start was Robertson, who put his Corrado into an impressive early lead, with Knight slotting into second place. Boulton was an early casualty as he ground to a halt exiting Druids hairpin. The quartet of quick drivers then closed in on Robertson, which saw Blackman and Lewis Smith dive either side going into Paddock Bend. Everyone held their breath, but it worked out for Lewis as he emerged in the lead. Daniel Smith and Burrows also demoted the leading senior runner, who now had to concentrate on his class rival Knight. Lewis led until lap 7 when Blackman made his move.

Attention now focused on the battle for third, as Burrows just led Daniel Smith. Steve held the spot until lap 13 when he received a warning flag for exceeding track limits. In a flash Daniel moved ahead and despite a lot of pressure held on to the final podium position. Such was the pace that these four finished over 30 seconds ahead of fifth placed Robertson. Mick again won the senior class and picked up the driver of the race award. Knight harried Robertson for most of the race, but had to contend with a late charge from Colin Smith, but held onto sixth by just over a second. Steward maintained good pace to take 8th (and third senior home) with Young shadowing him all the way. All nine finishers completed the full distance, as the three drivers who started on wet tyres all retired, along with Boulton.

The final rounds of the series take place on Sunday November 13th at Brands Hatch, with both classes still hotly contested.

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