For the past 50 years, Formula Ford 1600 has launched thousands of racing drivers’ careers and provided some of the most nerve-tingling wheel-to-wheel action in motorsport.
It’s got a history few other single-seater categories can rival – but it’s also thriving in the present and its future is full of promise.
And it’s that bright future a new, but perhaps familiar, website intends to cover.
From 2004-06, Autosport and Motorsport News national reporters Ian Sowman and Matt Beer ran a website providing up-to-the-minute coverage of the UK FF1600 scene, with initial race reports published straight after the flag and a daily supply of news, columns and features between events.
Other jobs and busy lives got in the way and, concerned quality would slip, Ian and Matt closed the site after the 2006 Walter Hayes Trophy – an event appropriately won by Peter Dempsey, whose rise, successes and newsworthy exploits had filled plenty of FF1600.co.uk pages.
Not a year has gone past since then without a “could we bring the website back?” conversation between Ian and Matt, and it very nearly happened a few times.
Now, subject to a successful trial run over the coming weeks, it’s happening. FF1600 is thriving in a way it hasn’t in many years, and we have a new generation of writers ready to cover it.
In 2018, we’d like the new FF1600 website to cover the full array of UK championships – National, Northern, Scottish, Super Series, Castle Combe, Champion of Brands, Northern Irish and ideally Historic and Classic too – with sharp and informative online reports published within 10-45 minutes of the chequered flag for every qualifying session and race, written by reporters in the paddock.
There’ll be news and features between races too, including round-ups to ensure the full field gets coverage as well as just the frontrunners. We’d also like to include video posts with edited highlights from onboard footage supplied by competitors.
Another key part of the plan is a monthly downloadable magazine, containing more in-depth, feature-style long-form reports from each meeting, plus interviews, columns from FF1600 figures and regular items such as:
* My FF1600 memories – Drivers, team personnel, organisers and journalists reminisce about the races and incidents that made FF1600 part of their lives
* How to go fast in a… – Tips for drivers from those who’ve succeeded in particular chassis types, covering popular choices for the older classes and series as well as the likes of the current Firman/Ray/Spectrum/etc
* On this week in FF1600/FFord history – Delving into the archives to remember who was making waves in FF1600 on a given week in the 1960s/70s/80s/90s and 2000s
The website will also have some permanent ‘guide to’ sections to introduce FF1600 to new audiences. We want it to be not only the place where the existing FF1600 community and fans go for information and entertainment, but somewhere to entice more and more drivers to get themselves on an FF1600 grid.
Autosport Academy writers
Now a deputy editor at Autosport, Matt is also the founder of the Autosport Academy – a training scheme for new motorsport journalists. Nine of its graduates are now on the staff on Autosport and Motorsport News, and it’s launched three people into jobs with Formula 1 teams and many others into professional motorsport roles that include PR-style work with the World Touring Car Championship, FIA Institute, European and British Truck Racing Championships, Formula Renault NEC, European Rally Championship and more.
We see the new FF1600 website as a key outlet for journalists training with the Autosport Academy, giving them paddock time in a high-calibre environment with a brilliant range of drivers and teams, and chance to hone the skills they’ll use in future Autosport staff jobs, such as rapid website race reports, building contacts, pooling material to run between races, creating magazine features and designing content. The Academy members, under Matt and Ian’s guidance, will be responsible for the majority of the FF1600 articles, which will be written to Autosport style and standards.
Making this work
No one’s expecting to make a living out of an FF1600 website. But with young writers involved who are trying to build careers, we believe it’s essential from the outset that we can at least cover their transport and accommodation costs so they can attend the meetings they’re covering, and ideally provide a degree of payment beyond that. Being able to cover website costs and to provide payments to photographers providing images for the site is also important to make this project sustainable.
We’ll be asking for donations from the FF1600 community towards initial start-up costs, and selling advertising space on the website. The original FF1600.co.uk had a very active community area advertising cars and parts for sale and drives available, and we want to build on that.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DONATING TO THE PROJECT OR ADVERTISING ON IT, PLEASE EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
What happens next?
Over the coming days, we’ll run a few trial articles on this basic blog site to get the ball rolling and provide examples of what’s to come in 2018, recapping the season so far as well as covering some of the action from events including this weekend’s National finale and Northern meeting at Anglesey.
Whether we’re able to launch the full version of the project in time for the Formula Ford Festival, the Walter Hayes Trophy or not until the start of the 2018 season depends on the factors above. But for now, this is the shakedown/winter testing phase.
Is this PR?
This will be an independent website rather than being affiliated to a particular FF1600 organiser, but our overwhelming interest is promoting the Formula Ford scene. While we’ll reserve editorial independence and the right to ask questions of FF1600 when required, we’re here because we want to help FF1600 grow and grow.
Management and editorial direction: Matt Beer, Ian Sowman, Tom Errington, Matt Kew, Phil Waldron, Aaron Rook
Writer/reporter/sub-editor line-up so far: Jason Noble, Lucy Morson, Stephen Brunsdon, Samarth Kanal, Dom D’Angelillo, Mark Paulson, Jake Boxall-Legge, Joe Hudson, Dan Mason, Elliot Wood, Georgina Yeomans, Luke Barry, Dave Williams, Bethonie Waring, Graham Keilloh, Josh Suttill, Rachel Bichener, Cameron Paterson, Kyle Francis, Laura Leslie, Alasdair Lindsay, Jack Amey, Tim Lumb, Jake Nichol, Kyran Gibbons, Rob Watts, Rory Mitchell
Proposal images courtesy of Rachel Bourne