Who’s going to win?
Stephen Brunsdon (Autosport & Motorsport News Scottish correspondent)
On 2017 form alone, it has to be Luke Williams. The man himself says the Festival is his to lose. He finished just off the podium in the 2016 Festival, but all things going well this time around, will be right in the mix for overall honours come Sunday’s final.
Matt Kew (AutoClassics staff writer)
Williams may have sewn up the Britcover National Championship with Avon Tyres title, but it’s been Luke Cooper’s late season form that has really caught the eye. At Silverstone and Anglesey he’s qualified well, led races from the front and also gained positions through a tightly contested field. As a combination, there’s been little to fault.
Dave Williams (BRSCCFF1600.co.uk editor)
Who will scoop the laurels is anyone’s guess. National FF1600 was so wide open this year with eight different winners. But having developed the Firman chassis in 2016, Williams hit the ground running at Brands Hatch at the start of the year. While the rest of the pack soon caught him up, no one really got the better of the Yorkshireman.
Matt Beer (Autosport deputy editor)
There are years when the regular season stars’ years all fall apart in the trophy races, but in 2017 there are a lot of reasons why Williams can be both National champion and Festival winner. He first proved the Firman’s potential in the Champion of Brands, he’s been in the podium mix at the last few Festivals and he truly appreciates the heritage of this event.
An underdog to watch
Fergus Reed (Autosport Academy member)
Outside of the National championship fold, regular Champion of Brands winner Oliver White is certainly going to be a threat, and you can’t ever discount the Team USA scholars; this year’s line-up consisting of Aaron Jeansonne and Jonathan Kotyk.
MB: The best FF1600 underdog stories come from drivers wrestling an older car ahead of newer machinery, and I’m going to have an eye on Felix Fisher in TM Racing’s Reynard 88FF. He was great to watch every time he turned up (with no testing) in the team’s modern car in the National series this year.
More dark horse than underdog, but Northern champion Josh Smith and Oldfield Motorsport feel like one of those combinations of driver-and-team with a point to prove clicking after a late-season shuffle.
SB: He’s less of an underdog and more of a slightly leftfield victor, but Scottish champion Ross Martin has steadily been rebuilding his racing career after losing his Fortec British Formula 4 ride early last season. The Graham Brunton Racing teenager strolled to the Scottish title this year and has experience of mixing it with established National runners. He’s often unbeatable.
MK: A hefty crash at Castle Combe and time away travelling limited Keith Donegan’s appearances this season. But when he was racing, he was quick from the off and a consistent frontrunner. If Brands Hatch is hit by rain then the Irishman’s chances will only improve. Josh Smith could be right at the top too. He had a fairly anonymous and, for that, frustrating season until his late team and car swap and has been scintillating since.
DW: Josh Smith has shown great speed all year but never made it on to the National podium until the final meeting when he was uncatchable in the wet at Anglesey. If wet weather materialises, Smith could well be the man to beat.
What would be a heart-warming result?
SB: A podium for Jamie Thorburn in the final would be a great result for a driver who has come on leaps and bounds in the National series in 2017. Thorburn showed promise at the Festival last year after finishing runner-up to Neil MacLennan in the Scottish championship, but frustratingly failed to finish the final.
MK: Possibly fielding the most inexperienced set-up at the Festival will be Sam Street. The 21-year-old and his two 17 and 19-year-old work placement mechanics have built and set up their Granola IT Swift entirely themselves. Budgets are tight and components have failed on them but in terms of spirit they are a match for anybody. Their aim is continual progression and if that’s achieved then heads can be held high.
DW: Michael Eastwell has been steadily gaining pace in the Kevin Mills prepared Spectrum having begun 2017 with no car racing experience. Eastwell has used his on-track exploits to help others by raising £1500 for Cancer Research. It would be great to see this altruistic character do well as he returns to Brands where he made his National series debut.
MB: Joey Foster‘s not exactly short of FF1600 success, but – and no offence meant, Joey – those three Walter Hayes Trophy victories were a while ago now. He showed at Anglesey last month that he’s a match for any of the 2017 FF1600 crowd, and it would be pretty special to see him atop the Festival podium.
What makes the Festival wonderful?
FR: The Festival may now have less significance on the world stage, but the core of the event is very much the same as it always was: top-line FFord drivers coming together at the spiritual home of the category. Brands holds a special place in people’s hearts, and the racing on the short 1.2 mile Indy circuit is never dull.
You just have to take a trip up to the Kentagon, Brands’ famous restaurant and bar, to see a list of previous Festival winners. Anybody with even a small interest in motorsport would recognise a lot of them. This is an event steeped in history, and nothing will change that.
DW: The Festival is wonderful because it is the greatest weekend of motor racing due to FF1600 providing the most thrilling action of any category in the sport. The lack of aero allows the cars to run closely together but the exposed wheels are a deterrent to barging people out of the way. Passes have to be made with precision.
The flowing nature of the Brands Hatch Indy layout is also a great conduit for FF1600, providing drivers losing a place with the opportunity to carry greater speed than their aggressor and fight back at the next corner.
MB: There is no place in UK motorsport that crackles with anticipation quite like the main grandstand at an end-of-season FF1600 trophy race in the moments before a final begins. Fans, families, eliminated racers still in their overalls and ruing semi-final heartbreak, an autumn sunset half-blinding the drivers and 20 minutes of incredible racing ahead. There is nothing like it.