Benn Tilley and Mike Gardner claimed the spoils in the opening Classic Formula Ford 1600 race weekend at Silverstone in a pair of lively races on the national circuit.
Mike Gardner, champion of the British Automobile Racing Club-run series in 2014 and ’15, qualified on pole in his Crossle 32F with series debutant Benn Tilley alongside on the front row in his class B Merlyn Mk20.
A daring move on the inside of Becketts during the opening lap allowed Tilley to edge ahead, but the greasy track surface from rain and an oil spillage the day before – most evident at Brooklands – meant Tilley, Gardner, Van Diemen RF80-running Ben Tinkler and 1982 FF1600 champion Rick Morris (Royale RP26) were all early contenders.
On lap five of 19, a wide moment at Brooklands for Morris put him into a spin that also caused Gardner to turn and collect Tinkler.
That allowed Tilley running in fifth to take a lead he would never relinquish to claim victory in his debut race in the series.
“I couldn’t really ask for much more,” the convert from historics said.
“It’s not the way I wanted to win it, but it was about keeping a cool head as I could see Mark Armstrong in my mirrors getting closer and closer.”
Indeed, last year’s title runner-up Armstrong used his expert knowledge of the Silverstone asphalt (he’s an instructor at the circuit) to take a measured second place, while Morris made a fine recovery to third.
It afterwards emerged that Gardner, who finished fourth, had been wrestling with a misfire his GT Motorsport team thought it had cured after qualifying, prompting him to make several changes ahead of the second encounter.
The track had dried significantly by the time the cars took to the late afternoon second grid thanks to the burst of sunshine, which allowed Gardner to deliver on his qualifying promise.
The grid was lined up by race one finishing order, but Gardner made the early laps count to pass Tilley for the lead.
From there he built up a near 5s lead, while Morris, Tilley and Armstrong squabbled for the remaining podium positions with a series of late-braking lunges at Brooklands – a battle that was ultimately settled in favour of Tilley in second and Morris in third.
“The three of us had a fantastic duel, we changed places two or three times a lap,” Morris said.
“It was typical Formula Ford racing – three abreast quite often but we came out the other side.”
Armstrong recorded a fourth to keep his points consistency high across the pair of races.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Ellis Focus Photography
Silverstone March 2018 Classic FF1600 results
Race 1 (19 laps)
|1||B||Benn Tilley||Merlyn Mk20||20m46.176s|
|2||A||Mark Armstrong||Van Diemen RF80||+0.229|
|3||A||Rick Morris||Royale RP26||+8.111|
|4||A||Mike Gardner||Crossle 30/32F||+13.181|
|5||A||Steve Pearce||Van Diemen RF81||+15.914|
|6||A||Peter Daly||Royale RP21||+15.985|
|7||A||Tom Roark||Van Diemen RF78||+16.413|
|8||A||Kevin Mansell||Crossle 32F||+32.616|
|9||B||Stuart Kestenbaum||Crossle 16F||+33.787|
|10||A||Tim Saunders||PRS RH01||+50.559|
Race 2 (19 laps)
|1||A||Mike Gardner||Crossle 30/32F||20m22.295s|
|2||B||Benn Tilley||Merlyn Mk20||+4.969|
|3||A||Rick Morris||Royale RP26||+5.032|
|4||A||Mark Armstrong||Van Diemen RF80||+5.097|
|5||B||Stuart Kestenbaum||Crossle 16F||+29.574|
|6||A||Peter Daly||Royale RP21||+29.703|
|7||A||Kevin Mansell||Crossle 32F||+30.484|
|8||A||Steve Pearce||Van Diemen RF81||+31.014|
|9||A||Tom Roark||Van Diemen RF78||+31.508|
|10||A||John Thompson||Royale RP26||+46.360|