Niall Murray dominated the first of three Avon Tyres National Formula Ford 1600 Championship races at a scorching Brands Hatch, leading from lights to flag.
Irishman Murray got off the line well from pole position in his Team Dolan Van Diemen and was never challenged, despite having to deal an early safety car period caused by John Svensson and Henry Chart colliding.
Championship leader Murray had a comfortable 5.7 second margin in hand by the end, ahead of a charging Joey Foster (Ray), who just held off Michael Eastwell’s Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum by a mere 0.055s at the flag.
The highlight of Foster’s race was a stunning around-the-outside move on Eastwell on lap eight, reminding onlookers of his move to win the Formula Ford Festival last year.
Foster’s move started at Paddock Hill Bend and wasn’t completed until the exit of the Druids hairpin, with good racing room given between both.
Neil Maclennan had started second and though he retained his position initially, problems arose aboard his Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray on lap 13, allowing Foster and Eastwell through into the final podium positions.
When Maclennan pulled into the pits on lap 18, that elevated Spectrum duo Hugo Bentley-Ellis (Kevin Mills Racing) and former Castle Combe championship regular Michael Moyers to fourth and fifth respectively.
Medina Sport driver Matt Round-Garrido narrowly beat Josh Smith’s Oldfield Motorsport Van Diemen to sixth, whilst Jamie Thorburn rose from tenth to eighth aboard his Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray.
Chris Middlehurst returned to the championship this weekend and secured ninth in his Van Diemen, some ten seconds ahead of Matt Rivett’s Ray.
Championship contender Luke Cooper was running in the top seven until an off across the grass at Surtees dropped him down the order and into retirement. After problems in qualifying and now a retirement in race one, the Chippenham-based Swift driver needs to bounce back tomorrow to stay in championship contention.
Clubman Post ‘89 honours went the way of Richard Morris (Swift) ahead of Vincent Jay, in what was a race of attrition for the top three drivers.
Class polesitter Svensson and Chart, who collided at Paddock in this morning’s qualifying session, repeated the same feat on the second lap of the race, bringing out the aforementioned safety car.
Splitting the duo in qualifying was Daniel O’Beirne (Swift), but any chance of capitalising on the two stranded Van Diemens was negated as he pulled into the pits under the safety car.
Race two kicks off at 11.30 tomorrow morning, ahead of the third and final encounter of the weekend at 14.30.
|1||Pro||Niall Murray||Van Diemen||22 laps|
|6||Pro||Matt Round-Garrido||Medina Sport||+7.069|
|7||Pro||Josh Smith||Van Diemen||+7.468|
|9||Pro||Chris Middlehurst||Van Diemen||+10.405|
|16||Pro||Pascal Monbaron||Van Diemen||+28.756|
|19||Pro||Sebastian Job||Van Diemen||+31.705|
|21||Pro||Davide Meloni||Van Diemen||+50.111|
|22||CM89||Sam Street||Swift||+1 lap|
|23||Pro||Rory Smith||Medina||+2 laps|
|DNF||CM89||John Svensson||Van Diemen|
|DNF||CM89||Henry Chart||Van Diemen|
|Fastest lap: Foster, 50.609|
|1 Murray 182 2 Round-Garrido 133 3 Cooper 131 4 Thorburn 121 5 Foster 113 6 Eastwell 111 7 Maclennan 85 8 Gruber 83 9 R Smith 80 10 Moyers 73|
|1 Morris 184 2 Jay 150 3 John Ferguson 94 4 O’Beirne 80 5 Street 50 6 John Svensson 38 7 George McDonald 28 8 Chart 2|