“Unbelievable is the word,” said Josh Smith, minutes after winning the Formula Ford Festival by passing two-time winner Niall Murray on the last lap of a dramatic final.
Smith’s part-season in BRSCC Avon Tyres National FF1600 included two wins at Croft, but the Cumbrian flew below the radar in the Festival build-up. He set the tone for his weekend by claiming Heat 1 pole.
In testing he only ran in the rain, meaning he “never really had a feel for the car in the dry”, but still managed to take Heat 1 pole in his Oldfield Motorsport-ran Van Diemen. Mechanical problems then struck in the race.
“It was unfortunate with the upright failure in Heat 1 but I clawed my way back, got a third, a second [in the semi-final, behind Murray]. I have stuck to my word and got the [Festival] win.
Smith’s launches off the line in the final – made three times due to red flags – were crucial to victory.
“My first two starts were ballistic, but the third was something else. Off the line like a rocket, and I managed to take the lead.”
Murray reclaimed first on lap two, and Smith went into the last lap behind. Third place driver Ollie White then launched a decisive attack.
“I didn’t know [if I could win] to be honest. I knew Niall was going to be hard to beat, he’s a really good racer – that’s one of his massive assets. It was going to be tough to pass him back, but it got a bit chaotic and I came out on top.”
“The move at Druids… Ollie had as big a part to play in it as anyone because he put Niall under loads of pressure, he flew around the outside on the brakes. I thought ‘I’m in third now, christ’. Niall must’ve seen Ollie on the outside because he decided to brake late and they both outbraked themselves. It opened the door and I slid through.
“Niall was hanging on on the exit, I just squeezed him and made sure he wasn’t coming back, then hung on to the finish.”
Smith recieved the Neil Shanahan Memorial Trophy and a Mazda Road to Indy Shootout ticket.
“I’m looking forward to America. I hope [this win] is going to do me the world of good. I hope people are watching, because it’s just getting better.
“I can’t thank Oldfield enough for the car that they have put underneath me and all of the blood, sweat, tears and late nights.”
“Ollie was playing his patient waiting game, he’s a very calculating and smart driver,” Oldfield boss James Oldfield said of the last lap. “He made a good challenge, but Josh could see what he was doing.”
“We’ve had to completely rebuild the car endless times to make it a little it better(little improvements) every time. That’s the result when you get a driver in it like that. We’ve been second, third, third, fifth [in the Festival]… and now this.”