Features Top 20

The Top 20 UK FF1600 drivers of 2018: 15-11

Champion of Oulton, 2nd in Northern (Post-’89), 3rd in Triple Crown, 6th in National

The greatest proof of how impressive B-M Racing’s lead driver was this year is that there have been numerous orders for the Smith’s Medina car for 2019 and ‘20.

Smith was tasked with developing the JL18 for much of this year, and his early season form in the BRSCC Avon Tyres National FF1600 championship was patchy, taking nine races before he got a top five finish. At the end of the season he turned a corner, finishing fourth at Croft and then winning the first two races of the Donington Park season finale. This bumped him up to sixth in the standings, and set him up for another impressive turn at the Walter Hayes Trophy, where he won from pole in his heat, took fastest lap in the second semi-final and then finished 11th in the final.

Where Smith really excelled was in the BRSCC Avon Tyres Northern championship, where he took two wins and finished second in the standings despite missing nearly half of the season. He made up for that missed title with the Champion of Oulton crown.

Janet Cesar Trophy winner, 3rd in Historic, 15th in WHT

Grant’s HSCC Historic FF1600 season was not quite as successful as it usually is. He finished third in 2018, with a best finish of second, having been shut out towards the end of the season by Cameron Jackson and Ben Mitchell. But it was still a competitive season for the two-time champion and his orange Merlyn Mk20.

He also had a highly impressive showing in the WHT, where he won the Janet Cesar Trophy (for 1982-’98 FFords) in style, driving a Van Diemen RF91 that was rebuilt in four weeks and which he had only driven a couple of times before. Many onlookers from the BRSCC paddock were impressed by the Bolton driver.

“Everybody’s coming up and looking at it and saying, well how long have you been driving it? I said two days,” remarked Grant at the time, smiling.

Grant’s shining moment of 2018 isn’t entirely related to competition. The 23-year-old was the first to arrive on the scene of Nelson Rowe’s fiery accident at Cadwell Park in May, and with the aid of two spectators, helped to free Rowe from his burning car in a display of bravery.

Classic champion (Pre-’74)

“He’s fast, he’s a good driver, he’s even a nice bloke…I hate him…”

This was the tongue-in-cheek summing-up of Benn Tilley by one of his rivals in the Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford championship, who shall remain nameless.
Tilley dominated the 2018 championship despite having a car that was 10-12 years older than most of his rivals’. His Merlyn Mk20, which he does not even own, would be more at home in the Historic championship, where he raced last year. He was the first “B” class driver to win the title outright, dethroning multiple Class B champion and FFord stalwart, Stuart Kestenbaum.

Tilley had some good opposition in the form of Ben Tinkler who got the better of him at Mallory Park, Rick Morris and Mike Gardner. His scrap with Morris at Snetterton was considered one of his finest on-track moments of the year by many; he just dived past Morris on the flag, having already passed him before by taking a daring line through the Bombhole and sneaking past at Coram. He also impressed some illustrious onlookers with his aggressive but controlled cornering at Donington, where an on-form Tinkler gave him a run for his money.

2nd in Janet Cesar Trophy, 4th in Historic, 1 win in Heritage, 6th in WHT Semi-final 1

Tarling was one of the standout club drivers in Britain in 2017, but mostly failed to reach those heights this year. All the same, wherever he drove he starred, even making it through to the WHT final in his ‘classic’ class Jamun M92.

His main campaign was Historic FF1600, which he won last year, but could only manage fourth in this time round. Admittedly he didn’t contest all rounds in his Jamun T2, but he only won twice in the races he did compete in before putting the T2 up for sale and entering James Beckett’s new Heritage series for pre-’93 machinery with his second Jamun.

The Heritage excursion was worthwhile, as he not only took a win from pole, but learned more about the car in preparation for Silverstone’s WHT.

In qualifying for his heat Tarling was third fastest, and only dropped one spot in the race. In his semi-final he climbed up from 11th to finish sixth, but forewent the final – his focus on the Janet Cesar Trophy. Contact at the start span Tarling to the back, but he fougt his way back up to second.

Scottish champion, 7th in WHT, 15th in TT, 23rd in National

It’s safe to say that 2018 couldn’t have gone any better for the defending SMRC Scottish FF1600 champion on track. But it is with some regret that Martin couldn’t compete elsewhere after his planned assault on the National championship fell through at the last minute. Still, Martin has been used to fighting back in his short career so far and this year was no different. The Graham Brunton Racing driver won 11 of the 12 Scottish races, and was only knocked off pole position once, by Jordan Gronkowski in July.

Martin did get a chance to duke it out with the National field twice over the season, in the Scottish meeting used by half the National drivers as practice on Knockhill’s reverse layout, and the WHT at Silverstone. Martin took a win, pole and a second place in the first encounter, then finished fifth overall in the WHT, a year after a disheartening experience at the same event.

All in all, it was a far more dominant year for Martin, who showcased his devastating speed and and expertise of Knockhill through each round. His triple win in the David Leslie Trophy in August, while under extreme pressure from Gronkowski, was sensational.

Written by Rachel Harris-Gardiner and Stephen Brunsdon

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