Features Top 20

The Top 20 UK FF1600 drivers of 2018: 20-16

2x Champ. of Brands runner-up, 4th in TT, 5th in Festival final, 10th in National

Neil Maclennan - Kevin Mills Racing - Spectrum - 2018 Formula Ford Festival - Brands Hatch

In 2017, Maclennan was a real title threat to BRSCC Avon Tyres National champion Luke Williams before his charge petered out in the second half of the year. Maclennan’s 2018 season barely got off the ground as budget issues stopped him from racing in the season-opening Silverstone round, effectively ending any title ambitions..

It was a frustrating year for the Scotsman, but when he did make it out, he showed he’d lost none of his speed. His comeback after nearly seven months out of action at Knockhill in May proved as much. Three podiums, including victory in the final race, reminded everyone that the Cliff Dempsey Racing/Maclennan combination is almost always a challenger, and he repeated the feat at Brands Hatch.

The 2016 SMRC Scottish champion only had enough budget to do one more National round, at Kirkistown, and three top five finishes extended his Tourist Trophy lead. Missing the final round meant he dropped to fourth in the standings.

At the end of the year he returned to Brands Hatch with Kevin Mills Racing for the Formula Ford Festival, taking pole in his heat and finishing fifth in the final, and the final Champion of Brands event, where he was runner-up twice.

5th in Classic (Post-’73), 17th in Northern (Pre-’90)

Ben Tinkler’s Candy apple red Van Diemen RF80 was not as regular a presence as some of his rivals, but he would have been much further up the BARC Luna Logistics Classic FFord standings than fifth if it had.

Simply put, Tinkler was the strongest challenger to 2018 champion Benn Tilley and the only regular entrant who beat him in a fair fight. This fight occurred at Mallory Park under a baking hot sun, when Tinkler came from the third row on the grid to defeat polesitter Tilley by two thirds of a second, a decent margin for pocket-sized Mallory. Tinkler pushed hard and passed his rival cleanly on lap 17, having moved methodically through the pack.

This made up somewhat for Donington Park two months previously, where Tinkler lost an early lead from Tilley in the first race and had to settle for a class win. It was also a small consolation for the first round at Silverstone, where Tinkler lost the lead due to car trouble and did not finish, a pattern that repeated itself at the next Silverstone meeting.

He sat out several rounds due to work and family commitments and it was this that affected his chances, not lack of speed.

9th in National, 9th in Triple Crown, 12th in TT, 13th in WHT, DNF in Festival final

Williams made the unusual step of starting in winged cars and then switching to the FF1600, but it’s been an unquestionably good move having been able to learn from FF1600 legends Joey Foster and Don Hardman.

He only stood on the podium once, but in one of the most competitive junior single-seater championships below European F3, and he was in the top 10 in the National Standings and British Grand Prix-based Triple Crown.

He was one of the cleaner drivers on the grid, but not averse to getting into battles, with the one notable error across the season being a clash with namesake Luke Williams at Oulton Park.

In the second half of the year he was also one of the fastest drivers over one lap, outqualifying team-mate Foster on several occasions and qualifying fourth for his heat in the Walter Hayes Trophy without a tow. He then combined Foster’s, team boss Hardman’s and his own inputs to perfect a set-up for the Walter Hayes Trophy final that made him the third fastest around Silverstone.

2nd in Historic

A singular appearance in HSCC Historic FF1600 last year put Mitchell 19th in the standings, and he returned this year to take on Cameron Jackson in a thrilling title fight.

It was Mitchell who actually had the upper hand for most of the season, and he took wins at Donington Park, Thruxton, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Oulton Park. His title campaign came apart in the final weekend at Silverstone though, where a 12-point advantage turned into a 26-point deficit to Jackson.

Mitchell’s father Westie helped run his Merlyn Mk20, and they did a good job making it one of the most reliable on the grid. When a rear suspension part failed during practice at Oulton Park, Mitchell Sr drove all the way from Cheshire to Gloucestershire to cannibalise spares from his own Mk20, then came back the same evening. That effort was rewarded with a great drive to victory.

The standout weekend for the Mitchells was Thruxton, now the fastest circuit in the UK, and one of the most challenging for drivers. Although he was beaten to pole, he was the fastest in the races and showed exemplary racecraft to seal both victories.

7th in National, 8th in Triple Crown, 10th in TT, 11th in Scottish

There was only one constant in Thorburn’s 2018: bad luck.

The Scot should really have been a National title contender with CDR, and in the first half of the season he was often carrying the mantle of best-of-the-rest behind points leader Niall Murray. He also had the task of developing an all-new car with Ray’s GR18, and encountered several mechanical gremlins that added to his bad luck reputation.

He appeared on the podium twice in his home round at Knockhill, as well as making a Scottish cameo, and was in the top three again at Brands Hatch. After that round he was second in the points, but a catastrophic away trip to Kirkistown and then further struggles at Castle Combe meant he was out of the title fight already, and barely clinging on to the top five.

As the luck improved slightly, Thorburn’s GR18 slipped back in the pecking order, and he ended his season early at Croft with another car issue.

After that he had to focus on exams, meaning he missed the National finale and end-of-season events, and hopes to return to FF1600 for some Heritage FFord rounds next year.

Written by Stephen Brunsdon and Rachel Harris-Gardiner

1 comment on “The Top 20 UK FF1600 drivers of 2018: 20-16

  1. Peter Hackett

    This is a great idea especially as it encompasses all races both championship and stand alone races . More power to your elbow . Now where are the next 5


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