Josh Smith / Niall Murray - 2018 Formula Ford Festival - Final - Brands Hatch
Features Top 20

The Top 20 UK FF1600 drivers of 2018: 10-6

2nd in WHT, 4th in FFord Festival

When your FF1600 season comprises only two events, clearly you need to have turned heads in order to merit a place in the top 10 of our rankings. Short of winning one or both of the FFord Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy, Cowley could have done little more.

The 2017 F1600 Championship Series champion did a half-season in United States Formula 4 with little success, and then switched his attention to the blue riband FF1600 events, for which he was run by Team Dolan in a Van Diemen JL13.

The 21-year-old Mancunian won his frantic Festival heat despite dropping to third at the start, and was beaten only by frequent Brands Hatch winner Oliver White in his semi-final. In the twice-restarted final he was just behind the trio that contested the win.

At Silverstone, Cowley was battling for heat victory with Chinese F4 champion Jordan Dempsey, when the pair clashed at Brooklands. That put him 11th on the grid for the Last Chance race, which he won with ease. He climbed from 28th to fourth in his semi-final, then progressed in the grand final to spend the final six laps within half-a-second of winner Michael Moyers. On Sunday he’d made up a total of 40 places.

FFord Festival winner, 11th in TT, 13th in National, 16th in Triple Crown, DNF in WHT final, 35th in BRSCC Northern (Post-’89)

It might be unfair to categorise the reigning BRSCC Avon Tyres Northern champion’s 2018 National campaign as bit part, but the truth is there wasn’t a lot of substance to it. The Oldfield Motorsport Van Diemen JL13 driver only did half of the events, and only the Croft round yielded anything like the results expected.

He won twice there, but clashed with Luke Cooper as he made his way through in the reversed grid race. His season had started with a dramatic clash in the first Northern round at Oulton Park.

But it was Festival weekend that put Smith in the spotlight, perhaps helping him to earn his place in McLaren GT’s young driver programme. The 19-year-old was strong throughout, claiming heat pole in spite of limited pre-event testing and then bringing his slightly-damaged car home third in the race.

Pitted against Murray in all three stages of the competition, Smith lost out to the National champion in the semi-final, but he made amends in the final. On an incredible final lap, Smith pounced when Niall Murray was distracted by White’s outbraking attempt at Druids and then held on for a narrow victory that made his name, broke Murray’s heart, and repaid team boss James Oldfield’s faith in him.

5 wins in Heritage, 2x Champion of Brands, 3rd in FFord Festival, DNF in WHT final

Oliver White / Carter Williams – Van Diemen / Ray – 2018 Formula Ford Festival – Brands Hatch

White’s year started with three Historic FFord Australia wins, and here seeds of further success were sown.

Souley Motorsport, whom he’d competed with in Australia, also had a Van Diemen RF89 for the new Heritage FFord series. For White taking up Souley’s freshman formula offer was a last-minute decision, yet he bestrode it by winning five of the seven races he competed in. His pace advantage was such that he was able to deliberately start from the back at Silverstone and get back to lead before half-distance.

White had success with modern machinery too. On familiar Champion of Brands hunting ground he won the opening two races against strong fields with no preparation and on old tyres, showing all his pace and racecraft. He called it his “most satisfying meeting of the year”. He didn’t have much chance of defending his crown due to a bad set of tyres in round two, but the Festival was another high, being in the thick of the victory fight and briefly leading on the last lap of the final. He was well in the Walter Hayes battle too, though two offs in a greasy final ended his chances.

WHT winner, 4th in Triple Crown, 11th in National

After finally winning the WHT in 2017, Moyers came into this year expecting to depart FF1600 with a flourish by winning the Triple Crown sub-series. He failed to do so, but made up for it with a superbly controlled second WHT victory.

His season started and ended at Silverstone, with his first National appearance ending in a second place, a result he thereon didn’t match. It was a very different track to the one he’d won the WHT at a few months before, with resurfacing over the winter throwing up new challenges.

Moyers’ experience showed, qualifying just 0.040s off pole, then outdoing Murray in traffic to take the runner-up spot in race one. An error cost him the race two lead, and he finished 0.302s behind winner Luke Cooper. He failed to finish race three, dropping him to fifth in the standings.

On his Brands Hatch return it was much of the same: this time two fifth places and then another retirement after clashing with Joey Foster.

Moyers moved himself back into fourth in the Triple Crown with two podiums at a chaotic Donington Park, then started preparing for the WHT. He was peerless on arrival, winning his heat, semi-final and the interrupted final.

Historic champion

The Lola T200 driver came out on top of an intense battle with Ben Mitchell for the HSCC Historic FF1600 title, his late-season run of seven wins six proving too much for his Merlyn rival. The championship was not decided until the final round, during which Jackson decided to celebrate by bringing over his Brabham Formula Junior for the second day and adding an additional class title to his 2018 tally. Across both FF1600 and FJ, he proved himself capable of winning from the front, the midfield and even right from the back.

“Normally you might be in a championship fight with three or four people throughout the year, but it quite quickly became about me and him [Mitchell], and so you’re kind of focused on the other guy, all the time, and it just gives it a different different dynamic,” says Jackson of his victorious season. “It’s been quite an intense last third of the season, with Ben and just sort of tracking each other.”

Jackson hopes to move into the National championship for ‘19, although he still plans to return to least Historic FF1600, as well as more races in the Junior and a second showing at the Goodwood Revival.

Written by Ian Sowman, Graham Keilloh and Rachel Harris-Gardiner

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