To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, FF1600website.com has compiled a list of six of the best drivers from the island of Ireland to have raced in Formula Ford 1600.
37th in 1982 F1, ’82 British F3 champion – 1980 British FFord champion, ’81 FFord Festival winner
Byrne won the British FFord and Formula 3 titles, but after he burst onto the global stage his career didn’t head in the direction many expected.
The County Louth native was quick as soon as he sat in a car, and stunned during 1980 when he won two FF1600 titles and the SMMT Motor Show Trophy support race. He also had Ayrton Senna as a team-mate, and while Senna won the 1981 British title, Byrne triumphed in the more sought-after FFord Festival.
During his 1982 title-winning British F3 campaign he made his Formula 1 debut with Theodore Racing, aged 24. At the two races he did qualify for, he span out and failed to finish, leaving him 37th in the standings. Regardless he earned himself a test with McLaren, but it came to nothing and he returned to F3 with Eddie Jordan.
He later moved to North America to race and act as a driver coach, and ended up finishing runner-up in the Indy Lights standings twice.
After having his life made into a book and then a film, Byrne recently returned to racing in Europe in historic F1 machinery.
2nd in 1989 & ’92 Le Mans 24 Hours, ’87 Japanese Prototypes champion, 3rd in ’85 Super Formula, 30th in ’83 F1, 7th in ’82 European F2 – 1978 British FFord champion, ’77 Northern Irish FFord champion
Born in Cookstown, Acheson started his career on motorcycles but once he switched to cars it wasn’t long before he was winning races and titles in FF1600.
First came his home championship, which he won in 1977 aged 19. Having agreed to quit smoking, his father had bought him a new Crossle chassis for that year, which also helped him to sixth in the Festival. His impressive rookie pace got him invited to test a factory-ran Royale chassis, and a full-time racing move to Britain using a Royale meant he swept up every title going.
From there he moved to F3, winning in one-off events in his rookie season and then just losing out on the British title in his second year. He had led the standings for much of the season, but a spin in the three-way title decider at Thruxton led to a heartbreaking defeat.
He was rewarded with a factory Ralt drive in Formula 2, and a leg-breaking crash at the Pau street circuit didn’t seem to halt his momentum as he was soon in F1 with RAM Racing. He only qualified for three races, but his 12th place at the 1983 South African Grand Prix put him 30th in the standings.
Acheson’s career was spent mostly in Japan after F1, winning in single-seaters and sportscars there. His performances in the latter earned him some top seats in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and he was overall runner-up there twice.
11th in 1980 F1, ’13th in ’82 F1, 4th in ’88 Le Mans 24 Hours, 9th in ’88 CART, 9th in ’90 IMSA, 3rd in ’78 & ’79 European F2, ’77 BARC British F3 champion, 2nd in ’78 Macau GP – 1976 FFord Festival winner
American expat Daly not only made his name in FF1600, the F1 support paddock and then Indycar, but his son Conor has too.
The elder Daly did race FF1600 in Ireland, but is better known for winning the 1976 Festival. A year later he was racing in F3 and F2. and although his F1 career started with a backmarker, he was able to stay in the championship for five years and took two fourth places in 1981 for Tyrell.
In CART he manage to make the podium, and he finished ninth in the points in 1988, the same year he finished fourth at Le Mans for Jaguar. In 1990 he finished first and second in the Sebring 12 Hours having driven multiple cars, his last year of full-time racing.
He returned to FF1600 in the 2009 Martin Donnelly Trophy at Kirkistown, a year after son Conor won the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone.
2nd in 1999 F1, 4th in ’98 F1, 2nd in ’94 Le Mans 24 Hours, 2nd in ’93 Super Formula, 3rd in ’90 Int. F3000 – 1987 FFord Festival winner, ’87 British FFord champion, ’84 Irish FFord champion
The 1999 F1 title could very easily have gone Irvine’s way, and had he stuck with Ferrari going into the 21st century rather than joining Jaguar, he may well have spent many more years winning races.
His four grand prix victories capped a career that included winning his class and finishing second overall at Le Mans in 1994, losing the Super Formula title on win countback the year before and finishing third in FIA Formula 2 and GP2 predecessor International F3000 in 1990.
Like many, he can credit Eddie Jordan for his international break, although it was crack touring car team West Surrey Racing with whom he starred with in the Macau Grand Prix and British F3.
Prior to that he had been a factory Van Diemen driver in FF1600, sweeping the British titles and the Festival in 1987. He beat touring car legend Alain Menu and FF1600 mainstay David Coyne from pole to win the Festival.
1987, ’88 & ’89 Le Mans 24 Hours GTP class winner, 2nd in ’79 British F1 – 1976 British FFord champion
Kennedy’s first F1 experience came with the Shadow factory team, but it is with its customer Theodore that the 66-year-old will always be associated.
He made history when the won the first ever British FFord title in 1976, becoming the first Irishman to win a British single-seater title in the process, and was no slouch when he went further afield in Europe too.
The demise of his original team made Kennedy’s step-up to F3 a difficult one, but he still finished eighth in the 1977 European standings, improving to sixth a year later.
By this point his eyes were on F1, and he competed in the Australia-based Rothmans International Series and then the British F1 championship. His performances earned him a Shadow drive in the world championship, but he failed to qualify for any of the races, as he did with his two-weekend stint with Theodore.
With no more F1 drives coming, Kennedy looked to sportscars and ended up building a successful partnership with Mazda which included three Le Mans wins.
After his own racing career he became a board member at the Mondello Park circuit, fronted the title-winning Team Ireland operation in A1GP and then entered GP3 and GP2 with Status Grand Prix. His partner in that team was Teddy Yip Jr, son of original Theodore boss Teddy Yip, and the pair then brought back the Theodore name to enter the Macau GP with Prema.
2nd in 2018-19 ALMS LMP3 class, 3rd in ’17 ELMS LMP3 class – 2007 Northern Irish FFord champion, ’14 Walter Hayes Trophy winner, ’15 FFord Festival winner, 2nd in ’07 Leinster Trophy
Wayne Boyd is still in his 20s and arguably at the peak of his racing career, contending for sportscar titles in both Europe and Asia.
After competing in karts, Boyd tried out FF1600 in Northern Ireland and ended up winning the title. This was no fluke, as he followed that up with third place in the Walter Hayes Trophy and set several lap records, and then dominated British FFord and the Festival a year later. Albeit, both of those featured Duratec engines rather than the original Kents.
But when his F3 career came to nought, Boyd returned to FF1600 and was third in the WHT again in 2010. He went one better in 2011, the same year in which he finished third in USF2000, and finished second in the ‘proper’ Kent-powered Festival in 2013.
Boyd joined Medina for the WHT in 2014 and finally won, adding the Festival to his FF1600 trophy haul in 2015.
Since he’s been racing in prototypes with United Autosport, and last month finished second in the Asian Le Mans Series’ LMP3 class.