Last year’s HSCC Historic Formula Ford championship came down to a two-man battle between Cameron Jackson and Ben Mitchell. This year the cards have been shuffled and it looks to be a much closer-run thing.
Jackson has made a surprise full-time comeback to the championship in a rare Winkelmann car and fully intends to keep hold of his crown, but the absence of Mitchell as a constant presence in the series this year will mean that at the very least, some new rivalries will arise. The Winkelmann is a somewhat unknown quantity, but Jackson’s enthusiasm for flying through the field from the back of the grid means that qualifying pace may not be a problem.
Mitchell, who drove a Merlyn Mk20 last year, will step back down to sharing his father Westie’s Merlyn for part of the season. Also opting out of a full championship this year is double champion Callum Grant, another Merlyn driver, who will be dividing his time between a number of drives, including a run in a historic Formula 1 car. 2017 victor Richard Tarling has switched to the Heritage FFord series for 2019, removing another regular frontrunner from the title race.
This void initially seems like a shame, but it is a golden opportunity for the rest of the field, new and old, to shake things up a little. Benjamin Tusting really picked up speed towards the end of 2018 and was particularly strong in qualifying. If he maintains that momentum, this could be the chance he needed last year to elbow his way past the battling Mitchell and Jackson. His Merlyn Mk20 is a proven machine and if he can cut down on the retirements that plagued the early part of his last season, he cannot be written off.
Classic Team Merlyn driver Pierre Livingston was one of the youngest drivers on the grid and showed flashes of great pace when he appeared for the second part of the season. The Bath-based undergraduate is planning a wider campaign in 2019 and his growing experience should make him much harder to beat.
Towards the other end of the age spectrum, 2019 Over 50 champion Rob Smith may be one to watch. At last year’s Oulton Park Gold Cup he was a season-best fourth in the absence of Jackson and Tarling. The gap created by last year’s leavers might just be the right size for his Merlyn. Never discount his chief Over 50 rival Brian Morris though.
A new year always brings a few new drivers and the most notable of those this year is Linton Stutely, who has been working on a rare early Royale all winter. The Enigma Motorsport boss was incredibly quick at Brands in Tarling’s Jamun T2 and would’ve been on the podium had he finished what was a fractious race. Stutely’s recent experience in both historic and modern FFord machinery stands him in good stead for the season. He will enter the Donington Park season opener in Tarling’s car again, as he did not want to rush the final preparations on the Royale.
The first round is not always indicative of the grid for the rest of the year. Nelson Rowe’s Crossle was destroyed in a fiery accident at Cadwell in 2018 and its replacement is not yet ready, but Rowe fully intends to return to the championship. Ed Thurston, whose Elden expired quite dramatically at Oulton Park, will also be a factor later in the year and will join the grid at Silverstone in May. Clive Richards, who shot straight onto the podium on his debut at Brands Hatch, is not down for Donington but may come out later in the year, when he will be a force to reckon with. Even with all the absentees, there are still 30 cars signed up to drive at Donington Park.
Apart from competitors, the other biggest change of the year will be a visit to Anglesey in July, in place of Thruxton. The seaside circuit will be a new experience for some and may bring some interesting northern-based guests out to play.
In addition to the actual championship prizes the HSCC is also running the ‘HFF Competitors Cup Series’, where drivers will be categorised as one of FF1600’s first four F1 world champions: Fittipaldi, Hunt, Scheckter or Senna. Fittipaldis are considered the best drivers in the field, with a sliding scale down to Sennas for those who regularly finish 15th to 20th.
The ‘prize’ at stake is going from being a Senna to a Scheckter for 2019, or even a Fittipaldi if a traditional backmarker suddenly becomes a force at the front this season. Competitors have been warned though that it is “supposed to be a bit of fun”.
Lead photo courtesy of Nick Chivers (Instagram: @theclassicseries)
|1||Donington Park||March 30|
|2||Silverstone (International)||May 18-19|
|3||Snetterton (200)||June 1|
|4||Cadwell Park||June 15-16|
|5||Brands Hatch (Grand Prix)||June 29-30|
|8||Oulton Park||August 26|
|9||Brands Hatch (Indy)||September 21|