Classic Features Previews

BARC Classic FFord season preview: Looking for a new champion

One thing is certain: the BARC Luna Logistics Classic Formula Ford Championship will have a new champion in 2019.

Reigning champion Benn Tilley has elected not to defend his crown, switching to sportscars in the form of the HSCC Guards Trophy, driving a Lotus 23. Tilley enjoyed a dominant 2018, despite his Merlyn Mk20 being one of the oldest cars on the grid. The status quo may well be restored in 2019, with the newer 1970s and early ‘80s machinery on top, but that’s as much as we can guess.

The series has an illustrious new face in the form of 1992 British Touring Car champion Tim Harvey, who has bought back the Van Diemen RF81 that first introduced him to car racing. It has been many years since he has raced single-seaters competitively, but versatility has been a hallmark of Harvey’s career, from Le Mans to Bathurst, the BTCC and GTs.

Another famous face campaigning a first car will be car designer Adrian Reynard, who will be out in the Reynard 73FF that was not just his first racing car, but the first car he ever built. This single-seater is a one-off and was the start of a career that included designing and building cars for CART and even chassis intended for Formula 1. The 73FF started its life when Reynard was still a student and working for British Leyland.

John Village, like Reynard, is a FFord champion. The 65-year-old is best known for his eponymous team that won in Auto GP and Formula Vauxhall Lotus. He returns to the BARC championship in his Crossle 25F, and will bring some classic era-style competition to the series.

Mark Armstrong

Among the Classic FFord regulars is 2018 Class A champion Mark Armstrong and FFord veteran Rick Morris. Armstrong actually had a difficult 2018, resulting from a string of engine problems with his Van Diemen FR80 that occupied much of his season fixing.

Both drivers were made it through to the Grand Final of the Walter Hayes Trophy, with Armstrong finishing 20th and was second in the Carl Hamer Trophy for Pre-’81 cars. Now that his car is running properly, he will be making up for lost time.

Morris can never be counted out of anything. His 2018 season was truncated by a car-destroying accident at Silverstone, but his battle with Tilley for the lead at Snetterton was one of the most exciting of the year. His Royale RP29 suffered some damage at the WHT but he’s had the winter to sort that out. A fierce on-track rivalry between Armstrong and Morris is a distinct possibility.

Ben Tinkler will not be present at the opening Donington Park round, but his Van Diemen RF80 will be back out on track later in the season. Tinkler was one of Tilley’s strongest rivals last year and a three-way tussle between him, Armstrong and Morris is an enjoyable prospect. All three combine a degree with aggression with respect and a smooth driving style.

Steve Pearce is another potential winner in his Van Diemen, having been a consistent presence on the Class A podium of late. Other fast regulars include Jordan Harrison, who shares his Lola T504E with his father Mark, 2018 Cadwell Park winner Nigel Lingwood and Kevin Mansell, who is back in the running after having his 2018 season cut short by a crash at Mallory Park.

Officially, Tilley was last year’s Class B champion, the first time that an older car had won the series outright.

FFord regular Stuart Kestenbaum has declined the chance to reclaim the Class B crown, switching from a Crossle to a Van Diemen RF79 which could be another challenger, especially on the tighter, twistier circuits where slipstreaming becomes important. Mallory has gone from the calendar this year, but Snetterton and Cadwell could provide some nose-to-tail action.

Richard Yeomans was named the championship’s most improved driver of 2018 in his first season of racing. The Chichester-based private pilot, who is chronicling his racing career on Youtube as “Too Old and Too Slow”, is aiming for more points this year and will be a much bigger threat.

As for this year’s most promising newcomer, look towards Oliver Chapman, whose PRS RH01 has been seen in the BRSCC Avon Tyres National Clubman Pre-‘89 class in recent years.

Calendar

Round Venue Date
1 Silverstone (International) March 31
2 Castle Combe April 22
3 Donington Park June 8/9
4 Thruxton June 29
5 Snetterton (300) August 10
6 Croft September 21/22
7 Brands Hatch (Indy) October 26/27

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