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Heritage FF1600 season preview: Onwards and upwards

Heritage Formula Ford was a welcome addition to the FF1600 landscape last year. The category – the latest from the energetic coordinator James Beckett – at last gave a home to Kent-engined cars built before 1993. There’s still plenty of these cars out there, yet they were too young for Classic and Historic categories and often out-classed in modern ones. Further, the pre-‘93 era is widely considered a Formula Ford halcyon period.

Now Heritage is back for season number two and promises to be even better. It’s expanded by one round on 2018, with six meetings rather than five and Cadwell Park is visited for the first time. All are double-headers and at MotorSport Vision Racing meetings. And, most pertinently, while last year it was a series, this year for the first time Heritage FF1600 is a points-paying championship.

With this championship status, this year’s inaugural Heritage title winner will get the Neil Cunningham Cup, presented at an end of season gathering. The trophy is named after New Zealander Cunningham who was a rising Formula Ford star as well as a GT ace, who died at the age of just 53 in 2016 after a battle against motor neurone disease.

Beckett hopes that championship status will encourage even more of the cars out there to be flushed out and raced in Heritage. He was pleased with the grids in 2018, which started with 24 for the Donington season-opener though declined to 10 for the August Snetterton round – often a tough time and place for numbers – before a mini-recovery with 12 at the season-closing single-header at Brands Hatch.

And Heritage is set to start its sophomore 2019 season at Donington Park this weekend on at least a similar footing to 12 months ago, as Beckett predicts a grid in the region of 25 cars. “[I’m] really pleased that all winter long the interest in Heritage has been very very good,” he told FF1600 website, “[the] pre ‘93 category has certainly captured the imagination.”

Who can stop White?

Ollie White dominated Heritage FF1600 last year

Ollie White dominated the inaugural Heritage season in his Van Diemen RF89 entered by Souley Motorsport. He won five of the seven Heritage races he competed in last year and it likely would have been six wins without a misfire in the Donington curtain-raiser, wherein Mike Gardner took the honours in his Classic-era Crossle 30/32F instead. And White’s wins were usually with ease; he even deliberately started at the back in one of the Silverstone races for his own amusement. He still led by lap six of 15.

Yet for White things may not be so simple this time around. He will face Callum Grant, who will be competing in a Van Diemen. Grant was superb in the Walter Hayes Trophy late last year in his RF91,where he won the Janet Cesar Trophy for cars built between 1982 and ’98. He also got the car to the Hayes’ grand final and finished that in 15th place, comfortably topping his class.

Conor Murphy in his Mondiale is also a likely challenger. He was another to reach the Walter Hayes Trophy grand final, driving his M89S, despite his longer-in-the-tooth equipment that many around him.

Callum Grant impressed at the Walter Hayes Festival in his RF91

“It’s just a really good cross-section of cars,” Beckett said of the likely Heritage line-up for this year, “but if you look at the pecking order you’ve got Ollie and Callum, Conor Murphy with a Mondiale, I’d say they’re probably, [of those] currently entered, the three main protagonists.”

Then there is the man who, pretty much alone, can claim to have beaten White in a straight fight in Heritage during 2018. In the aforementioned final round at Brands, Richard Tarling pipped White in wet conditions. Moreover, he did so in an evocative newly-completed 1992-designed Jamun M92, prepared during 2018 with Jamun founder Tony Mundy. It brought back memories of Chris Hall dominating the Champion of Brands and mixing it at the front in the Festival’s glory days.

It’s not clear how many rounds Tarling will be able to compete in this year, as he’s been doing a lot of testing for Gardner plus has business commitments, but Beckett advises never to rule out Tarling showing up.

Other things to look out for

F1 commentator Ben Edwards celebrates on the Snetterton podium

There will be likely star quality in Heritage too. Formula 1 commentator – and Formula First champion – Ben Edwards raced in two Heritage rounds last year in his own Van Diemen RF92. He had success as well, winning twice at Snetterton and taking a second place at Donington.

“It’s perfect in a way for me, because I can’t do many races,” Edwards said. “I always look around to see what races I can do, and then James came up with this Heritage class, which is perfect for me because I’ve got a 1992 Van Diemen so it fits in at the top end.”

There’s a good chance of Edwards appearing in 2019 when F1 doesn’t clash, though that does mean he won’t be at the season opener, which overlaps with the Chinese Grand Prix.

There will be interesting cars to look out for as well. Simon Jackson for one at Snetterton last year took part in a Javelin JL5 that Nigel Mansell raced at the start of the 1977 FF1600 season.

“They’re all there to flush out!,” Beckett confirms. Certainly this Heritage season is unlikely to be dull.

2019 Heritage calendar

Rounds VenueDate
1 Donington Park13 April
2 Oulton Park International15 June
3 Silverstone National30 June
4 Snetterton28 July
5 Cadwell Park7 September
6 Donington Park29 September

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