Formula Ford racing at Castle Combe reaches a milestone in 2019 as the Wiltshire circuit celebrates 50 years of FF1600 at the circuit.
Half-a-century has passed since Bryan Sharp won the first FF1600 championship at Castle Combe in 1969, driving a Merlyn Mk11A.
And the 50th season of FF1600 at Castle Combe kicks off with a celebration of the anniversary.
A double-header of Castle Combe Racing Club FF1600 races on Howard’s Day – the traditional season opener for CCRC events – will award the aggregate winner of the two races with the Guards Trophy; a commemorative trophy to celebrate the first sponsor of the championship.
There will also be a static display of FF1600 cars and all Castle Combe Formula Ford champions have been invited to attend. On the track, there’s a bumper entry list to go with it, including reigning champion Luke Cooper and previous champions Roger Orgee, four-time champion Bob Higgins and two-time champion Josh Fisher.
“It’s a great start to the year,” said Cooper. “There are 22 cars on the entry list so that’s a great start. Hopefully it’ll be able to continue throughout the year.
“They’ve got a lot of past champions coming to watch the racing as well so they will be a big part of it , so it should hopefully be a great atmosphere and really good for Formula Ford.”
And while the 2019 season starts off with a celebration of Formula Ford racing at Combe, attention will soon switch to the on-track racing.
Cooper will head into the season as an early favourite as reigning champion after he dominated in 2018, claiming victory in the first six races before an engine failure in the seventh race as he was challenging for the win.
Even the engine failure was not enough to deny him the title despite missing one of the remaining races and then finishing second in the final race of the season.
Kevin Mills Racing is planning a full-season entry with driver Roger Orgee and Mills believes it is possible to challenge Cooper for the title in 2019 despite the fact Cooper dominated in 2018.
“We’ve beaten him in the past with other drivers,” said Mills.
“Last week he raced at Donington I think he had some issues again with his engine so, as soon as he sorts those out, Luke will be really fast.”
It remains to be seen how the BRSCC Avon Tyres National FF1600 calendar – which has four race meetings on the same weekend, two on the same days – impacts on the CCRC FF1600 Championship.
“The calendar hasn’t been great and I had to pick doing either Combe or the National. From a cost point of view it was easier for me to do Castle Combe,” said Cooper.
“it’s a lot easier for us [to do CCRC FF1600] as we’re based at Castle Combe. There’s not the massive amounts of travelling all over the country for the Nationals. The Nationals this year as well are quite a long way away so that’s a factor in it as well.”
But Cooper is hopeful it won’t have a big impact on CCRC FF1600: “I don’t think it’ll impact the Combe championship too much because there aren’t that many National guys doing the Combe championship.”
KMR is an outfit that will be impacted by the calendar, but team boss Mills is planning to run at every Combe event with Orgee.
“I think he’ll [Orgee] do the full championship,” said Mills. “We’ve got two meetings I can’t be at because they’re clashing with the National series so I will have to get that covered by somebody. But the plan is to do all rounds.”
KMR drivers were quick in 2018, often challenging Cooper for poles and race wins.
If that’s how the 2019 season plays out between Cooper and Orgee then CCRC FF1600 could have a season-long title battle on its hands.