Features Other

FF1600 stars at the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours

This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours once again had an all-star line-up, but as with every other year of the historic race, it also made a few stars of its own.

Several of those competing were stalwarts of Formula Ford 1600, all with varying fates in the 87th edition of the iconic twice-around-the-clock event.

Here were 10 of the best, pictured in cars they drove at the esteemed Circuit de la Sarthe.

Pedro Lamy

Photo: Aston Martin

The victor of Portugal’s FF1600 championship in 1989 and the Pau Grand Prix in ’93, Lamy rapidly made his way up to Formula 1.

His equivalent of two full seasons of racing there resulted in one points finish at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix for Minardi, marking the last time the Adelaide street circuit was used in F1.

He was racing at Le Mans a few months later, but it took 13 attempts to take a class win. At least he can claim to have five World and European sportscar titles.

2019 form: Marking the last appearance of the Aston Martin Vantage GTE, the reigning GTE Am champion car was at the very back of the order and retired with only 87 laps under its belt.

Darren Turner

Photo: Aston Martin

Turner’s single-seater career went by too quickly for him to enjoy FF1600 until after he’d already become a successful touring and sportscar driver and picked up two Le Mans wins.

In 2008 he took on the Walter Hayes Trophy with Graham Brunton Racing, and finished an impressive 10th.

He then returned to sportscars with Aston Martin, starring in the GT1 World Championship, World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and British GT.

2019 form: Getting GTE Pole earned Aston Martin a Balance of Performance punishment in the race, and it leaked time to its rivals before a night-time crash for Marco Sorensen retired the car.

Jonathan Adam

The Scot was born too late to race in Kent-engined FFord cars at the start of his career, but after establishing himself with a couple of touring car titles he made his first attempt at the Walter Hayes Trophy in 2009, finishing 17th.

He then reinvented himself as a GT driver with Aston Martin, a partnership that has resulted in three British GT titles, a Blancpain Endurance title and a Le Mans class win.

Adam enjoyed his WHT experience so much he signed up to contest the event again in 2017, but clashing commitments meant he handed his drive to now fellow Aston driver Jamie Chadwick.

2019 form: Although several seconds off class pole, the fact Adam’s Aston team-mate had gone fastest in GTE Pro meant the BoP was heavily against him in the race. The #97 was already on the back foot before Alex Lynn crashed heavily during the night.

Oliver Jarvis

Photo: Risi Competizione

Son of FF1600 racer Carl, Jarvis started out in FF1800, before switching to Formula Renault 2.0. He won the UK title and the Autosport BRDC Award in 2005.

A move to Formula 3 resulted in Macau GP victory and a place in Audi’s DTM programme. He was shuffled across to its Le Mans efforts in 2010 and has finished third three times. After that ended, he was hired by Mazda.

His sole WHT appearance came in 2006, where he was 18th in the final.

2019 form: Risi Competizione’s GTE Pro class Ferrari was outqualified by a GTE Am entry, and despite being partnered with the highly rated Pipo Derani the car was the absolute bottom of its class throughout.

Matt Campbell

The Australian got to grips with FF1600 machinery in the regional Queensland championship, where he finished second in 2011 and won the title a year later.

His national performances weren’t as impressive, and he promptly switched to GTs. Frequent wins in a GT3 Porsche were followed by the 2016 Carrera Cup Australia title, and a race-winning move to Europe for ’17.

He’s best known for the Bathurst 12 Hours, winning his class in 2017 then sealing overall victory this year with a audacious late move.

2019 form: Porsche ‘young professional’ status doesn’t mean you can’t upset the big boys, and after taking second in GTE Am qualifying, Campbell’s Dempsey-Proton Racing was in contention for victory until underbody problems.

Jan Magnussen

Magnussen finished third in the last year of Kent engines being used in British FFord, but he made up for it by winning the FFord Festival.

He’d also raced FF1600 in his home country of Denmark, and afterwards stepped up to dominate the British F3 title.

A brief (and successful) stint in DTM was followed by a just as short Formula 1 career, and after Indycar racing did’t prove his salvation he settled in with Corvette in sportscars. He now has four Le Mans wins and two IMSA titles to his name.

2019 form: The #63 Corvette led the GTE Pro class on and off for the first 20 hours, when a strategic error to pit under the safety car threw it nearly a lap down. In a rush to regain time, Magnussen then made a mistake that damaged the car, forcing another pit stop, and a five-lap loss.

Earl Bamber

Photo: Porsche

Bamber’s first car races were in FF1600, and they all resulted in victory. After impressing on New Zealand’s South Island he moved on to the national championship, finishing fourth in the 2005-06 season.

He picked up two titles and a growing reputation in Asia before finally racing abroad in 2008 as part of Team New Zealand in A1GP. He almost won on his debut, but he could only garner two Superleague Formula cameos off the back of it.

Winning races in GTs and single-seaters in Asia was his bread-and-butter until 2014, when he won the Porsche Supercup and earned himself a surprise LMP1 shot with the manufacturer the next year. He returned the faith by winning Le Mans outright with Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy.

2019 form: Was within touching distance of the GTE Pro class leaders throughout, but the length of the Le Mans circuit meant the #93 Porsche was usually picked up by a separate safety car. As a result, it was difficult to close down its one minute deficit.

Giorgio Sernagiotto

Photo: Taccola Fabio

The 36-year-old bearded Italian won his home nation’s FF1600 title in 2000, and followed it up with a Zetec-powered title a year later. His single-seater career didn’t go much further, so he started racing Ferrari sportscars.

In 2009 he won the manufacturer’s Italian title, and a few years later set his eyes on prototype sportscars. He’s yet to win a race, but is making progress with Cetilar Racing.

2019 form: Never a serious victory contender, and one of only two LMP2 entries to utilise a Dallara chassis. Avoided drama, but finished outside of the class top 10.

Mathias Beche

The Swiss got a taste of prototype sportscars very early into his career, and hasn’t looked back.

He won in Formula Le Mans (the predecessor to LMP3), the LMP2 title in ELMS, and in his fourth season of LMP1 racing finally took a overall WEC victory last year.

To kick off 2019, he raced in the Bathurst 12 Hours, and while he was there also raced in Australia’s FF1600 half-centenary celebrations. He qualified second for his first ever race, and was in a close battle for the win.

2019 form: Shuffled down to LMP2 with High Class Racing, Beche had to deal with two rookie team-mates and could have got a strong result were it not for a drive-through penalty and telemetry problems that at one point left him a distant last.

Job van Uitert

The breakout star of the 2019 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours was easily van Uitert, a 20-year-old whose career started five years ago racing Mazda MX-5s.

In two seasons in ADAC Formula 4 he struggled, although did win twice in the Italian championship. His turnaround in fortunes came in the 2016 FFord Festival, where Geva Racing ran him in a Van Diemen RF89.

He finished second in the historic final, despite dropping to 12th on the opening lap, and was 12th in the overall final.

In 2017 he ran Ferrari junior Marcus Armstrong close for the Italian F4 title, then scooped up ELMS’s LMP3 class title in ’18. G-Drive Racing snapped him up for LMP2 this year, and he’s currently leading the overall ELMS standings.

2019 form: Partnered with provisional 2018 winners Roman Rusinov and Jean-Eric Vergne, G-Drive looked set for LMP2 glory once again until a mechanical problem struck in the last quarter of the race. It recovered to sixth in class.

0 comments on “FF1600 stars at the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: