Features Festival Walter Hayes Trophy

Formula Ford 1600’s top American stars

The United States of America is celebrating its Independence Day, but to this day plenty of drivers from Stateside have still ventured to the British Isles to make their name in junior single seaters.

FF1600website.com has compiled a list of six of the best drivers from the United States to have raced in Formula Ford 1600.

CHASE OWEN
7th in 2017 BRDC British F3, 15th in 2018 Asian F3 – 2016 BRSCC Northern FF1600 champion, 2x Champion of Brands, 4 wins in SuperSeries, 2nd in 2016 BRSCC National FF1600, 6th in ’16 FFord Festival, 10th in ’16 Mono 1600, 12th in ’16 WHT

The 2016 BRSCC Avon Tyres National FF1600 season was remembered for Niall Murray’s domination, but that year’s breakthrough star was really Chase Owen.

After an impressive year in one of Skip Barber’s series in America, Owen’s 2016 focus was on racing FF1600 in the UK. He did it without being a beneficiary of the Team USA Scholarship, and kicked off his season with a crushing win in the wet at Oulton Park.

His title lead was quickly extinguished, and he only made the podium three more times. Consistency netted him second in the standings though.

Owen took to other series to add to his trophy cabinet; twice becoming a Champion of Brands as well as a winner with the Monoposto Racing Club and James Beckett’s SuperSeries.

He ended the year with another strong Brands run in the Formula Ford Festival, before bringing FF1600 team Cliff Dempsey Racing with him into BRDC British Formula 3 with Hillspeed.

A disappointing season was followed by a self-ran Asian F3 effort for one round.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN
Currently 1st in 2019 IndyCar, 2017 IndyCar champion, 4th in 2016 IndyCar, 2011 Indy Lights champion – 2008 FFord Festival Kent winner, 6th in 2009 WHT

One of America’s best karters, Newgarden spent one successful year racing cars in his home country – enough to earn the Team USA Scholarship for 2008.

He duly won the Kent edition of the FFord Festival from first on the grid, and then finished 14th in the Walter Hayes Trophy. Having failed to win the double, Newgarden returned to the WHT in 2009.

Pole for his heat only translated into 15th in the race, and he had to take the long route to the final. Victory in the Last Chance race was followed by fifth in his semi-final, and sixth in the WHT itself.

Frustratingly, Team USA scholars were the victors in both years.

Newgarden spent the rest of ’09 in British FFord, and jumped to GP3 in 2010. Although he took a pole, he fared badly and returned to America with astounding success. This year he’s aiming for his second IndyCar title.

TRISTAN NUNEZ
Currently 7th in 2019 IMSA, 7th in 2016 IMSA, 2012 IMSA PC champion, 4th in 2013 GrandAm GX class – ’12 WHT winner

Prototype sportscars is Nunez’s bread and butter, but early in his career he was a single-seater star. Winning the 2011 Skip Barber Summer Series made him a Team USA scholar for 2012, where he swept to WHT victory.

His weekend started under the radar, as he made it to the final with ease but without making a significant impact. From seventh on the grid he was up to third within three laps, then hassled the top two (Joey Foster and Peter Dempsey no less) in the damp before they clashed.

The race wasn’t won though, as Nunez had to prevail in battle with Superleague Formula champion John Martin and two-time FFord Festival winner Ivor McCullough.

Nunez was unbeaten in the Festival all the way up to the final, which he crashed out of.

Now, he races for Mazda Team Joest in IMSA and is still searching for his first top flight success.

CONOR DALY
18th in 2016 & ’17 IndyCar, 3rd in 2013 GP3, 2012-13 MRF Challenge champion, 2010 Indy Pro 2000 champion – 2008 WHT winner, 2nd in ’08 Toyo Tires F1600, 6th in ’08 FFord Festival Kent

The American son of FF1600 great and former F1 driver Derek, Conor followed his dad’s ’76 Festival win with WHT success in 2008.

It was a year where he got to experience a lot of FF1600 racing, first in one of Canada’s regional championships and then in Britain through the Team USA Scholarship.

He qualified near the front in the FFord Festival, but faltered on his first experience of a standing start and then had a throttle issues and an off during his heat. 20th place put him at the back for the semi-final, but he rose up to sixth again in the final.

The WHT went far better, and his one-lap pace meant he took an assured victory.

Daly spent two years apiece in Indy Pro 2000 and GP3 afterwards, winning frequently. His F1 dream faltered, prompting an IndyCar switch and one podium before a lock of sponsorship got in the way.

OLIVER ASKEW
Currently 1st in 2019 Indy Lights, 3rd in 2018 Indy Pro 2000, 2017 USF2000 champion – 2nd in 2016 WHT

Askew is still on his way up the single-seater ladder, and has vowed to make a WHT return after his starring turn in 2016.

Team Dolan’s Niall Murray dominated in the wet that year, but Askew’s run to second was equally as impressive.

He dominated his heat from pole, beating the likes of Graham Carroll and Bas Leinders, and did the same in his semi-final against WHT legends Michael Moyers and Joey Foster.

Ultimately, he had no answer to Murray in the final, but in such tricky conditions he still outperformed a high-quality grid. Besides the FFord Festival, Askew’s only car racing experience came to a part-season in Asia the year before.

He won the inaugural Road to Indy Shootout shortly after the WHT, and has carried that momentum through a title-winning USF2000 season, Indy Pro 2000 and now Indy Lights. In 2020 he could be racing in IndyCar.

DANNY SULLIVAN
1988 CART champion, ’85 Indy 500 winner, 3rd in ’86 CART, 17th in ’83 F1 – 5th in 1972 FFord Festival

The very first FFord Festival in 1972 at Snetterton was full of future stars, and one of the favourites to win was 22-year-old Kentucky native Danny Sullivan.

He swept through to the final, which he would start from pole, but he and his Elden then came short and finished sixth.

Britain’s high level of competition in junior single-seaters meant Sullivan stayed there for three more years in F3, and in 1975 he won at Thruxton for brand new manufacturer Modus.

In 1977 he finished 18th in a part-season in European F2, before moving back home. Sullivan’s career took another five years before taking off, with a winning Can-Am campaign preceding a starring CART cameo and then a surprise F1 season with Tyrrell.

He raced full-time in CART in ’84, staying in the series through to 1995. Three wins came in his first season, resulting in him being signed by Team Penske and winning the Indianapolis 500 a year later. In ’88 he won the title, and although his single-seater career faded he then made a name for himself in GT1 sportscars.

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