INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR FOR FORMULA FORD DAY
3 Young stars from around the world gathered at Silverstone onTuesday to sample the career-building British Formula Ford Championship, meet the teams and drive the cars that could set them on the road to racing stardom.
There to oversee their progress was reigning British Formula Ford Champion Wayne Boyd, who not only dispensed advice to the hopefuls but who also took to the track himself, at the wheel of a Fluid Motorsport Dallara Formula 3 car - the test session a prize for winning the Ford-backed series.
More than 50 youngsters attended the Sampler Day, many British hopefuls and several from overseas, including 17-year-old American star Josef Newgarden, Brazilian kart sensation Fabio Gamberini, 16, and Flying Finn Antti Buri, 20. Among the talented UK racers on parade were newly crowned Ginetta G50 Champion Nigel Moore, multiple kart champ Lee Harpham and clubmans Formula Ford Champion Graham Carroll.
Nashville-based Newgarden burst on to the British racing scene in October when he won the Kent engine division in the Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival. Now the American, runner-up in the Skip Barber National Championship at home, is looking seriously for a drive in British Formula Ford: "I will definitely be racing Britain in 2009," said Josef. "My dream has always been Formula 1 and to achieve that goal you need to be in the UK. And Formula Ford is a great stepping stone."
Newgarden, Sao Paulo-based Gamberini and Buri were among those testing the Mygales of the Jamun Racing team, whose drivers have won the championship for the last four years in succession. Many other top teams were present at Silverstone, including Joe Tandy Racing, Kevin Mills Racing, Fluid Motorsport, GWR, Speedsport and newcomers Enigma Motorsport and Beacon Racing. The all-new Juno chassis was in action also, the Hillspeed Racing-prepared machine being piloted by several drivers, including reigning Formula Ford Scholarship title-winner Chrissie Palmer.
Nigel Moore sampled one of the late-season pacesetting Van Diemens of Fluid Motorsport. "We are looking seriously at Formula Ford for 2009," said Nigel, who is seeking to enhance his career by landing a berth in a team which can deliver him a championship win to add to those he has scored already in karting and sports cars. Another Van Diemen tester was Graham Carroll, who won the Scottish, North-West and National Clubmans Formula Ford titles this season. "I'm ready to progress to British Formula Ford in 2009," said Graham, "and I'm actively seeking the budget to sign with a top team."
Champion Boyd's Fluid Formula 3 test outing was a pleasant diversion for the 18-year-old Ulsterman as he awaits the announcement of the identity of the winner of the coveted McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year, which brings with it a McLaren F1 test and a £50,000 cash prize. Wayne was one of six contest finalists put through their paces last month in a variety of racing machinery, including an F3 car and a DTM saloon, but he, like everyone else, must wait until Sunday's (7 Dec) Autosport Awards in London to discover how he fared.
"Today's F3 test has been really valuable for me," said Boyd. "I've now tried several Formula 3 chassis run by different teams, and the mileage I am racking up is all great experience. I'm really grateful to Fluid for the chance."
The Silverstone event also attracted a dozen or so drivers looking for rides in the 2012 championship - junior karters aged 11 and 12, who spent the day learning how test days work. They were given Ford Focus rides around the circuit by Silverstone instructors.
Among their number was Ricky Collard, 12-year-old son of BTCC racer Rob. Collard Senior's circuit-racing career began in Formula Ford in the late 1990s: "I started in Formula Ford a bit late for a single-seater career," said Rob, "but Ricky hopes to be on the grid as soon as he's 16. There's no better training."
Sam Roach, of championship promoter RacingLine, was delighted by the third annual British Formula Ford Sampler Day. "It's been a great shop window for the championship, and I know that the teams will feel the benefit. With more than 50 drivers present, from as far afield as the USA, Canada, Brazil, Finland, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden, I think we can look forward to another competitive and exciting season of Formula Ford in 2009."