Competitors try new Formula Ford for size

Silverstone Sampler Day offers first chance for prospective competitors to test new Formula Ford EcoBoost Drivers impressed by power and grip on offer 5 December, 2011 - Experienced Formula Ford racers and newcomers to the category came together at Silverstone on Friday to get a taste of the future car for the world’s leading and longest-lived novice single-seater racing formula.

They were taking part in the annual Sampler Day, a chance for teams to meet prospective competitors, and for the competitors themselves to try the new Formula Ford chassis, which features Ford’s EcoBoost 1600 direct injection turbo unit producing 165PS and mated to a six-speed sequential racing transmission.

It’s a winning combination so far as Jake Cook is concerned, the 18-year-old one of the first to declare his intention to battle for the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain title and Formula Ford EuroCup honours. He enjoyed his first drive in an EcoBoost chassis: “I really enjoyed the experience. The new car seems a lot better than the old one, with loads more grip, and it looks great.” Cook has re-signed with multiple championship-winning team Jamun Racing as part of an anticipated four-car squad.

Australian Jack Le Brocq was in action at Silverstone also, the 19-year-old runner-up in this year’s Australian Formula Ford Championship. Having just secured a coveted place in the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy for 2012, Jack is edging closer to finalising a deal to race in Formula Ford in the UK next season. “I think it’s a really good car,” said Jack. “The way the chassis and the tyres work together give it a lot of grip, and I like the sequential gearbox: it’s good experience for the categories a driver will come to further on in his career. I’m hoping to get my deal sorted out soon and then start to think about testing and learning the car and all the new circuits.”

Reigning Formula Ford GB Champion Scott Malvern has been involved in much of the development and testing work of the new car. “The EcoBoost is quite a bit different now to how it was when I first drove it,” he said. “We’ve had some good test days and made a lot of progress. For example, the throttle is now much more controllable and the car is now nice under power. There’s a few tweaks still to come to make it a bit more comfortable for a new driver.

“The EcoBoost is definitely much easier to drive than a Duratec car, for a new kid coming in, and that is a good thing. It’s also going to make it a lot harder for the guys at the front to find the extra time, which will keep things close. The Duratec was hard to drive, so a driver really on top of his game could get an advantage, whereas the EcoBoost with its sequential ’box and superior levels of grip will make that harder. It’s definitely not lost the Formula Ford feel, though.”

JTR team boss Nick Tandy plans to run three EcoBoost chassis in 2012, and has driven the new car himself. “It’s excellent,” he says. “The engine is very responsive, very powerful, but the biggest thing about it is the six-speed gearbox: the electronic upshift and the ‘auto blip’ on the downshift make driving it very enjoyable. It is easier than having to heel and toe and use the clutch and an H-pattern gearshift, which takes some of the skill out of it but at the same time it’s nice being able to brake with your left foot and just bang down the gears, just like you would in a Formula 3 car. It will be good training for what drivers will face later on in their careers.

“From a team’s point of view, the basic car is not all that different: the major changes are the electronics and the engine. We hope to be running three cars, and hopefully a couple of drivers who will have a chance of winning the championship. We’ll be pushing; we have a few ideas up our sleeves.”

Upwards of 20 drivers were in action at the Silverstone Sampler Day, testing not just the EcoBoost car but also Duratec chassis. Among their number were Scottish Formula Ford 1600 Champion Kenneth Thirlwall; the Edinburgh 21-year-old went unbeaten north of the border in 2011 and is hoping for further success nationally next year in the Duratec division. Ginetta Junior scholarship winner Sennan Fielding, 16, tested, as did karting exponents George Blundell, Fred Martin-Dye and Laura Tillett, and Formula Ford 1600 pilot Alex Drabble.

The 2011 Formula Ford Scholarship Cup winner Cavan Corcoran was at Silverstone to get his first taste of EcoBoost power; the Matlock-based teen is working hard to put together a budget for the coming season.

The teams taking part in the test day were Jamun, JTR. Myerscough College, Engima/Rendez-Vous Racing, Getem, Fluid and RaySport.

“It was a really worthwhile day for everyone who took part,” said Sam Roach of championship promoter RacingLine. “It was the first opportunity for several drivers to go behind the wheel of the new Formula Ford car and I know that it impressed all who sampled it.”

Click for hi-res version. Jack Le Brocq in action at the FormulaFord Sampler Day at Silverstone. Image by Jakob Ebrey Photography

ELLESLEY TO RUN ECOBOOST FOR SERIES NEWCOMER

Two-car team for ex-Fiesta Champion David Ryan Cullen the first rookie racer to order a new Formula Ford chassis 5 December, 2011 - Ex-Formula Ford racer and Ford saloons champion David Ellesley is to turn race team boss in 2012 to run a two-car squad in the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain and the Formula Ford EuroCup.

Ellesley’s Race Car Consultants outfit is joining forces with the family of rookie racer Ryan Cullen to run the 20-year-old Somerset man next season in one of the all-new EcoBoost Formula Ford chassis. The team has also bought an ex-Dan de Zille Mygale Duratec chassis and is looking for a driver to run alongside Cullen.

“Ryan has some karting experience but has never raced a car before,” said Ellesley. “The plan is to get him up to speed with the Duratec car in the coming weeks and then for him to transfer to the new car when that is ready. It’s a great opportunity for me and for my team and Ryan shows a lot of promise.”

“I am looking forward to it,” adds Cullen. “I’m told that Formula Ford is the place to start and the new car looks amazing.”

Ellesley, who won the 2009 Ford Fiesta ST Championship title and who went on to enjoy occasional Formula Ford outings in Spirit and Juno chassis, says that although his single-seater focus next season will be on team management he is not yet ready to hang up his helmet: “I’m looking at some saloon-racing options for the future but nothing is certain yet.”