Ecoboost Era For Formula Ford

New chassis, engine and gearbox combination makes debut at Oulton Park Quality field from around the globe to form the grid

Formula Ford enters a new era this week with the racing debut of the new EcoBoost-powered chassis which will carry the world’s leading junior single-seater category into a world-beating 46th season of competition.

The lights will flash to go for the EcoBoost for the first time on Saturday afternoon (7 Apr) at Oulton Park, venue for the opening round of the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain. Two further races follow on Easter Monday.

The motive force in the new car is Ford’s turbocharged 1.6-litre EcoBoost power unit, but the changes do no stop there - in the biggest-ever chassis shake-up Formula Ford has ever seen, the new cars have been super-strengthened to meet the latest FIA safety standards, and a new six-speed sequential gearbox has been fitted.

Sam Roach of championship promoter RacingLine said: “To start the new generation of Formula Ford with such a quality grid of cars is a great testament to the hard work of Ford Racing, our suppliers and teams. Everyone who drives the new EcoBoost car is amazed by its performance. With more new EcoBoost cars in production, we are very confident of the grid growing further within the next few races.”

Runners and ridersA field of 16 is expected at Oulton Park for the season openers, and it is expected that the grid will swell further during the coming weeks.

Jamun Racing, champions of Formula Ford since 2005, are back with a triple-strength team of EcoBoost Mygales. Rapid and experienced Brits Jake Cook (Rotherham) and Luke Williams (Sowerby) are on the squad, alongside Argentinian karting star Eric Lichtenstein. Both Cook and Williams have form: Jake claimed a second-place race finish in 2010 in his debut season in Formula Ford, while Williams was only narrowly beaten to the Scholarship class title the same year.

Cook is positive about his new car and his chances, despite missing out on valuable testing mileage last week while his car was repaired: “I missed a day at Oulton because of an accident at Brands Hatch - another car spun and collected me. So I have missed out a little bit but I am hoping that the pre-race tests will be enough for me to get a feel for the car around Oulton Park.

“I’m really happy with the EcoBoost,” adds Cook, who is backed this season by Broadsword Printers. “It’s a fair bit quicker than the older cars, no harder to drive and a lot more stable in general. We are not yet ‘on top’ of the car because we have had to start with a clean sheet of paper, but I am sure that it is the same for everyone. I am comfortable with my pace and I can’t wait to get on track with the others and see where we are in relation to each other.”

Jamun’s fierce rivals over several of the last seasons, the JTR team, returns with initially two of the new cars - one for reigning Scholarship Champion Cavan Corcoran (Matlock), who won his class 16 times from 18 starts in 2011, and the other for 16-year-old Ecuadorian karting ace Julio Moreno.

At Oulton there will be EcoBoost Mygales also for racing newcomer Ryan Cullen (Wedmore), who is being guided by David Ellesley’s Race Car Consultants team, and for ex-karter Fred Martin-Dye (Blackheath), who is under Enigma Motorsport’s wing.

There’s an exciting field gathering in the Duratec division also, with France-based Briton Matt Rao (who is slated to drive one of the new EcoBoost Sinter chassis later on) and Alex Drabble (Stockbridge) piloting Fluid Motorsport’s Van Diemens, and Enigma’s two Mygales in the hands of rookie racers Olly Rae, from Australia, and George Blundell (Grays).

American Charles Anti will make his British racing debut in a self-run Mygale, while Mexico’s Fabian Welter, 16, will campaign a Mygale for Philippe Layac’s Rendez-Vous Racing team.

Two teams will be making welcome returns to Formula Ford GB - Don Hardman Automotive, with US-based driver Abdul Ahmed driving a Ray, and Myerscough College, the university student-run team, which will field a Van Diemen for reigning Scottish Formula Ford Champion Kenneth Thirlwall (West Lothian).

Great prizesThis year’s Formula Ford Champion will win an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA to take a free full-day test in a USF2000 single-seater as well as a further full day’s testing in a Star Mazda car.

“This will be a huge profile boost for the career of Formula Ford’s first champion of the EcoBoost era,” said Sam Roach. “We are all very excited about the opportunity to be part of such a well-regarded driver development programme; it is great news and gratifying for Formula Ford EcoBoost to be recognised globally in this way.”

The 2009 vice-champion, Josef Newgarden, is the latest ex-Formula Fordster to pursue his track career Stateside. He won last year’s Indy Lights title, earning himself a seat with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series. He joined fellow ex-Formula Ford drivers Mike Conway, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Rubens Barrichello on the IndyCar grid in Florida last month, and impressed with his 11th place debut finish.

Superb datesFormula Ford racers will enjoy top billing in the UK and mainland Europe in 2012, with races at all of England’s top circuits as well as mainland Europe events at Zandvoort, Spa-Francorchamps and the Nürburgring.

The British championship for Formula Ford will feature alongside the British F3 and British GT series on the Oulton Park, Rockingham, Brands Hatch Grand Prix, Snetterton, Silverstone GP and Donington Park GP circuits, with three races at each. There will also be triple-header events at the Brands Hatch DTM meeting and at the Nürburgring, which will take the championship to 24 races in all.

The Nürburgring and June Brands Hatch races will also form part of the Formula Ford EuroCup, with the best drivers from the Benelux and Scandinavian Formula Ford championships joining their British counterparts on the grid. The EuroCup will also feature standalone events at the Belgian Grand Prix circuit of Spa, and at Zandvoort at Europe’s blue riband F3 event, the Masters.

And Formula Ford will once again benefit from excellent TV coverage, with half-hour shows on Channel 4 in the UK and across Europe via satellite channel Motors TV.

Oulton Park timetableFri 6 Apr: practice 0925-0945, 1220-1240, 1525-1550 & 1655-1720Sat 7 Apr: qualifying 1115-1135, Race 1 1525Mon 9 Apr: Race 2 1010, Race 3 1430