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Monday, December 4, 2023

The secrets and techniques for fulfillment on the Formulation Ford Pageant

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The Formulation Ford Pageant might now not maintain the identical status as throughout its heyday as an important proving floor for future Formulation 1 abilities, but it surely stays an enormous ticket occasion that brings again class stalwarts yr after yr to tackle promising up-and-comers.

The occasion, which celebrated its fiftieth version in 2021, has three earlier winners on the entry checklist for this weekend’s jamboree, with Niall Murray, Rory Smith and Jamie Sharp in search of to beat the likes of normal frontrunners Chris Middlehurst and Jordan Dempsey, plus Nationwide champion Jordan Kelly, Historic Formulation 3 title winner Samuel Harrison and US F1600 champion Porter Aiken.

Autosport rounded up earlier winners and the individuals who supported them to be taught the secrets and techniques of success on the Pageant.


Gerrit van Kouwen (1984)

Photograph by: Sutton Pictures

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Gerrit Van Kouwen kicks again at claims his ultimate was “boring”

“Folks say that my ultimate was boring. They’re improper – it was the perfect ever! I’d loved successful throughout Europe in 1983, however nothing prepares you on your first time at Manufacturers Hatch. I made the ultimate that yr, however that was it, so for 1984, we set about doing issues proper. I had improbable backing from Lola and, weekend after weekend, we reworked the T644E, rigorously build up a really completely different automotive to what we’d began with.

“I labored intently with Minister too. Dave [Minister] and Graham [Fuller] have been creating a technique to pre-heat oil, as this confirmed an instantaneous good thing about 2-3bhp on leaving the road. We fitted an industrial kettle component into the bell housing and ran it off a transportable generator. You don’t win by standing nonetheless.

“Approaching Pageant week, Graham instructed me to not be a part of the early checks however to let others danger harm and set the occasions. The benchmark was 49.5s. We arrived on Thursday, I did simply 5 laps, recording 49.2s. We knew we have been quickest; now everybody else knew it too.

“On pole for the ultimate, I maintained the three-tenths margin we held in testing, enabling me to manage the tempo, which concerned a vastly satisfying 48.8s finest. I’ve been to each ultimate since, aside from 2020 [due to COVID-19], so can confidently say to win it, it’s essential begin on the entrance as a result of, in the event you’re chasing, something can – and can – occur.”

Anthony Davidson (2000)

Davidson played it smart to secure Festival honours in 2000

Davidson performed it sensible to safe Pageant honours in 2000

Photograph by: Jeff Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“I used to be a late starter in Formulation Ford and was instantly conscious that Jenson Button – who I’d raced in karts – had simply completed as high rookie in British F3 and was already rumoured to have a freshly inked Formulation 1 contract.

“Three wins within the championship in 2000 was a stable begin however I knew it wouldn’t be sufficient. Didier [Stoessel, manager] had urged me to Rick Gorne at BAR, who was trying to set up a junior driver programme, but it surely was made clear nothing might occur with no name to say that, identical to Jenson in 1998, we have been Pageant winners.

“Going into that weekend, I knew it was all or nothing. The opposition can be mighty, however I had their measure. My Mygale wasn’t as fast, but it surely was planted and predictable. Plus, I knew that across the Indy circuit, it’s virtually inconceivable to overhaul a quick and completely positioned automotive on a moist or moist observe.

“Towards the chances, I beat the favoured Van Diemens to pole for the ultimate and, from the beginning, their intentions have been clear. The road had dried and first Robert Dahlgren’s after which James Courtney’s noses have been smashing into me, but it surely was my lead and that’s the way it needed to keep. Then the pink flag got here out as marshals recovered two stranded automobiles.

“Again on the grid, my group used the delay, brute energy and a crowbar to bend my battered suspension again into form. The restart was a lot as earlier than however, whereas I might belief James to be honest, Dahlgren was a special proposition.

“I sensed his frustration and shortly determined that, earlier than he took me out, he ought to take himself out. With only a few laps remaining, charging previous the road, I dummied him by lifting off barely. This was his probability to cross, and he switched to the surface however, by the point he drew stage, I used to be already again to full throttle – which left him with nowhere to go, apart from straight onto the damp, then the marbles, then into the gravel.

“I knew I might win. The group gave me an excellent automotive, and I used to be in a position to make everybody else do the arduous work and make their very own expensive errors… and we made that decision to BAR.”

Joey Foster (2003, 2017)

Joey Foster won the Festival in 2003 and 2017

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Joey Foster gained the Pageant in 2003 and 2017

“Confidence and command – that’s principally it. Imagine in your self, belief your automotive. You could respect the event too, and all the time be on the high of your recreation.

“We made a mistake in 2018 once I switched to the Firman. I’d been successful within the Ray that yr and naively thought we might carry proper on. However the automotive was fully completely different and I didn’t have the observe time to search out the arrogance to push it to the place I wanted it to be.

“That is the place group work counts. Don [Hardman] and Keith [Bodicoat] know methods to get the perfect out of each me and the automotive. An excellent group will work tirelessly for you, however then it’s essential show to them that the lengthy nights have been value it.

“Testing is vital, however nothing beats time pitched towards these you must beat. You additionally have to know Manufacturers Hatch higher than you realize anyplace else. Make a mistake right here and it punishes you first, then kicks you whilst you’re down.”

Max Esterson (2022)

Max Esterson, winner in 2022

Photograph by: Gary Watkins

Max Esterson, winner in 2022

“For me, it was all about correcting errors from 2021. I’d led the [National] championship on factors however misplaced the title on dropped scores. Then, on the Pageant, I selected to save lots of my new tyres within the semi, which left me paceless and beginning the ultimate from the midfield.

“Having to return by way of the pack is a really completely different race to controlling it from the entrance. The brand new rubber allowed me to tug a couple of particular strikes however I quickly discovered myself blocked by Jamie Sharp and Neil Maclennan, who have been combating over P1. My velocity was there, however I couldn’t get by.

“So final yr, I needed to make amends. The circumstances suited my type and I gained my warmth, then acquired previous Joey [Foster] to win the semi too. Lining up on pole for the ultimate, all I needed to do was maintain my line.

“Joey was straight on my tail, however I might see that he needed us to interrupt free and settle it later. Nonetheless, later by no means got here. A deluge of rain scattered automobiles in each course. I used to be in a position to maintain Joey behind till the security automotive got here out, then the race ended.

“You possibly can’t win the Pageant with out time spent within the automotive, and gained’t win with out understanding how the observe responds to the climate.”

The supporting crew

Michael Vergers (Driver coach)

Michael Vergers finished second in 1989 despite an off at the start

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Michael Vergers completed second in 1989 regardless of an off firstly

Michael Vergers is remembered for one of many Pageant’s nice drives within the 1989 ultimate; pitched into the Druids gravel firstly, then stunningly driving past everybody else’s restrict (together with David Coulthard’s) to complete second.

“Confidence is essential, however you must discover the precise change to show it on,” says Vergers. “Each driver’s persona is completely different. To provide the perfect, you first have to grasp what triggers perception.

“Sure, you want a superb season behind you. You could know who you’re racing and methods to beat them, however you additionally have to be tuned into your automotive and belief in its response. The method of driving is kind of easy, however the artwork of racing calls for ability and perfection, lap after lap.”

Alan Cornock (Constructor)

The identify Royale Automobiles might these days be consigned to the previous, however former proprietor Alan Cornock is a person who has seen his share of each winners and losers.

“Successful right this moment is a really completely different factor to once we gained again in 1975,” he says. “Then, Formulation Ford automobiles have been continuously evolving, and our group [which included designer Rory Byrne] led a endless seek for velocity by way of innovation on the drafting board. Right now, high groups know their automobiles intimately so, whereas we needed to take dangers, I’ll confidently say ‘stick with what you realize’.

“At a spot like Manufacturers Hatch, with its climbs, drops, cambers and floor modifications, you gained’t win with out precision, and that solely comes by way of expertise. Luck, in fact, usually performs an element, however winners are likely to make their very own.”

Gavin Ray (Constructor)

Ray Race Automobiles is without doubt one of the most recognisable names in Formulation Ford historical past and nonetheless builds new chassis right this moment.

“Thirty years in the past, chassis design was all about lightness, which might make automobiles prone to alter over the course of a race,” Gavin Ray explains. “Should you’re not being pushed into on the Pageant, you’re not combating for the lead, so new automobiles are a lot stiffer, giving drivers a extra responsive, constant really feel. Older equipment may go away an awning with the geometry straight, however mere minutes of wheelbanging will usually see it knocked out of form.

“From a constructor’s perspective, the chassis and set-up have to work in concord. Peak efficiency is available in fairly a small window, so groups want to stay to what they know and let the driving force make the distinction.

“Are you able to win the Pageant right this moment with an older chassis? No. You’ll solely obtain the consistency wanted from a automotive that’s as true on the finish of a race as it’s firstly.”

Graham Fuller (Engine builder)

Names like Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell are simply woven into historical past, however to Dave Minister and Graham Fuller, they’re simply two of many who raced and gained with the best Formulation Ford engines of the day.

Perception: The legendary Formula Ford engine that made Festival kings

“Let’s be straight, successful in Formulation Ford requires rather more than only a good engine,” states Fuller. “However, when the expertise is evenly matched, that’s the place engineering and growth could make a distinction – realizing methods to ship energy persistently all through the race.

“Working temperatures are key, as are oil varieties and ranges. So too are particular person parts. You’ll solely get probably the most by utilizing the perfect; when it comes to machined high quality and match, and in packaging too. Designers construct automobiles for aero effectivity, however this could simply be on the expense of restricted engine efficiency.

“One of the best recommendation I can provide to any driver and group is to take heed to their engine builder and work as a collective.”

Bernard Dolan (Crew supervisor)

Bernard Dolan now runs Team Dolan Racing having won the 1989 British FFord title

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Bernard Dolan now runs Crew Dolan Racing having gained the 1989 British FFord title

Like Vergers, Bernard Dolan was an achieved racer, successful the 1989 British Formulation Ford Championship. Now he runs Crew Dolan Racing, the place he’s guided drivers to victory at each the Pageant and the Walter Hayes Trophy.

PLUS: Dolan’s long wait for FF Festival revenge 

“As a group, we produce a powerful automotive however, to win, you’ve acquired to have the ability to get the perfect from it,” says Dolan. “If we alter a set-up to go well with a driver, what you achieve from them, you danger dropping extra from the machine.

“One of many largest issues at Manufacturers Hatch is changeable circumstances. Confidence ought to overcome this, however realizing the circuit and discovering a rhythm are additionally key. You gained’t win from approach again, so you should goal to guide, inch-perfect all the best way, as a result of the second you go off line, the short guys will feed off you, and anybody else who will get of their approach.”

Chris Davison (Tyre tester)

As an achieved racer {and professional} tyre tester (previously with Avon), few folks perceive the significance of the connection between the automotive and its tyre in addition to Chris Davison does.

“The ACB10 is a good tyre to race on, however you must comprehend it effectively, and the way small modifications in temperature and circumstances have an effect on optimum pressures and ranges of brake bias,” he says. “A humid or moist observe requires numerous work to search out and preserve grip however, the extra you practise, the extra it turns into second nature.

“Luck will all the time play an element however, in the event you’re assured in your automotive, and might predict the response out of your tyres, you may discover the bounds the observe will permit.”

So there we’re. Ten of probably the most educated folks within the paddock, all pointing to just about the identical: that successful the Pageant doesn’t simply depend on confidence and velocity; it wants belief (in your group); religion (in your automotive’s responses); expertise (of racing intently with these you should beat); reactions (to altering circumstances); and, likely, just a bit little bit of luck.

Winning the Formula Ford Festival isn't just a case of confidence and speed

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Successful the Formulation Ford Pageant is not only a case of confidence and velocity

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