Now that is what a Method Ford Pageant remaining must be like. Overlook the damp squib that was final 12 months’s transient affair, this was a correct contest. Twenty laps of uninterrupted motion that had the gang enthralled, that includes unbelievable overtakes between high quality drivers and uncertainty over the winner proper to the tip.
There was even some late unreliability drama for the sensible Niall Murray so as to add one other twist. It’s no surprise that Jamie Sharp, the 2021 victor who was a part of the lead squabble, says: “You possibly can by no means guess what’s going to occur – it’s probably the most unpredictable weekend!”
It was the proper tonic after the distress of final season, when dangerous scheduling and a reluctance from these in cost to react to the anticipated dangerous climate meant predicted rain arrived shortly after the final began and insufficient daylight for it to be restarted when circumstances improved. Autosport, and lots of others, gave the organising British Racing & Sports activities Automobile Membership a tough time for not foreseeing such issues and, to its credit score, modifications have been made this 12 months, with the ultimate introduced ahead to 1600 and now not being the occasion’s final race.
However this 12 months’s cracker was the proper strategy to banish reminiscences of the insanity of 2022. And BRSCC chairman Peter Daly needs to benefit from the sensible battles to advertise the occasion sooner or later. “We’ve received it filmed and obtainable and can see how we are able to promote it,” he says.
But, for all the ultimate’s thrills, there’s a downside. The Method Ford Pageant is an historic occasion with an unbelievable assortment of earlier winners and frontrunners. However this 12 months simply 55 drivers took half. It is a gigantic discount on the 78 of final 12 months, which adopted the 97 when its fiftieth version was celebrated in 2021.
Just for the pandemic-affected 2020 instalment have fewer gathered for the Manufacturers Hatch showpiece. For what is meant to be a blue-riband occasion, having so few entries that each single one was assured a spot within the semi-finals considerably undermines its knockout nature.
“Our authentic ambition was 80-85 vehicles,” admits Daly. “Because the 12 months’s gone on, all golf equipment have seen numbers dwindle. I used to be listening to folks have been working out of finances early within the 12 months due to the will increase in costs of tyres and gas or early accident injury.”
Whereas the on-track motion was thrilling, the variety of entrants was notably down on earlier years with each single one assured a spot within the semi-finals
Picture by: Gary Hawkins
There may be actually little question the cost-of-living disaster has taken a toll and there have been different components at play. Take the calendar conflict with the Donington Park British GT finale. That meant GT race director Daly – who gained the historic remaining in 2020 – and his companion Lorna Vickers couldn’t participate, and likewise dominated out FF1600 common Matt Cowley, who was busy successful the GT4 title! It additionally impacted upon groups with Kevin Mills Racing specializing in its GB4 drivers at Donington. Additional afield, the Northern Irish championship finale at Kirkistown could have attracted a meagre grid nevertheless it nonetheless doubtlessly value one other couple of entries in Kent.
Two-time winner Joey Foster was one other on the sidelines as finances difficulties meant he as an alternative switched roles to run Historic Method 3 champion Samuel Harrison in a Firman. Nonetheless, he stays optimistic the occasion’s fortunes will enhance.
“You must take a look at Method Ford over time and it does this,” he says, making an up and down motion. “There’s nonetheless children coming by way of and it’s an ideal place for drivers to start out. Nevertheless it’s very tough for individuals who haven’t any spare money to spend.”
Foster feels some kind of incentive is required to lure drivers, just like the enhance offered when UK Method Ford champions secured locations on the Mazda Highway to Indy shootout approaching a decade in the past
Whereas some really feel final 12 months’s shambles has put drivers off, Foster – who plans to return to the driving seat for subsequent weekend’s Walter Hayes Trophy – doesn’t imagine that’s the case. “Classes have been realized,” he says. As a substitute, he feels some kind of incentive is required to lure drivers, just like the enhance offered when UK Method Ford champions secured locations on the Mazda Highway to Indy shootout approaching a decade in the past.
It’s one thing that Daly is actually contemplating. “I feel it will be good to have a prize fund for it – it’d convey one or two higher-level drivers in,” he says. Daly additionally believes the discount in Method Ford racing subsequent 12 months with the BRSCC’s National championship ending and MotorSport Vision Racing’s United category instead flying the flag for ‘trendy’ vehicles may help with the budgetary scenario.
Additionally set to assist is the “ardour” of Alan Bowles, who was not too long ago appointed Tremendous Basic Pre-’99 championship coordinator and might be engaged on the Pageant, too. Bowles organised a powerful Elden reunion at Manufacturers final weekend with drivers travelling from as far afield because the States to reminisce, whereas he additionally assembled an eclectic mixture of vehicles within the paddock to once more attempt to spark some curiosity. His enthusiasm can solely assist.
Finally, the BRSCC has realized from the errors of final season however now it wants to make sure the implausible remaining this time round is used to persuade extra to race within the years to come back. The Hayes has historically attracted bigger fields than the Pageant and, if its numbers are considerably better this season, it will present a transparent demonstration of the problem nonetheless forward.
Smith’s triumph got here after a memorable Pageant, however organisers cannot afford to relaxation on their laurels
Picture by: Gary Hawkins