National Formula Ford Round to do battle at QRDC RD4
The Australian Formula Ford Series has a coveted history of producing motor racing stars. Do well in this category, and your chances of forging a professional career at the top level of Australian motorsport are very high.
To understand the value of Formula Ford as a junior development category, one only needs to look at the current Supercars grid, and the drivers who used national Formula Ford as the first step from go-karts to cars. Out of the 26-strong field, no less than 10 current drivers are Australian Formula Ford Champions: Craig Lowndes (1993), Jason Bright (1995), Garth Tander (1997), Will Davison (2001), Jamie Whincup (2002), David Reynolds (2004), Tim Blanchard (2007), Nick Percat (2009), Chaz Mostert (2010) and Cameron Waters (2011).
In 2017, national Formula Ford is divided into two classes. The outright cars run in the Duratec Class, and a powered by control, fuel-injected 1600cc motors out of the Ford Fiesta road car. These engines were introduced to the national series in 2006 and with all the engines coming from a single supplier, performance is equalised while costs are contained.
There is also the Kent Class for cars powered by the older-generation carburetted engines that were employed in a number of 1970s Fords, including the Escort. There are still a healthy number of Kent Formula Fords in action, some competitors using it as an entry point into the category before progressing to a Duratec vehicle.
Formula Fords are highly adjustable, with a range of suspension tweaks allowing drivers and teams to find the optimum setup to extract the best performance from the Yokohama control tyres. They are also fitted with data acquisition systems, and these attributes are key elements of Formula Ford’s value as an educational environment for young drivers, who can gain an understanding of how setup changes affect car balance, while also learning how to use data analysis as a driving development tool.
Queensland Raceway plays host to Round 4 of the 2017 series, which has been a hotly-contested affair so far. 16-year-old South Australian Max Vidau (Sonic Motor Racing) won the first two rounds of the series at Sandown and Wakefield Park, and finished second overall in Round 3 at Winton. As a result, he holds the points lead ahead of Jayden Ojeda (Borland Racing Developments), who scored a couple of race victories in the season opener at Sandown.
Driving for the Dean Randle-owned DREAM Motorsport team, and piloting the Mygale Thomas Randle drove to the 2014 title, Cooper Murray has been a model of consistency and runs third in points.
Another one to watch is New Zealander Hunter McElrea, son of Carrera Cup and GT team owner Andy. McElrea qualified on pole at Wakefield Park – becoming the first Kiwi to take an Australian Formula Ford pole since Mitch Evans – and after problems in the opening race, he charged through the field to win the final.
After driving for James Courtney’s go-kart team, Liam McLellan has stepped up to national Formula Ford this season with the Borland Racing squad, finishing second overall in Round 2 of the series at Wakefield Park. A tough round at Winton was costly for McLellan, but he’s still running in the top five in points.
Local fans will have plenty of Queensland drivers to cheer for, including the BF Racing trio of Cameron Shields, Nathan Herne and Harrison Jones.
The event also marks the second round of the Formula Ford 1600 series for the Kent Class cars, and another Queenslander, Mitch Maddren, leads the standings in that class thanks to his win in the opening round at Winton.
At season’s end, the best-performing driver will have an opportunity to compete in the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout in America, driving a USF2000 car; this further strengthens the category as a progression pathway not just to local motorsport categories, but international ones as well.