It’s been a hectic — and memorable — first week in the UK for Colin Mullan. He and Team USA Scholarship teammate Jake Craig commenced preparations for this coming weekend’s Formula Ford Festival by contesting the final rounds of the BRSCC Avon Tires Formula Ford 1600 Championship at Donington Park. They also found the time to visit both The Donington Formula 1 Collection and Ilmor Engineering.
Wrapping up our successful weekend at Donington, I couldn’t feel more prepared heading into some of the biggest Formula Ford races in the world.
Throughout testing, I felt more and more comfortable with the way we need to drive these cars. I’m used to having slick tires with lots of grip. The Formula Fords require us to drive what we think is well over the limit. In a way, they need to feel uncomfortable in order to be quick.
Doing sim training from home with RaceCraft1 (pictured below) really helped get me a better idea of the tracks and where some passing zones might be. It was very helpful to go into Donington with that prior knowledge, as it lessened the amount of learning to do at the race weekend. Being able to train from home with Kelly Jones and his team was great.
Our first race day, Jake and I didn’t have a great qualifying. However, we stepped it up for the races. I started 15th, and after a decent start I was able to make some passes and start working my way towards the next pack of cars. At the end of the race, I finished eighth and was right with the battle for fifth, which included Jake.
I started eighth for Race 2 and got held up for a while in a battle for seventh, but once I was clear I really started to push the car and feel more comfortable than ever. I caught up to the next pack, which was battling for fourth. With everyone charging hard to get past, I tried to make some moves but ended up going back to ninth. In the last corner, I was eager to make a move, as were the other drivers. Two cars touched wheels in the middle of the chicane, slowing up the group behind, so I snuck through and was able to take sixth just at the line.
Unfortunately, Race 3 in the wet didn’t go as planned (above, Jeff Bloxham photo). I started second (with the top seven positions from the earlier race inverted to set the grid) and fell to third, behind Jake, in Turn 1. Going down into Turn 4, the Old Hairpin, I locked up my left-front wheel and didn’t notice due to the spray coming up from the cars in front of me. I went straight into the gravel, falling back down the order to 15th. Luckily, I didn’t get stuck and continued to make up some positions.
The whole Cliff Dempsey Racing crew were great to work with the entire race weekend. Our driver coach, James Theodore, was very helpful and made the most of the data we had. The race weekend was a great chance for us to get experience learning the cars and racecraft. I’m extremely glad that we were able to compete at Donington and I feel very prepared for Brands Hatch later this week!
After our final race on Sunday, Jake and I made our way over to the Donington Grand Prix Collection, which is the largest showcase of Formula 1 cars in the world. It’s very impressive to see the progression of technology throughout the ages. I’ve never been able to see many F1 cars from the ’90s on up close, so to see this many was an absolute privilege. It’s a shame to see the museum may be closing down soon, but I’m glad we were able to see it before it’s gone.
We were also fortunate enough to tour Ilmor Engineering on Monday. Ilmor has a huge history in racing, developing engines in Formula 1 and IndyCar since it was founded in 1984. Nowadays, they develop the IndyCar engines for Chevrolet along with other projects in WRC and GT cars. I’ve always had a huge interest in the engineering side of racing, so to see the amount of work that goes into these programs first hand was truly incredible.
I owe a huge thanks to Cliff and Michelle Dempsey for getting us comfortably acclimated to the UK, and taking us into their home. The Team USA Scholarship is only possible because of the group of generous backers to the program, I’m so grateful to be representing it. We’re only one week through our Team USA journey, and I’m very excited for everything that’s to come!