Picture-perfect weather conditions greeted the 70-car field for the British Racing & Sports Car Club’s 47th edition of the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, with Team USA Scholarship drivers Jake Craig and Colin Mullan displaying strong pace during this afternoon’s three Heat races.
Craig led off the Team USA challenge by qualifying third for Heat 2 at 50.526 seconds, merely two-hundredths of a second slower than pole-winning former Scottish Formula Ford champion Neil Maclennan. A good start saw Craig jump into second, whereupon he immediately began to pile the pressure on Maclennan. Craig, 20, from Mission Viejo, Calif., tried every which way to pass but the Scotsman was resolute in his defense, which allowed Englishmen Matt Cowley, the 2017 F1600 Championship Series winner, and fellow FF veteran Chris Middlehurst to join what quickly became a four-car battle for the lead. The unfortunate Craig found himself bundled down to fourth at the finish of an intense 15-lap race, although he made his point by posting the fastest lap at 50.761 seconds (an average speed of 85.66mph).
“I’m extremely happy with how Day 1 of the Festival ended,” said Craig (pictured above). “I had a great qualifying, coming third in my group. I think that’s some of the most pressure I’ve felt in a qualifying session. The racing in the Heat race was so close. I’m bummed I lost a position, but I’m going to put my head down in the Semi Final to give myself a good starting position in the Final.”
Mullan, 16, from Danville, Calif., was next up for Heat Three, which he started from the fourth position. His time of 50.407 was a scant two-thousandths slower than front row qualifier – and former Festival winner – Oliver White and the sixth fastest time overall on the day.
Mullan (pictured, top) made a good start but was unable to prevent last year’s Festival champion, Joey Foster, from finding a way past on the initial run up to Paddock Hill Bend. After five laps behind the Safety Car due to a trio of separate incidents on the first lap, Mullan settled into the battle but, as with Craig before him, was unable to make his way forward. He, too, showed excellent speed – his best lap of 50.740, set on Lap 11, remained as the fastest of the race until winner Michael Eastwell turned a fractionally quicker lap, 50.731, on the 15th and final lap.
“Our first day of racing taught us a lot,” said Mullan “Jake and I both had great pace in our qualifying, and we were able to challenge up front in our races. Throughout the race, I was able to stick with the lead pack, holding onto the fastest lap until the very end. I finished fifth, which should lead to a decent starting position for the Semi Final tomorrow.”
The respective best laps by Mullen and Craig ranked fourth and fifth overall during the Heat races, while their combined finishes, along with fourth for fellow Californian Carter Williams (a British FF regular this season) in Heat One, ranks Team USA fourth in the event’s World Cup element on 80 points, just five behind leaders England One.
The two Semi Final races are due to start tomorrow morning at 11:05 and 11:35 local time (plus five hours from EDT), with the 20-lap Final slated for 5:00 p.m.. The schedule is subject to change. The schedule is subject to change. Live timing and scoring will be available at https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/184232.