The place to earn your wings

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Our guide to the myriad single-seater series open to young drivers continues with a look at Formula Ford – breeding ground for F1 winners
By Ed Foster

Formula Ford is close to the roots of the tall, complex and expensive motor racing ‘Money Tree’. There have been highs and lows in the championship’s profile, but for 44 years it has remained one of the most beneficial places to start your single-seater career.

There are various national championships around the globe, from Belgium to Australia, but it is the British series that has been at the pinnacle since its inception in 1967.

The cars run Ford 1600cc Duratec engines and, as in Formula 3 and 1, the choice of chassis is free.

The History

In search of a new, low-cost entry into single-seaters, Motor Racing Stables racing school MD Geoffrey Clarke met with Henry Taylor of Ford and John Webb of Motor Circuit Development at the 1966 Olympia Racing Car Show. Clarke was tired of his students blowing up expensive Formula 3 engines and wanted to find a cheaper alternative.

The following year the first fruits of that little discussion – the Formula Ford Championship – bloomed at Brands Hatch on July 2 (below). The premise was simple: keep costs to a minimum. This it did with standard Cortina wheels and tyres, and a Cortina 1600cc Kent engine and gearbox. By the end of the year 12 companies had made chassis for the series, and to this day, the chassis battle continues between small, specialised companies such as Mygale, Van Diemen and Ray.

The formula’s main regulations have remained largely unchanged, but an 1800cc Zetec engine was introduced to replace the ageing Kent unit in 1994. However, the bigger engine was heavier and dampened the lively handling of the cars, so in 2006 the current Ford 1600cc Duratec engine replaced it.

In order to keep in line with other entry-level championships slick tyres were introduced in 1993 and the restrictions on chassis costs have been lifted, which may go some way to explaining how a season of racing can cost £120,000.

Top drivers who have competed

There’s a long-running joke that it’s easier to name drivers who haven’t competed in Formula Ford. So to save space – and your time – we will merely list the current Formula 1 drivers who have progressed through the series:

Jenson Button British and European
Mark Webber British
Rubens Barrichello Brazilian
Adrian Sutil Swiss
Nick Heidfeld German
Michael Schumacher German & Euro
Narain Karthikeyan British

The pros and cons

Pros

Well-recognised championship that has helped many a driver in their quest to reach Formula 1.

Relatively inexpensive, depending on how much testing you want to do…

Plenty of scope to alter car set-up, and the championship is known to teach drivers this invaluable skill.

Not a one-make championship like many other single-seater series. There is freedom to choose the chassis design, engine builder and source of various other parts on the car.

There are good circuits on the calendar, and competing on F3 weekends means winning – or losing – in front of the right people.

Cons

No wings on the cars and therefore no downforce, which is what the rest of your career as a single-seater driver will be all about.

Drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg have proved that you can skip Formula Ford on the journey to F1.

Formula Ford is so competitive that unnecessary racing accidents can, and do, happen.

Ones to watch

Scott Malvern
Malvern is the man to beat this year after finishing runner-up to Scott Pye in 2010. Only a lack of budget saw him stay in Formula Ford this season, so he has to win this year’s title. As we write he’s made a great start with seven wins from nine races as well as four pole positions and five fastest laps.

Jeroen Slaghekke
Along with Malvern and two others, Dutchman Slaghekke races for the dominant Jamun Racing team. The 18-year-old entered the championship in 2010 and is already a race winner and regular podium finisher.

Geoff Uhrhane
This is the Aussie’s first year in the British championship after two seasons in the Australian version. In 2009 he finished seventh in that series and then went on to clinch the runner-up spot in 2010. He’s got the speed – as five pole positions from nine races show – but he’ll need something special to beat Malvern.

What’s the secret to winning?

James Mundy is managing director of Jamun Racing, which has won the Formula Ford title for the past six years.

He says: “With no wings and no downforce you’re looking for the right set-up and balance with the car. You need to get the best from the tyres – you only have one set for the weekend, for qualifying and the races. You need to make them last, and you see a big difference between drivers who are gentle on their tyres and those who aren’t come the finish.

“We have a mixture of new and second-year drivers this season, which helps in terms of experience, but we have a base car set-up that we arrive at most tracks with. It varies a bit from track to track, but is roughly the same.

“There’s a lot you can alter. The car is sensitive to ride height, the dampers are fully adjustable, you’ve got the anti-roll bars, different suspension geometry, roll centre heights, springs… You name it, you can do it. The only thing you can’t do is give it more wing!

“If a driver is good he can drive around an average set-up and the best drivers will still come out on top. Scott [Malvern] is a good example – we’ve got confidence in his driving ability, so we’re not worried about whether the set-up is perfect. It takes the pressure off, and it seems to work.”

The alternatives

If you’re a successful karter with several championship wins under your belt and you want to make the move into cars, your options are limited. Formula BMW, having nurtured the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg, was cancelled at the end of 2010. However, there is still the BMW-backed Talent Cup and the independently-run Formula BMW Pacific and European series.

Lewis Hamilton, among others, has made it to the top of the ‘Money Tree’ without the help of Formula Ford, progressing from karting straight to the slicks-and-wings Formula Renault 2.0 Championship. Others on the current F1 grid contested championships such as the now-defunct Formula Renault 1600 series (Jerome d’Ambrosio) and the also-extinct Formula Vauxhall Junior (Narain Karthikeyan).

Every lower-category championship has a lifespan, and many of those ended between 2000 and 2010. Was this due to economic factors, or were there just too many series with not enough well-backed racers? It’s a bit of both, but it is a testament to Formula Ford that it is still so popular today, 44 years after it began.

You may also like

Related products