Following several difficult seasons, the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain is hoping 2013 will deliver an upturn in fortunes.
The series, which ran as few as a dozen entries last year as it struggled for relevance, recently announced a return to the TOCA package, supporting the BTCC.
It represented only one move in what has been a winter of change for Formula Ford. Most significantly, the series has ditched its long celebrated no-wings-and-threaded-tyres premise for slicks and a light aero configuration.
In a nod back to the Formula Ford 2000 category of old, the revisions to the technical regulations came from the teams, manufacturers and competitors, while recent developments of the 1.6 litre EcoBoost engines have ensured the power unit will run just shy of 200bhp
At the rear of the car, the gearbox has also been upgraded to manage a six-speed sequential shift for the first time in the series’ history. It has been reconfigured to match the units currently in use by FIA-regulated Formula 3 championships.
In a recent sample session at Silverstone, twenty-two drivers tested the latest EcoBoost chassis, with two entrants having signed up so far. Feedback from the test proved to be positive with both new car racers and several returning drivers heaping praise upon the 1.6 litre turbocharged machines.
Amongst those who tested at the Northamptonshire / Buckinghamshire circuit was reigning Formula Renault 2.0 NEC champion, Jake Dennis who noted that the updated car was “very different to the cars I am used to (…). Nevertheless, I think the wings are a big improvement and it’s really nice to drive, and great fun.”
So far, American pilot Camren Kaminsky has signed to drive for reigning champions JTR, while James Abbott has confirmed a place with new Formula Ford squad Radical, who will be preparing their own cars. Nick Tandy’s JTR team are looking to eventually field three full-season candidates, while BARC Formula Renault team SWB Motorsport are pursuing two drivers to run in their Sinter chassis.
As far as SWB team chief Simon Baldry is concerned, Formula Ford’s new tie-up with the BTCC has certainly helped raise the series profile somewhat.
“We are in discussion with several potential drivers; there certainly seems to be a lot of interest out there in Formula Ford for 2013, especially due to being on the TOCA package, which is a great opportunity for sponsors to get the best value from their investment. Two cars is our current target.
“For us, Formula Ford is a logical progression from what we have been doing in BARC Formula Renault, and the ‘development formula’ nature of the series will allow the team and I to give much more input into chassis development; it’s a very interesting opportunity for us.”
Competitors will fight it out to test the next generation Ford Focus British Touring Car, courtesy of Motorbase Performance.
Whether that is enough to entice more talent to the series obviously remains to be seen; however those competing will be looking to take advantage of the extended TV coverage on offer in 2013. In a three-year deal, the series has secured live coverage on ITV4 of at least one race at each of its ten rounds – a significant upgrade on previous dealings.
Despite this positive movement, Formula Ford GB faces a challenge in the entry level market thanks to the recent launch of BRDC Formula 4.
From next year, both championships will be running at relatively similar budgets, as well as competing within near identical power and technological bandwidths. If nothing else, the battle between the two categories should make for an interesting spectacle.
Formula Ford’s move back to the TOCA package is the first time since Formula Renault UK’s 2011 collapse that a single-seater category will appear as a regular support slot for the BTCC.
2013 British Formula Ford Championship (*provisional) March 30-31 Brands Hatch April 20-21 Donington Park May 4-5 Thruxton June 8-9 Oulton Park June 22-23 Croft August 3-4 Snetterton August 24-25 Knockhill September 14-15 Rokingham September 28-29 Silverstone October 12-13 Brands Hatch