Colin Mullan: A learning experience at the Formula Ford Festival
My time at the Formula Ford Festival is something I’ll never forget. I’ve learned so much over the course of the five days we had on track.
For a 1.2-mile circuit, Brands Hatch has a lot of intricacies that make it hard to piece together the perfect lap. Our testing went really well and gave us plenty of time to figure things out. We struggled to find pace as a team through the last sector, but towards the end of practice, we made major improvements.
Qualifying for the Festival is crucial to getting good results as passing is so difficult. We were put into one of three heat groups, where we would qualify and race before filtering into the two Semi Finals. I was put in Heat 3. We had a red flag at the start of our session and some oil was laid down on the surface. This caused everyone to struggle until the very end. I hit some traffic earlier on, but I had clear track in front when it mattered. I qualified fourth in my group, with only two-thousandths of a second separating me from second place on the grid. Overall, I set the sixth-fastest time out of the approximately 70 cars entered.
I lost a position on the inside at the start of my heat but stayed with the lead pack the entire race. A few times I challenged for position but didn’t take too many risks to secure my spot in the Semi Final. We also had a lengthy full-course caution, so our race was cut very short. I brought the car home in fifth, which meant I would be starting eighth for the Semi Final.
At Watkins Glen in the MINI JCW this year, I drove for about two and a half hours straight. This “20 lap” final felt longer. We were in the staging area for a while, to begin with, as a few prototypes from the race before had to be towed in. I started 11th, and it only took one and a half laps before we had a red flag flown in our race.
After waiting for the clean-up to finish, I got a good jump on the restart and was able to grab a position into Turn 1 (Paddock Hill Bend). However, another series of crashes brought out another red flag after nearly the same amount of time. We did about five or six laps under caution before they threw the red flag again. We sat on the grid for ages when the decision was made to turn the race length down from 20 to eight laps. I had a great battle with Guillaume again, but I made some mistakes and let a few more cars by. On the last lap, I got by the eighth-place car coming out of Turn 2 (Druids) and held him off for the final corners.
The whole race was a fantastic learning experience and I feel much more acquainted to the racing here. Jake and I have shown we have good pace, so going into the Walter Hayes Trophy I know we can compete up front! I owe a huge thanks to Cliff Dempsey Racing crew for all the help this weekend, along with Jeremy Shaw and all the Team USA Supporters for making this program possible. We’re halfway through our journey, and I’m very excited for what’s next!
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