Future bright for Formula Ford
Formula Ford competitors will once again be racing in both islands as part of a National Championship in 2021/2022. With one event left on the calendar for this year’s title, known as the ‘ITM New Zealand Formula Ford Championship by Avon Tyres’, next seasons plans are rapidly firming up to compete at 6 prominent race meetings between November 2021 and March 2022.
Formula Ford Racing New Zealand, the appointed organiser of the NZ Formula Ford Championship, has been busy working with longstanding and new supporters to be in a position to commit to Speedworks Events, who facilitate and promote the events for other MotorSport New Zealand Championship classes.
Managing Director of Speedworks Events, Geoff Short is “fully supportive of a good national Formula Ford Championship” and is happy to work through a calendar that works for Formula Ford Racing New Zealand.
The task of determining the calendar and the events is about to begin in earnest between Speedworks Events and the individual circuits with a view to having the series visit as many tracks as possible, which will see competitors continue the learning that attracts them to the category. A return to the Speedworks Events fold also strengthens the relationship to Toyota Gazoo Racing, which extends generous opportunities to Formula Ford competitors and winners. The majority of the racers are hard-charging youngsters that are transitioning from lower categories and have aspirations of following the path to international stardom forged by many past NZ Formula Ford Champions.
Supporters of two of the highest-profile graduates, Scott Dixon and Shane van Gisbergen, are still directly involved in the push to keep Formula Ford Racing New Zealand producing top quality driving talent. Kenny Smith, who has been instrumental in the careers of both, is quick to give advice.
“It is an absolute must that kids go through Formula Ford. Look at all the guys that have gone somewhere – not only Scott and Shane, but there’s Hartley, Bamber, the Evans boys, Coulthard, Heimgartner, now Armstrong and Lawson and the list goes on. Look at all the good karters coming on now, we’ll run out of cars before we run out of drivers at the moment. And they need to run at high profile events.” says Smith.
Smith, who recently competed in his 50th New Zealand Grand Prix, has never lost his passion for Formula Ford since first driving one in 1989, winning his last Formula Ford race in a one-off appearance in 2013. He actively mentors a number of current competitors, but it seems he also still has a point to prove and could be among the first to announce plans for a come-back.
“I’m 90% [certain I’m] going to do the Championship again this year. I’ve made up my mind I’d better do that. I’ve been 2nd so many times. Lost it by a point, lost it by 2 points.”
Robert Van Gisbergen, father of Shane, has thrown his support behind the category not only by owning and entering a car in the Championship and helping coach engineering and driving talent, but by helping the FFRNZ organisation with commercial deals and linking the category with scholarship and funding bodies.
The future is certainly looking bright for the category but first the final round of the 2021 Championship will take place at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch on Saturday 1 May. Matthew McCutcheon leads the championship from James Penrose as they head to the final showdown, the winner poised to receive a test session in a Castrol Toyota Racing Series car as part of their prize for taking the championship.