At the Coca-Cola sponsored Pro Formula Ford race at a wet Bryar Motorsports Park, perrenial front running Formula Ford racer Chris Fahan leads the field to the green flag in his Reynard while eventual winner Frank Bernstein follows behind in his yellow Crossle. A great wheel-to-wheel battle followed, typical of New England Region FF races at the time. Multi-time National Champion Dave Weitzenhof, a few rows back in his green and orange Citation-Zink Z16, appears to be trying to get some heat into those rain tires!
Bryar was a superb Club racing track located in Louden, New Hampshire and was an ideal track for Formula Fords with ten turns on the 1.6 mile course and five good passing places. The one-mile New Hampshire NASCAR oval now sits on the site and a new 1.6 mile road course is used by SCCA.
David Loring's immaculate "Magic Merlyn" sits front and center while a massive array of Ford powered cars stretch the length of Lime Rock's main straightaway. Two days of racing - and a day of race-watching on Sunday (the Indy 500) sandwiched in between - provided a great opportunity for the FF1600 class to be showcased on the occasion of its 25th anniversary in the US. The event was well recorded on video tape including all the races and a series of talks by FF greats Bruce McInnes, Joe Stimola, Tom Davey and Lime Rock owner, Skip Barber who was the first SCCA Formula Ford National Champion.
On Memorial Day Monday, Lime Rock Park hosted the "RACER Magazine Celebration of 35 years of Formula Ford presented by RedMist". The twenty-five lap FF1600 race was part of a busy schedule which included two Speed World Challenge races, a Formula BMW race and a Spec Miata race. The event was orchestrated jointly by SCCA Pro Racing, Lime Rock Park and the Northern New Jersey Region-SCCA with Dave Panas acting as Chief Steward. The Formula Ford race was also part of the NEC, the New England Challenge.
|On Sunday, RACER hosted an Indy 500 party complete with lunch for all the 35th Anniversary event participants. Steve Nickless, Editor of RACER and the "official historian" of Formula Ford, welcomed the large crowd which included former AFFA Champion Bruce MacInnes, National Champion Tony Kester and two-time National Champion and Lime Rock owner, Skip Barber. On behalf of the entire Formula Ford Community, The Jim Vaill Memorial Award was presented to the ever-present Joe Stimola for his thirty-five years of participation in the class and in appreciation of the support he continues to provide to all of its participants. In the mid-afternoon, while Indy was halted due to rain, a group photo was set up with thirty-three cars neatly arrayed on the main straightaway under gorgeous blue skies. Watch for it in a future issue of RACER.|
|The New England Challenge Series event saw great fields in both the FF and CF classes and some exciting, highly competitive on track action. Pennsylvania's Bob Lutz, NEC series coordinator, is seen on the far left in his immaculate Swift DB-1. At the center sits the Viking - number 20 - of David Dexter who passed away shortly after the event. David was a Formula Ford stalwart and, at the time, owner of "at least two" of Arnie Loyning's beautiful cars.|
Monday started off bright and sunny but the skies occasionally darkened as the weather - arriving from Indianapolis - made its way east! At 9:00 AM, the Fords took to the track for a practice session and an hour later, the first of two qualifying sessions were run. The Formula Fords of Todd Bardwell, Richard Leslie and Greg Morin set the pace while in the Club Ford group, Ian Prout, Rich Droller and Rob Weiner were fastest. When the green flag waved for the twenty-five lap Formula Ford race, the track was dry, but an occasional sprinkle hinted at what was to come!
The entire thirty-two car field made it through Big Bend and a heated battle ensued with the lead group surging ahead while the huge field began to string out in tight bunches behind. After six laps of characteristically tight and frenzied Formula Ford competition, a slow drizzle began to make the track slippery and by lap eight, a half-dozen cars, including early leaders Todd Bardwell and Richard Leslie, had spun off into the grass while a few found the barriers and were damaged. Chief Steward Dave Panas quickly recognized the changing track conditions and called the cars in for rain tires. Within ten minutes, those who could, changed tires and returned to the track while the damaged cars were brought in on the hook. The race restarted on lap nine and for the following sixteen laps, the eventual first and second place drivers put on a tremendous show of wet weather driving skill while the remaining cars drove round at varying speeds, some taking extra care to merely stay on the track as the famously slick Lime Rock track surface became more and more treacherous.
At the end, the vastly experienced "old hand", Mike Rand was victorious in his Crossle 30 followed by the very talented young driver, Jeremy Treadway in a Van Diemen RF80. Jeremy had made an uncharacteristic off track excursion and was chasing Mike down at the end but could not quite catch him. Interestingly, on Saturday, Jeremy had run his first race in a Busch North car here at Lime Rock, finishing tenth after starting 30th. Third went to Don Drislane in a Reynard. In Club Ford, first place went to Rob Weiner in a Crossle 35 followed by J.D. King in a Z10 and Joe Marcinski in an ADF. In all, eighteen cars out of the original field of thirty-two, took the checkered flag. While they were happy to make it to the end, every entrant was thrilled to have taken part in the 35th Anniversary event celebrating amateur racing's largest, most popular and longest lasting racing class.
One additional car had taken the pace lap as well - the beautiful Viking of David Dexter which was driven ceremoniously by Davy D'Addario. In a gesture of friendship and support, longtime Formula Ford competitor Dexter - who was fighting cancer in a Boston hospital - was declared the honorary winner of the race. Fast lap in Formula Ford was set by Richard Leslie in 55.83 and in Club Ford, Ian Prout ran a lap in 1:00.2. Krista Botsford won the Hard Charger Award named in honor of FF racer Paul Tariello who died a few short months ago. A long day ended under dark clouds as the light rain continued. But the weather could not dampen the spirits of the drivers and crews who took part in this superb weekend of racing enriched by the camaraderie the Formula Ford community is known for. Nowhere in the ranks of amateur racing will you find a more enthusiastic, more dedicated or more energetic group of drivers. At the end of the day, most were heard to say "See you at the fortieth anniversary event!" Formula Ford is alive and well as evidenced by such a great event taking place here at Lime Rock Park, The Road Racing Center of the East. Thanks to Steve Nickless and RACER Magazine - and also to organizer Mike Rand - the event was clearly a resounding success. Why wait five years? Shall we do it again next year?