BRSCC F1600: Murray Books his Shootout Ticket
 August 30, 2016| 
  • Feeder Series
CASTLE DONINGTON, UK – On August 28 at Donington Park, Ireland’s Niall Murray clinched the Avon Tyres National Formula Ford 1600 Championship and booked his place at the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout to compete for the US$200,000 scholarship drive in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. This weekend of reckoning will take place on December 6/7 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California.

Driving a Bernard Dolan-tended Van Diemen RF99, Murray has been the man to beat all season and, subject to a technical verification of his engine, clinched the title in Derbyshire with three rounds of the series remaining after James Raven – second in the standings – elected to miss this meeting. A nightmare weekend in Anglesey three weeks earlier left Raven needing a miracle when a seventh-place finish in the opening encounter was followed by an accident in the second.

While others rued the lack of a tow to boost their qualifying times at Donington, Murray believed his pace during pre-event testing suggested he didn’t need the distraction of seeking out a drafting partner. This confidence proved to be justified when he took pole for race one by half a second. His pace compared to the rest of the field was underlined by the fact that the next 13 cars were covered by a second.

The Dubliner reached the first corner ahead when the red lights went out but by lap three Luke Williams had moved through from fourth on the grid to latch on to his gearbox in the ever improving Firman RF1600 – the team having renamed their cars from RFR RFFF1600 which had been something of a tongue twister!

Williams had great race pace and frequently drew alongside the leader but could never quite make the move stick. This was thrilling stuff but the Weather Gods decided to make things even more exciting when they conjured up a light shower that only affected the far end of the circuit. Murray braked earlier than usual for the key Coppice corner when he encountered the dampness. As Williams was focused on getting a good run through the blind apex onto the long back straight, the sudden relative lack of speed from the car ahead forced him to take avoiding action. He lost control and spun off. Having managed to rejoin, Williams was classified 14th.

Murray was left in the clear to take the win – and, provisionally, the championship – three seconds ahead of the Ray GR11 of Stephen Daly with the other Firman car of Graham Carroll in third. The latter had to battle up from 12th on the grid having lost an engine during qualifying. He was only able to compete thanks to the generosity of Oldfield Motorsport who loaned him a power unit.

With the grid for race two determined by the finishing order of the earlier contest, Williams had to emulate his team mate, Carroll, by coming through from the middle of the pack. This he managed by claiming third.

The challenge of Daly ended on lap three when he pulled out of the train of cars and coasted to a halt on the rise up to Coppice. This left Carroll as the closest threat to Murray but the Scot was never quite able to get on terms leaving the champion to take his 10th win out of the 14 rounds staged so far this season.

The Avon Tyres UK National Formula Ford 1600 Championship concludes with two races at Croft on September 10/11.

Words by Dave Williams; Photo courtesy of Rachel Bourne/Bourne Photographic
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