A promising season lies ahead for a large field of Formula Ford drivers as they take to the track in the six round South Island Formula Ford Championship series that gets underway in early October. With an international contingent from Australia and the UK, coupled with rookie drivers moving up from kartsport and returning competitors, the potential is there for an exciting progamme ahead.
With a month until the first round at Timaru International Raceway (16-17 October) there is already a high level of entries. Leading the charge will be young Cantabrian Ryan Yardley (Van Diemen Stealth) who finished runner up in last season’s series and fifth overall in the national championship.
Three young drivers will make the trip across from Australia with more entries expected. Fifteen year old Hunter McElrea will campaign a 1991 Van Diemen. Many will know the McElrea name in NZ with father Andy having won the SIFF title three times as well as the 1990/91 national title. Hunter’s grandfather, Rod, competed extensively at Ruapuna and Timaru through the 1960’s and is still racing today at the tender age of 73. Seventeen year old Mitch Maddren will campaign a 2001 Van Diemen RF01, the car that won the 2013/14 Queensland State Championship. Nineteen year old Jaxon Evans is currently driving in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge run by Andy’s McElrea Racing Team and will compete in Stealth.
Southland is represented by the return of 25 year old Ethan Anderson from Riverton. Anderson will campaign his Van Diemen Stealth RF93 and will be joined by two rookie drivers making the step up from karting.
After seven years of karting 18 year old Jordan Michels will campaign the ex-Caleb Cross Mygale and will be run by Evolution Motorsport. Noel Atley will be running two cars this season. His son-in-law Corey Hodges will drive the ex-Ian Clements 1984 Lola 644E while an entry is also expected from Atley’s 17 year old grandson Joseph Oliver who will campaign a 1984 Crossle 55F that Atley drove when he won the SIFF title in 1998.
Important to the SIFFC’s vision is to provide pathways to help young aspiring drivers progress from kartsport and Formula First through to the other single seater categories such as the domestic Toyota Racing Series. A number of SIFF drivers will also campaign for the NZ Formula Ford Championship title. The opening Timaru SIFF round provides an ideal lead up to the first three national rounds that also double as part of the SIFF championship.
This summer’s NZ Formula Ford Champion will get the chance to take part in an international shootout to determine who wins a $US200k fully supported drive in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 single seater championship in the US. The category is a feeder to the Indy Lights Series and ultimately to the IndyCar Series where Scott Dixon has just won his fourth title. The shootout will include 15 under 25 year old international drivers from eleven different series in Australia, Britain and the USA. Motorsport New Zealand, our FIA sanctioned governing body for motorsport, fully supports the opportunity and sees it as a way of continuing to provide Kiwi drivers with international opportunities and exposure.
Last year’s SIFF champion Michael Collins has vacated his seat for sister Anna (91 Van Diemen RF91). Returning to the series are Royce Bayer (1990 VD RF90), Grant Campbell (Van Diemen), Graham Dickie (70 Begg FM3), Dyson Freeman (92 Van Diemen RF92), John Gibbons (1988 Swift FB4), Laurie Henderson 75 Van Diemen), Gary Lovie (92 Van Diemen), Roger McKenzie (72 Begg FM3), Russ Noble (94 Van Diemen), Robert Toshach (98 Spectrum 08) and Derek Wilson (92 Swift 92F)..
Auckland based Tony Fitzpatrick will join the grid in the ex-Chris Volk Stealth while F5000 and Stanton Corvette campaigner Russell Greer will drive his recently acquired Van Diemen RF80 (ex-Martin Lucas). Two entries from the UK are expected with the return of Trevor Stiles and one other Brit. Organisers are keen to keep adding more drivers to the grid and have options available for leasing with full driver support at each round.
From an organisational perspective everything is set for an excellent season of Formula Ford racing. Over the winter months the race committee, who manages both the SIFFC and the NZFFC series, have rebranded the SIFF club. One subtle feature of the new signage is the use of McLaren orange.
Formula Ford retains a broad base by providing affordable, competitive and enjoyable single seater racing for drivers and cars of all ages. Formula Ford race cars from the 1970s and ‘80s race in class three, cars from the 1990s form class two while class one is for the most recent cars. Check out www.siff.co.nz for details.
The South Island Formula Ford Championship is sponsored by a range of loyal supporters – Avon Tyres, Newfield Autos and Motorsport Solutions NZ Ltd.