One of New Zealand’s longest-running single seater motor racing championships, the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship has had a major refresh with MotorSport New Zealand appointing a new championship organiser and announcing new regulations.
Using international Formula Ford regulations of the era, the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship first ran in 1971 with David Oxton the inaugural champion.
With the 48th domestic season of Formula Ford racing about to commence, MotorSport New Zealand President Wayne Christie says he is pleased that robust consultation with teams, competitors, race car suppliers and prospective championship organisers has resulted in a cohesive and positive refresh of the Formula Ford category.
The key aspects are:
- A return to the traditional name of Formula Ford, rather than Formula 1600, a name adopted in 2016 to remove the vehicle manufacturer link. The change back to Formula Ford reflects the fact that other countries still use the Formula Ford name which helps our competitors with awareness of their achievements in this important career-building race category.
- Formula Ford Racing NZ (FFRNZ) has been appointed as the new championship organiser. Newly affiliated to MotorSport New Zealand, the FFRNZ club started as a group of racers keen to help take the Formula Ford category into the future.
- The championship continues as a multiple-chassis class for which competitors can either build their own engines or have their engines prepared by one of the many engine builders around the country.
- The regulations will ensure even tighter controls on running cost, restricting competitors to just two engines per season, which are fully sealed.
Christie says: “Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the South Island Formula Ford Association which has done a tremendous job running the NZ Formula 1600 Championship for the past few seasons, alongside their well-supported South Island Formula 1600 Championship. Their hard work has ensured that the Formula Ford category has continued as a national championship with some good support from competitors and engineers during this time.
“The changes for the 2019-20 season have been made to try and create a more cost-effective, competitive class providing drivers with a level playing field.
“We are keen to reignite the class as a key pathway for young race drivers as they progress up the motor racing career ladder.
“The Formula Ford class worldwide has been in existence for over 50 years and has a massive list of drivers who have gone through the ranks to become champions in their future classes. The NZ Formula Ford Championship has played a key role in developing the careers of well-known Kiwi drivers like David Oxton, Ken Smith, Greg Murphy, Scott Dixon, Shave van Gisbergen and Brendon Hartley.”
The 2019-20 NZ Formula Ford Championship will comprise two classes of race car: Class 1 for cars built from Jan 2000 to the present, and Class 2 for cars built up to December 1999 that comply with Schedule A regulations.
There will be six rounds starting as a support category for the ITM Auckland Supercars event at Pukekohe in September, then Manfeild in October, Teretonga, Hampton Downs and Pukekohe in January and February as a support class for three Speed Works Events-run summer race championships events which include the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, and a final round at Taupo in March.
Christie notes: “Following our discussions with all the parties involved, we agreed that one South Island round was the best option for the upcoming season. While the Speed Works race championship calendar has a second South Island date, we are conscious that a two-week trip to the South Island is a big ask of our Formula Ford competitors, which are largely family-run teams. There’s a great mix of events in the new calendar – the opening round at September’s Supercars event showcases the class in front of the biggest motorsport spectator audience of the year to kickstart their season and being part of three of the Toyota Racing Series weekends allows the class to really lift its profile.”
Each round will include on-track test sessions, qualifying and three races. The highest points-scorer after the six rounds will be presented with the Formula Ford Champion’s Cup and win up to $5,000 support to attend the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch UK in October 2020. Another prize for the highest finishing driver in a Spectrum Formula Ford chassis is a free drive at the same high-profile British event.
Already 14-15 North Island competitors and three or four South Island competitors have indicated their intention to enter the refreshed championship including former Formula First drivers Ronan Murphy (Hastings) and Thomas Boniface (New Plymouth) and Zac Stichbury (Havelock North) who are part of this year’s NZ Elite MotorSport Academy class, other former Formula First competitors Blake Evans (Rotorua), Kaleb Ngatoa (Marton), Billy Fraser (Pukekohe) and Brody McConkey (Kapiti Coast)