QUALIFYING ROUNDS 6 & 7
Events at the previous meeting shone a very different light on the FF1600 Championship. Until this point, Josh Fisher’s perfect season saw him only narrowly ahead of Moyers’ near-perfect season, which all changed with Moyers’ DNF. Fisher now found himself with a ‘game in hand’ having a 100% finishing record thus far and a choice of which round to select for the compulsory ‘drop score’. This gave Fisher a serious upper hand and a trump card in his pocket. The only slight cloud on his horizon was the fact that Moyers had lodged an official protest at the end of the previous meeting. The Van Diemen’s Kent engine had been sealed and would be stripped for inspection before the season was over.
Another slightly disappointing grid of just fifteen cars convoyed down the pit lane on Bank Holiday Monday, ready to set two quick qualifying laps due to the double header format.
Moyers wasted no time in setting the target which this time, wouldn’t be trumped by Fisher, managing only fourth. Fresh from great results at Silverstone, the Kevin Mills Racing teammates of Roger Orgee and Michael Eastwell were having a most satisfying session, swapping P2 lap times. Eastwell would win the battle, taking the front row spot ahead of the reigning champion and continuing an impressive ‘rookie’ season.
Luke Cooper sat behind Fisher on the third row, his engine also sealed for later inspection by MSA eligibility scrutineers. This was not as the result of a protest, rather a compulsory inspection after a 2nd place finish in BRSCC’s ‘Triple Crown’ mini-series. Ward completed the third row ahead of Stephen Masters and Matt Cox.
Richard Morris was the best placed class B runner in ninth just ahead of Andrew Higginbottom who showed a clean pair of heels to his nearest rival in class C.
Michael Eastwell’s inexperience was exposed as the red lights extinguished, making a poor start, giving Moyers no challenge in the race to Quarry. In contrast, Josh Fisher rendered his modest grid position irrelevant by getting perfect traction off the line, passing both Orgee and Eastwell to tuck in behind Moyers. Orgee grabbed the tow from Fisher’s Van Diemen and commenced his proven strategy of positioning himself perfectly to profit from any loss of momentum the leading pair might cause each other.
Nathan Ward, Luke Cooper and Michael Eastwell were in similarly close contention in the battle for 4th.
Such was pressure being applied by Fisher, Moyers found himself having to enter Combe’s fast right handers in less than ideal track position; hugging the inside and keeping a foot behind the door Josh was trying to force open. Remarkably, despite the most unorthodox lines, Moyers was able to keep it on the black stuff and keep Fisher in his mirrors.
In the chasing trio, Eastwell began to make up for his poor start, passing both Cooper and Ward and set his sights on Orgee.
Orgee stayed faithful to his tried and tested ‘sit and wait’ strategy and his patience was rewarded on lap 9. Now well into the latter half of the race, Fisher picked his moment to make a bid for the lead. He decided to make a move on an even tighter line than Moyers was holding, but it was too ambitious, getting out of shape allowing the reigning champion to take immediate advantage. Not only had his bid for the lead relegated him to third, it had also allowed Eastwell to close right in. Fisher had to defend hard from Eastwell’s advances, the youngster looking the quicker of the two, backed up by the fact Cooper had also been able to get his Swift caught right up to the Spectrum’s gearbox.
Orgee had clearly found the sweet spot with his new-this-season Ray Racing chassis, and closed in on the leader. Moyers breathed a sigh of relief to see the chequered flag being waved, crossing the line less than a second ahead of Orgee, who was no doubt wishing the race was just a couple of laps longer.
Fisher defended valiantly from Eastwell to take third while Luke Cooper managed to pass Nathan Ward in the closing stages to secure fifth.
Richard Morris finished ninth to take class B honours just half a second ahead of Higginbottom who was unchallenged for the class C win.
The full complement of fifteen cars completed the race, all playing the long game and keeping their Formula Fords in fine fettle ready for the second race of the afternoon.
Moyers qualifying performance had earned him pole in both races, Eastwell had also chalked up a second flyer to line up alongside his namesake in the second race. In contrast, Roger Orgee’s second best wasn’t enough to stop both Josh Fisher and Luke Cooper leapfrogging him on the grid for round seven.
Michael Eastwell made another poor start but this time, his teammate suffered a similarly disappointing launch. Fisher and Cooper both seized the opportunity immediately, with the front two rows completely swapping places by the time the pack entered Quarry for the first time. Moyers wasted no time in commencing his recovery, dispensing with Cooper to take second by the time the safety car was scrambled at the end of the first lap. The early hiatus was to allow recovery of Andrew Higginbottom’s Van Diemen to a safe place after ending up in the tyres at Quarry corner.
The first four cars on the road all reacted well to the restart and recommenced full race pace, leaving a small gap to the chasing pack led by Orgee. Cooper made a challenge on Moyers for second at the exact same time Eatwell was trying to pass Cooper, resulting in a ‘moment’ for both. This allowed the chasing pack to close and the leading pair to pull a gap.
Moyers attempts to pull a move on Fisher allowed Cooper to buy into the lead battle as Orgee passed Eastwell and set his sights on chasing Cooper for third.
By lap eleven, just over the second separated the first five cars, with all pilots fancying themselves for victory.
Cooper’s failed attempt to take second from Moyers left the door ajar which was all Orgee needed to promote himself up to third.
With Fisher taking a defensive line around Camp corner, Moyers got a great run on the leader, drawing level by the time they reached Folly. The momentum allowed Moyers to take the lead as they climbed Avon Rise, which as we know is not the best place for a ‘last of the late breakers’ stand-off. At the previous meeting, it was Moyers who lost control while entering Quarry, but this time it was Fisher that found himself locked up and out of shape. The blue Van Diemen collided with the Spectrum’s left flank and took them both out of the race.
The win was gifted to Orgee, ahead of Cooper in second with Eastwell taking the final podium step. Richard Morris finished a credible sixth overall to seal a brace of class B wins for the day. Andrew Higginbottom’s first lap demise allowed Steve Bracegirdle to take the class C silverware comfortably.
The events of round 7 had a drastic effect on the overall championship standings. Roger Orgee’s impressive points haul brought him level with teammate Moyers in second, making the championship a three-horse race. Fisher tops the standings going into the final round and all three campaigners have had at least one non-scoring round each, meaning the drop score is a fait accompli. For Moyers to take his maiden title or Orgee to make his hattrick, they not only need to beat each other at the grand finals meeting, but also need Fisher to score lowly or not at all. This plays well for Fisher as his fifteen point lead should allow him to leave the KMR pair to fight things out between themselves. All Josh needs to do is stay well out of trouble and secure enough points to make the Moyers/Orgee affair a fight for the runners-up trophy.
The Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship has been providing nail biting finales for nearly half a century, and with three possible winners in the running, 2017 will be no exception!
UPDATE: Both Josh Fisher’s and Luke Cooper’s engines have now been stripped and inspected by the MSA – and both found to be completely legal.
Posted on Friday 29 September 2017