Brands Hatch, England - 19th June, 1999 Francis and PA Motorsport dominate Grand Prix circuit Round five of the Kent Formula Ford Championship marked another milestone in the championship quest of Australian Brett Francis. The young ...
Brands Hatch, England - 19th June, 1999
Francis and PA Motorsport dominate Grand Prix circuit
Round five of the Kent Formula Ford Championship marked another milestone in the championship quest of Australian Brett Francis. The young Queenslander, driving for Folkestone's PA Motorsport, took his fourth win of the season and established a new lap record on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit after a stunning performance. Rivals have been left scratching their heads as they try to catch the car prepared by reigning Kent County Champion, Peter Alexander.
An indication of the speed that Francis was getting from his 1993 Swift Formula Ford came during qualifying, when he established a time over one second faster than his closest opponent. Indeed, he was only sixteen hundredths slower than one of the leading Zetec contenders, who would be mixed in with the 1600 category for the first time this year. This was impressive driving from the Sittingbourne based racer, considering the extra thirty horsepower and slick tyre advantage held by the Zetec class!
After holding his place at the start, Francis actually passed Zetec driver Richard Mendoza (Swift SC96Z Zetec) under brakes for the Surtees bend. Mendoza soon used his extra horsepower to get by on the back straight, as Brett extended his lead over second placed 1600 runner, Chris Pennington. But it was all for nought when a red flag was brought out for an incident at Druids where Neil Tofts (Swift SC98Z Zetec) was briefly knocked unconscious. Thankfully the driver was otherwise fine and walked away.
The race was restarted after a lengthy delay, and Francis was quickly relegated two places after letting the engine revs drop too low as the lights went green. Pennington and fellow 1600 driver Lee Cunningham quickly pounced and squeezed Brett back to third. It would not be for long though, as the flying Aussie soon retook the lead half way around the first lap into the famous Dingle Dell corner. From there on he was not headed as he established a new lap record and took the overall lead in the Kent Championship from team-mate Nick Padmore (Van Diemen RF97 Zetec).
Brett looked back on a race that amazed even him at the pace of the PA Motorsport Formula Ford:
"I wanted to establish a lead early on, but at the first start with the Zetec cars bunching up I was being slowed. Chris Pennington was looming in my mirrors, so I had to make a move. That's when I passed Mendoza's Zetec going into Surtees - which I think took him by surprise! Of course he blasted by me on the long straight towards Hawthorns, but then held me up again from Hawthorns around to Stirlings. But it didn't matter after that because of the red flag."
"The second start was probably the worst I've ever done. I was trying to stop the car from creeping downhill and keep the revs steady, but got it all wrong. Pennington got it all right and got past me easily before Paddock, and so did Cunningham. It got pretty tight there when they both started squeezing me, so I had to back out to avoid the chance of an incident. It was obvious after qualifying that my car was going like a train compared to the rest of the field, so I didn't want to do anything stupid by trying to win it in the first corner. I managed to pass Cunningham under brakes at Graham Hill Bend, then set my sights on Pennington."
"He had about half a dozen car lengths as we came out of Surtees for the first time, and I knew he also had an Auriga engine, so I couldn't catch him down the long straight. But thanks to Peter my chassis is handling like a dream. I caught up to Chris' car going through Hawthorns, then got the run out of Westfield, and managed to pass him under brakes into Dingle Dell corner. I put my head down for a lap to pull a gap, then could afford to cruise home after that. I wanted to save the tires and engine for the race next weekend in France, because the budget is a bit tight at the moment so everything needs to last."
"The car is working so well that I don't need to push it to get speed - it's just fast! That's the result of Peter's relentless development of the car, and due to the support of companies such as K&N Filters and Auriga Race Engines. We'll work with them to ensure our pace can only get better."
Team owner Peter Alexander was also surprised at the speed of his antipodean racer:
"I think this result shows the true speed of Brett and the car. A few people have commented that he has an advantage at Brands because he's an instructor here, which is unfounded because BMW's aren't quite Formula Fords. But the Grand Prix circuit is never used at the race school, yet he's over one second ahead of the next car, and only a few tenths away from the majority of the Zetecs. This result more than any other shows Brett's ability on a driver's track."
As the series rapidly approaches the mid-way point, the field heads to France this weekend (26th/27th June) for the years first double-header at Croix-en-Ternois.
Kent Formula Ford Championship positions after 5 rounds 1. Brett Francis (1600) 54 2. Nick Padmore (Zetec) 46 3. Gideon Creswell (1600) 38 4. David Hardisty (Zetec) 31 5. Keith Wood (1600) 29 6. Mark Langfield (Zetec) 28