In his debut race at Castle Combe, PA Motorsport's Australian driver, Brett Francis, finished just off the podium in what was an incident packed Formula Ford Carnival. It was an amazing comeback drive from Francis after a spin in the heat had...
In his debut race at Castle Combe, PA Motorsport's Australian driver, Brett Francis, finished just off the podium in what was an incident packed Formula Ford Carnival. It was an amazing comeback drive from Francis after a spin in the heat had dropped him to the rear of the twenty car field on the fast and bumpy Wiltshire circuit.
The day had started with promise, after a wet qualifying session saw Francis qualifying fifth for his heat. "I had been expecting a lot worse, as usually our stiff suspension set-up means we struggle with bumpy tracks or wet conditions, so the combination of both here meant I was very nervous about how things would go. But Peter made some adjustments which worked really well, so I'm very pleased to be so close to the front. All the guys in front of me have wet-weather experience around here, and to be in touch with them will allow me to learn something during the heat."
This plan looked to working perfectly, after a great start propelled the Aussie into third place by the first corner. Defending Castle Combe Carnival winner Robin Parson was applying pressure, but Francis eased away at the start of the second lap to close on the two leaders. However, a mistake going into the daunting Tower corner saw the newcomer spin off the track, the following drivers missing the PA Motorsport Swift by inches. Once Francis rejoined at the back of the field, he demonstrated the fighting spirit that has won him two consecutive Kent County Formula Ford Championships. By the end of the ten lap heat, the Maidstone-based racing instructor had battled his way from twentieth and last up to ninth place.
His charge had caught the attention of the hardy spectators, who stayed throughout intermittent showers to see the Carnival Final just as the rain cleared. From fourteenth on the grid, Francis catapulted into seventh place by the end of the first lap. With his head down and a determined crew willing him on, the dual championship winner fought his way up to fourth place with two laps to go. A podium position looked a certainty, but aggressive blocking from local Chris Axford saw Francis pushed onto the grass on numerous occasions on the run to the chequered flag. The Antipodean had to settle for fourth place, but received a special Driver of the Day award from the organisers and commentators, who recognised his charging efforts on unfamiliar territory.
Speaking after the event, Francis could not hide his disappointment at a missed opportunity, but used the race to prepare himself for an upcoming event:
"I'm gutted that I spun away any chance of winning the Carnival, because I had a car that was more than capable of taking the win. It was just a small mistake to cause the spin, and I'm very lucky not to have been collected by the rest of the field - thank you everyone! But on the positive side, it has focused me even more on the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, in that I cannot afford any mistakes, no matter how small, if I want to do well. That goes for qualifying, heats, semis, the lot. Everything counts, and so now I'm more determined to make amends for Oasis and the PA Motorsport team."