Palmer wins twice in British FF at Combe

At Castle Combe today, Chrissy Palmer (Jamun Racing) more than demonstrated what a threat he would have posed had he been able to run with the same team in all the rounds of the 2009 MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, beating Josef ...

At Castle Combe today, Chrissy Palmer (Jamun Racing) more than demonstrated what a threat he would have posed had he been able to run with the same team in all the rounds of the 2009 MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, beating Josef Newgarden (JTR) to the draw in both of the final races of the series.

Even a foreshortened qualifying session this morning, had no effect on Palmer as he claimed an almost lights to flag victory in the first race of the day. 2nd, after a slightly shaky start, was Josef Newgarden (JTR), while in 3rd, despite starting from the back of the grid with a 10-second penalty, was Josh Hill (Jamun Racing). It could all have been very different...

The pre-race period saw enormous amounts of damage being repaired after a 4-car pile up in qualifying (and an accident all on his own by Jordi Cunill of GV Racing). To everyone's surprise pretty much everyone actually started the race, with the exception of Greg Roffe (DW Racing), but he was so slow in qualifying that it probably didn't matter to anyone except him.

With the weather undecided the track was treacherously slippery, as proven by Felix Fisher (Juno Racing), the only guest class entrant, fell off at Camp Corner on the formation lap. He was able to recover but it was all a bit embarrassing, especially as he's a local and knows this place well. Finally everyone (including Fisher) was lined up and the race started with several drivers bogging down badly on the grid, among them Palmer, Newgarden (both caught out by an oil slick on the grid) and Patrick McKenna (Jamun Racing), the latter having to be pushed away by the marshals. That let Daniel Cammish (Kevin Mills Racing) into the lead, though he didn't keep it for long, Palmer recovering well to reclaim the lead before they completed the first lap, while series leader James Cole (Jamun Racing) had to settle for 3rd ahead of Garry Findlay (Fluid Motorsport) and the recovering Newgarden, the American now busy trying to hold off Alex Jones (Kevin Mills Racing). All of this was allowing Palmer to streak off into the distance.

Also on the opening lap, Tristan Mingay (Raysport) went missing, but again he was near the back anyway. A lap later and Newgarden had dropped to 6th behind Jones, and his woes were not over yet. More squabbling dropped him down to 10th, while Hill conversely was now up to 14th after being told he could go once the rest of the field had gone, rather than waiting the 10 seconds on the grid that his penalty dictated. Meanwhile, Daniel Erickson (Kevin Mills Racing) was awarded a stop/go penalty for gaining an advantage somewhere, presumably by cutting the Chicane. That left Josh Benson (GV Racing), Jake Green (JTR) and Hill scrapping over 10th while Newgarden had clawed his way back up to 8th.

The main interest was all happening behind the leader, with Cole pressuring Cammish for 2nd while Newgarden gained another two places and Hill barged his way into the top 10, all of them aided when Findlay went missing from top 4. Cammish, meanwhile, couldn't hold Cole off any longer and was forced to cede 2nd to the champion-elect, but any chance of progress evaporated when Fabio Gamberini (Fluid Motorsport) went off at Quarry, joining Findlay in the Fluid car park. Erickson came in to serve his penalty, moving Newgarden up to 5th, just as the rain started to pelt down and the Safety Car was scrambled to clear up the mess at Quarry.

The order behind it was Palmer, from Cole, Cammish, Jones, Newgarden, Ben Barker (Fluid Motorsport), Rogier de Wit (Getem Racing), Hill, Green and Fisher. 11th was Benson, ahead of Kieran Vernon (Enigma Motorsport), Dan de Zille (Minister International), Cunill, Erickson back out after his stop/go, and Zaamin Jaffer (Raysport).

A lap later the track was clear, the Safety Car pulled off, and it was time to go racing again. Hill was on the move as soon as they crossed the start/finish line and immediately went for de Wit, wrestling his way up to 7th. He wasn't alone. Newgarden didn't need a second chance either, having regrouped during the pause. The American was soon past Jones, and on the tail of Cammish for 3rd. It didn't take the youngster long to deal with the Scholarship runner either to claim the place, which meant it was then time to set about Cole. A lap later and he was though to 2nd, which hadn't looked likely a few laps back. Cole reacted by losing 3rd to Cammish, then finding himself running three abreast at the Esses as Cole joined in as well. Just to add to the fun, Hill was now on their tail, and he made an attempt to get past all three of them at Tower. He couldn't quite make it stick, but he did pass Cole for 4th as de Wit and Green went missing.

With the race now in its closing stages, Hill was still pressing on, and dived up the inside at Camp to take 3rd away from Cammish, the latter going off at the Chicane on the penultimate lap, possible in surprise, apparently taking team-mate Jones with him. All of that let Cole back up to 4th which was enough for him to clinch the championship. Setting fastest laps of the race was not enough to keep Newgarden's chances alive any longer, though it didn't stop him pressing on all the way to the flag.

At the flag Palmer was over three seconds ahead, from Newgarden, the mightily impressive Hill, Cole, Fisher, Barker, Erickson (who had recovered well from his penalty), Benson, Vernon and de Zille. 11th was Cunill from Jaffer and there were no other survivors.

In the second race, both Palmer and Newgarden made far better starts. Instead it was de Wit who failed to get away. Palmer shot away into the lead with Cole and Newgarden trailing him, while Findlay rocketed up the order to 4th, while Hill, again condemned to start at the back for a technical infringement that gained him no real advantage, was busy picking them off again, having been slightly hampered by Roffe, who seemed to have gone to sleep when the race started. He had a lot to do and couldn't rely on the Safety Car to help him this time. As they completed lap 1, Newgarden got the drop on Cole, going round the outside of his arch-rival Cole at Camp to claim 2nd and set about Palmer. Hill, meanwhile, was up to 17th by the end of the lap.

With rain falling on the main straight, and dry weather elsewhere it was proving very tricky out there, and only the most sure-footed would survive. While Roffe proved that by spinning for the first time in this race, and Mingay joined in, Newgarden set off in pursuit of Palmer, setting a fastest lap as he did so. Further back, Hill was still progressing, but was slowed when he came up behind the log jam Cunill had created as McKenna and Green found themselves bottled up behind him. It didn't delay Josh for long, but he did have to work to find his way through.

Newgarden started to pile the pressure on, distracting Palmer so much that Cole caught both of them. Newgarden pressed hard, pulling alongside Palmer, but he couldn't quite make it stick and had to settle back into 2nd again and hope that Cole didn't find a way through. He again tried to snatch the lead into the Esses and this time he got away with it. Palmer came right back at him, but the attempt failed, and now the top three were all over each other as they scrabbled round the Wiltshire track. Cole was going so fast he set the new fastest lap of the race. At the mid-point of the race, Palmer had another go at getting by Newgarden, and again had to back down, while Hill was making good progress and had found his way past Cunill for 9th, aided by Fisher dropping down the order. Cunill, meanwhile, still had a queue of cars behind him, this time de Wit, Green and McKenna being the drivers struggling to find a way past the Spaniard.

At the front Newgarden was now pulling away from Palmer, while Cole was slipping back, which meant that the fight for fourth was looking quite interesting now as Cammish tried to hold off Findlay, while Erickson watched from just behind, waiting to see how this would go. Findlay finally found his way past, at pretty much the same time that de Wit barged Cunill out of the way. Cunill wasn't alone in having problems, as Cole made a nonsense of the Esses, spinning onto the grass. Although he kept the engine running and was able to rejoin, he was a lot further in 10th back by the time he could slot back in, and thus handed Hill yet another place.

Just as it was beginning to look as if the race was now settled, Palmer started to gain on Newgarden after they both lapped a series of backmarkers. Maybe it wasn't cut and dried... It wasn't settled further down, either, as Erickson reeled in Cammish and caught him at the Esses, forcing his way through into 4th. Meanwhile, the backmarkers were now causing trouble. As Roffe went off for the 3rd time (at least) he came close to tripping up the front runners, allowing Palmer to set a new fastest lap as he clawed back 1.5 seconds in the space of two laps in his pursuit of Newgarden. Jones, meanwhile, was defending 7th place from Hill, who was all over him. The youngster proved that talent does sometimes run in family as he shot through in a great move.

However, all eyes were on the front of the pack, as Palmer was now right with Newgarden. The two of them were side-by-side as they tore through Hammerdown, and Newgarden simply couldn't find enough speed to hold onto the lead. Palmer was through and back in front, even if Newgarden still wouldn't give in, coming back at the leader as they caught and lapped Mingay. Palmer was having to defend very hard, but he has the advantage, forcing Newgarden to back off. Even that wasn't enough to deter the American though, as he tried again, ending up going straight on at the Chicane, which did allow Palmer to get away. And this time there was nothing he could do; he had simply run out of time.

Palmer came home to his second victory of the day, with Newgarden a disappointed 2nd, ahead of Findlay, Erickson, Barker, Hill in a very impressive 6th, Cammish, Jones, Cole and de Wit. Cunill was 11th, having apparently woken up at the end of the season, from McKenna, Benson, Green, Fisher, Vernon, de Zille, Gamberini, Mingay and the less than impressive Roffe.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Josh Hill , Josef Newgarden , Rogier de Wit , Daniel Erickson , Josh Benson , Felix Fisher , Patrick McKenna , James Cole , Fabio Gamberini , Ben Barker