“We currently have a fight with four to five drivers, by the end of the season there will be ten. This year will be one of the toughest!”
These are the words of experienced Formula 1600 driver Jordan Michels spoken after the opening round of the New Zealand Formula 1600 Championship held over the weekend at the Timaru International Raceway. Now competing in his fourth season, Michels is acutely aware of how the season could unfold.
The category, previous named Formula Ford, has been through its highs and lows. Arguably some years there has been less than a handful of top ‘young guns’. But this season we have a change. It hasn’t been all of a sudden, rather as a result of hard work by a dedicated group of enthusiasts from the South Island Formula Ford Club.
Last season there were six strong young drivers with eventual winner Callum Hedge narrowly beating Josh Bethune, both rookies from Auckland. Also in the mix were Southlander’s Jordan Michels and Ethan Anderson with Canterbury’s Bailey Paterson and returning driver Kurt Peterson from Auckland who finished runner up in the South Island Champs to Bethune. These six took 42/45 podium places over five national race meetings.
Also on the grid were Ben Stiles from the UK and Jack Noble-Adams from Christchurch. While Stiles finished outside the top 15, Noble-Adams ended up fifth overall with his best result third in race 2 at Taupo.
This season four of the top six are back with Hedge moving across to the TR86 Championship and Peterson taking only selected rounds this season.
Stepping up to the category this season are Christchurch’s James Penrose, Zach Stichbury from Hastings and Formula First drivers Blake Evans and Callum Crawley. Crawley won the 2017/18 NZ Formula First Championship, Evans recently won their Winter Series.
Penrose has immediately been on the pace, finishing second three times at Timaru. Stichbury had two fourth places before an ‘off’ in the final race.
Also on the grid on Saturday was returning driver Tom Alexander in the Career Racing Spectrum. Alexander is in a brand new car and only finished one race. Once teething problems with the car are sorted he will be fighting for podiums.
So after the opening round here’s the top ten on the overall points table:
1 Josh Bethune Ray GR17 113
2 James Penrose VD Stealth 105
3 Jordan Michels Mygale SJ13 102
4 Ben Stiles VD Stealth 70
5 Ethan Anderson VD Stealth 68
6 Zac Stichbury Mygale SJ08a 65
7 Jack Noble-Adams VD Stealth 63
8 Robert Toshach Spectrum 08 58
9 Cameron Freeman VD RF92 52
10 Bailey Paterson VD Stealth 50
Already both Stiles and Noble-Adams are showing improvement, Robert Toshach is always a consistent performer while Cameron Freeman had three top ten finishes. Crawly and Evans will continue to improve and are likely to shine once they are competing on their home tracks in the North Island.
The mix of drivers on the grid this season bodes well for one of the best F1600 seasons for some time.
As Michels said, it will be a tough season.