Diversity – a key to Formula Ford success

| Photographer Credit: Geoff Ridder

Name a modern single-seater championship outside of Formula One that has different chassis competing together?

Formula Ford (now known as Formula 1600 in New Zealand) is such a category where different chassis compete, albeit with a controlled engine. This diversity is a key ingredient for not just the success but also the uniqueness of the category. Teams and drivers get a choice of chassis!

The 2018/19 New Zealand Formula 1600 Championship would have to be one of the most competitive for some time with large grids and with four different chassis taking the overall podiums, wins and titles.

It has been a great example of why the Formula 1600 category, as it is today, gives such competitive racing that develops driver skill and race craft.  It is proof that the ‘latest’ is not necessarily the ‘greatest’.

Mygale, Ray, Van Diemen and Spectrum are the four chassis which saw six drivers claim the 48 podiums from 16 races spread over five separate rounds of the NZ Formula 1600 Championship.

Title winner Jordan Michels drove a Mygale SJ13 (2013) and stood on the podium 15 times, including five race wins. This is his fourth season in Formula 1600 with the car previously campaigned by Caleb Cross in NZ and by Macauley Jones in Australia.

Rookie Zac Stichbury was competing in a Mygale SJ08a and stood on the podium three times. His car has a strong winning history having been campaigned by previous NZ F1600 title winners Callum Hedge, Liam Lawson, Taylor Cockerton and Jamie Conroy.

Also campaigning a Mygale SJ07 (2017) a was USA driver Spike Kohlbecker. This is the car that Bethune drove last season until he debuted his new Ray. Previously it was campaigned by Aaron Marr. Though Spike never won a race, he finished on the podium four times.

Josh Bethune campaigned a Ray GR17 (#32 pictured above), a brand-new chassis brought into NZ last season.  Bethune was on course to win this season’s national title but unfortunately retired out of the last race having spun, handing the title to Michels. Bethune took the most race wins over the season (seven) and stood on the podium 14 times.

The Van Diemen Stealth is a successful chassis that has been around for a long time, and in the hands of rookie James Penrose (#98 pictured above) this season proved to be a very quick car. Penrose took one race win and stood on the podium seven times. Finishing fifth overall, Penrose’s Stealth was capable of finishing in the top three as he came away from the series with non-points scoring races.

The car was built in back 1993 and converted to a Stealth in 2004 by Motorsport Solutions in Christchurch. The car was raced by Nelson Hartley back when Supercars driver Shane Van Gisbergen and two-times 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Earl Bamber were racing in 2005/06. American Andrew Hobbs drove it in two South Island Formula 1600 races in 2014. Formula 3 driver Marcus Armstrong briefly raced the car in the 2014/15 season before Porsche Junior Scholarship winner Jaxon Evans made a one-off appearance at Timaru in October 2015. It’s currently owned by Jeremy Shaw who currently lives in the States. He is also the president of the Team USA Scholarship which gives American drivers opportunities to race overseas.

Last but by no means least, rookie Callum Crawley (#79 pictured above) successfully debuted a brand-new Spectrum 015 winning three of the last four races in the championship. Crawley and his team progressive got better as the season went on, taking his first podium at the third round at Teretonga Park in Invercargill. With five podiums including three race wins, Crawley finished a well-deserved third overall and if he returns to the category next season may prove to be the driver to beat. The Spectrum is the newest chassis competing in NZ and another four are expected to take to the grid next season.

It is this diversity that gives the category a uniqueness coupled with a choice for drivers and teams. It is proof that the latest and most modern machinery is not necessarily the best direction for young competitors making their way in the category.


NZ Formula 1600 Championship winners since 2000
2000–01 New Zealand James Cressey Van Diemen RF94
2001–02 New Zealand Fabian Coulthard Stealth Van Diemen RF94
2002–03 New Zealand Jonny Reid Stealth Van Diemen RF94
2003–04 New Zealand Tim Edgell Van Diemen RF03
2004–05 Australia Shannon O’Brien Van Diemen RF03
2005–06 New Zealand Shane van Gisbergen Stealth Evo 2
2006–07 New Zealand Sam MacNeill Van Diemen
2007–08 New Zealand John Whelan Stealth Van Diemen
2008–09 New Zealand Richie Stanaway Mygale SJ08A
2009–10 New Zealand Martin Short Mygale SJ07A
2010–11 New Zealand Andre Heimgartner Mygale SJ10
2011–12 New Zealand Andre Heimgartner Mygale SJ10
2013–14 New Zealand Jamie Conroy Mygale SJ07A
2014–15 New Zealand Taylor Cockerton Mygale SJ08A [2]
2015–16 New Zealand Michael Scott Mygale SJ08A
2016–17 New Zealand Liam Lawson Mygale SJ08A
2017–18 New Zealand Callum Hedge Mygale SJ08A

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits both talkmotorsport.co.nz and nzmotorracing.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!


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