The absence of the two leading drivers in the South Island Formula Ford Championship (SIFF) opens the door to other contenders as the series heads back to Timaru for the second round on Saturday 14 November. Also doubling as the opening round of the national series, the event draws in more cars for the grid and greater competition.
Currently first and second on the points table, Australian based Kiwis Jaxon Evans and Andy McElrea haven’t entered the round which leaves the door open for Wanganui’s Aaron Marr to potentially inherit the lead but this may well be short lived. The Toyota technician has signaled his main aim is to win the national title but still could mathematically be in contention at the end of the SIFF season.
Three of the six SIFF rounds also double as part of the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship and Marr will participate in a minimum of four. Marr sits tied for third on the SIFF points table and may well enter the third round (a non-national championship round) in Invercargill in December as a practice run for the national round there in January.
Te Puke’s Michael Scott joins the grid with his intentions on the national title. While not entered in the South Island champs, Scott has a busy summer of racing having won a CareVet Scholarship giving him a fully funded season of racing in the Toyota Finance TR86 Championship.
“It’s going to be a challenge getting the Formula Ford race ready,” commented Scott. “We are aiming for a round win, leading from the front and finishing with a straight car.”
At stake in the nation series is the top prize of the ‘Mazda Road to Indy’ scholarship for the title winner. This summer’s NZ Formula Ford Champion will get the chance to take part in an international shootout to determine who wins a $US200k fully supported drive in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 single seater championship in the US. The category is a feeder to the Indy Lights Series and ultimately to the IndyCar Series where Scott Dixon has just won his fourth title.
Also third equal on the SIFF points table is Royce Bayer (Van Diemen RF90). Consistent results at the opening round have paid dividends for Bayer who also leads Class 2. Just one point behind is hard charging Southlander Ethan Anderson (Van Diemen Stealth). Add into the mix the return of Stephen Heffernan (Van Diemen RF92) who will be a strong contender for podiums, potentially taking away valuable points from the top contenders.
Trevor Stiles from the United Kingdom has returned for a second season of racing in NZ. He will campaign Derek Wilson’s Swift SC92F having sold his Van Diemen RF92 to Philip Butcher who raced in the SIFF back in the 1980s and will return to the series at Timaru.
Three Australian based drivers cross the Tasman and will be on the grid. Fifteen year old Hunter McElrea (Van Diemen RF91), 16 year old Mitchell Maddren (Van Diemen RF01) will be joined by Blair Brownlee (Lola T342)
Born in New Zealand, Maddren has extensive karting experience from the age of seven and has competed at the top level in Rotax Protour with the Birelart Team for the last three years with multiple podiums. He entered his first Formula Ford event a few months ago in the fourth round of the Queensland State Championship, finishing third in the event. His second outing was at the opening round of the SIFF in October. It was a great learning curve for the teenager after an engine misfire in qualifying put him off the back of the grid in 20th. This gave him plenty of practice passing in the wet in the first two races, finishing the weekend with two top ten results.
McElrea is currently ninth overall and third in Class two behind Bayer and Gary Lovie (Van Diemen RF92).
The historic Class 3 category is also now wide open with the top three drivers not having entered the round. With the absence of Andy McElrea, Tim Miles and Graham Dickie the fight will come down to Southland’s Corey Hodges (Lola 644E) and last season’s winner Roger McKenzie (Begg FM3).
The return to Timaru International Motor Raceway will see the drivers use the ‘long’ track which differs to the use of the ‘short’ track in round one. While the short track offers drivers a more technical approach and a more level playing field across the grid, the long track gives more opportunity for passing and will favour the more modern chassis.