A large field will line up on the grid this coming weekend as the opening round of the South Island Formula Ford Championship gets underway at Timaru International Motor Raceway. Over 20 cars have entered the six round series with more expected at the second round in November.
Five Australian based drivers have decided to make the trip across the Tasman. Unique in the field are the father and son entries of Andy and Hunter McElrea – with grandfather Rod helping in the pits. Also from Australia will be Mitchell Maddren, Tim Miles and Jaxon Evans.
Fifteen year old Hunter McElrea will campaign a 1991 Van Diemen. Many will know the McElrea name in NZ, father Andy having won the SIFF title three times as well as the 1990/91 national title. Andy will drive a Van Dieman RF88 while Timothy Miles will campaign in a Van Dieman RF86.
Seventeen year old Mitch Maddren will compete in a 2001 Van Diemen RF01, the car that won the 2013/14 Queensland State Championship. Nineteen year old Jaxon Evans is currently driving in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge run by Andy’s McElrea Racing Team and will compete in Stealth.
At this stage it is hard to pick a favourite for both Class 1 and the overall champion as the top four place getters in the 2014/15 championship have not entered. Last season’s winner Michael Collins has elected not to compete and has given up his seat in the Class 2 1991 Van Diemen to his sister Anna. Ryan Yardley, placed second, this summer has turned to tin-tops and entered the Toyota Finance TR86 Championship. Third placed Taylor Cockerton is pursuing his single seater career and has entered the Toyota Racing Series.
Ethan Anderson (Van Dieman RF93 Stealth) returns to Class 1 along with Robert Toshach (Spectrum 08), Grant Campbell (Van Dieman RF05) and Whanganui’s Aaron Marr.
Dyson Freeman (Van Dieman RF92) and Royce Bayer (Van Dieman RF90) will spearhead the Class 2 challenge while Graham Dickie returns to race his 1970 Begg FM3 in Class 3. He will be up against Roger McKenzie’s 1973 Begg FM3 which placed second last season to Doug Price.
Southland is represented by the return of 25 year old Ethan Anderson from Riverton. Anderson will campaign his Van Diemen Stealth RF93 and will be joined by two rookie drivers making the step up from karting.
After seven years of karting 18 year old Jordan Michels will campaign the ex-Caleb Cross Mygale and will be run by Evolution Motorsport. Noel Atley will be running two cars this season. His son-in-law Corey Hodges will drive the ex-Ian Clements 1984 Lola 644E while an entry is also expected from Atley’s 17 year old grandson Joseph Oliver who will campaign a 1984 Crossle 55F that Atley drove when he won the SIFF title in 1998.
Important to the SIFFC’s vision is to provide pathways to help young aspiring drivers progress from kartsport and Formula First through to the other single seater categories such as the domestic Toyota Racing Series. A number of SIFF drivers will also campaign for the NZ Formula Ford Championship title. The opening Timaru SIFF round provides an ideal lead up to the first three national rounds that also double as part of the SIFF championship.
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. The shootout will include fifteen under 25 year old international drivers from eleven different series in Australia, Britain and the USA. Motorsport New Zealand, our FIA sanctioned governing body for motorsport in this country, fully supports the opportunity and sees it as a way of continuing to provide Kiwi drivers with international opportunities and exposure.
The round is also part of the third and final race weekend of the ASKO South Island Endurance Series. Formula Ford practice and qualifying takes place on Friday followed by three races on Saturday using the circuit’s ‘short’ track. This configuration will test a driver’s accuracy and skill and does not necessarily favour those with more horsepower.