“Murray Walks Her!”- Formula Ford Festival 2013- with Leo Nulty.
October 28, 2013 by Leo Nulty
It was always going to be a strong Festival for the Irish contingent this year. We have a group of extremely quick drivers in the class at the moment, both North and South of the border. Pre event testing seemed to back up this theory, with most of the Irish runners on the pace.
On the Saturday though, it was not looking quite so good for them, as others appeared to have extremely stong pace in mixed conditions. In qualifying for heat one, Joey Foster topped the timesheets. Tellingly though, Niall Murray was second, just a tenth off. Neville Smyth and circuit lap record holder Ivor McCullough were sixth and seventh respectively with Patrick McKenna a disappointed ninth and David McCullough in eleventh. When they lined up on a rain soaked track, it was Foster who made the best start as Murray, his car looking decidedly twitchy, came under attack for second. After a few trips off circuit he managed to cross the line in sixth, with Neville Smyth driving well to climb to third.
In Heat two, Wayne Boyd had qualified on pole, just ahead of Jonny McMullan. Noel Dunne, Kevin O’Hara and Stephen Daly were disappointed to be in sixth, seventh and eighth respectively, with Jake Byrne admitting he was only finding his feet in his new Ray, down in eleventh. Sean Doyle was another who had changed to a more modern car for the Festival and was way down in fifteenth, having broken a float in the carb- & no doubt wishing he had his trusty RF91 Van Diemen at Brands!
Boyd led off the line and in similar fashion to Foster in heat one, was well clear by the time the pack reached Druids. Coming into Graham Hill Bend though, it all went wrong for the Northern Irishman-He had forgotten to wipe the soles of his boots before jumping into the car in the paddock. “Bad enough that my foot slipped off the brake but it caught the throttle as well” he rued afterwards. He managed to rejoin but well down the order and had plenty of work to do. Meanwhile CDR’s Jake Eidson had hit the front and drove well for an impressive win, from Stephen Daly, who had progressed well, and Oliver White. McMullan was fourth ahead of the closely knit bunch of Dunne, Boyd, O’Hara, Doyle and Jake Byrne across the line. Sean Doyle had somehow survived a full 360 mid pack at Graham Hill early on but fought back and even managed fastest lap, giving him some hope for the following semi final.
Foster took the first semi from the charging Boyd with Stephen Daly right there in third. Neville Smyth was sixth and Sean Doyle ninth, having had a grassy moment late on while challenging for sixth. In Semi Final two, Noel Dunne drove superbly
to take a highly popular win, just ahead of Oliver White, with Niall Murray and Ivor McCullough right with them as they crossed the line. This put Noel Dunne on pole position for the Festival Final with Joey Foster alongside. Most of the speculation was on the run to the first corner, many opining that should Noely get the jump into Paddock, he would be capable of hanging on, whilst on the other hand, Foster was the danger man and looked like he might have the pace to drive away from the pack, if he could take advantage of his position on the outside of the front row at Brands. Boyd and Murray were also danger men and with the Final running for 20 laps, it was anyone’s race. Dunne made no mistakes to lead away and immediately looked comfortable, easing out a gap as Foster came under attack from Boyd and Murray. two laps in and Dunne was still easing clear as the pack behind him scrapped. Inside the Van Diemen cockpit though, it was not going as smoothly as planned. “The car was great for the first two laps”, Noel explained afterwards, “but on the third lap I felt a little bit of understeer coming in and I knew I was going to be in trouble!” A subsequent safety car period backed up the field but when the BMW pulled in the pitlane, Noel had it all in hand and crossed the line with a few lengths of a gap. The understeer was beginning to tell though, as his pursuers closed in. Oliver White was the first to have a go, Foster by this stage having dropped down to sixth, a legacy of having gone for a wet setup in the changing conditions. The first four were running together at this stage, with Murray about to uncork an incredible charge from the back of the group. He first usurped Boyd before closing down on White- who was dispatched with an equally uncompromising move at Clearways. The Murray Motorsport Van Diemen was right under the gearbox of Dunne’s similar machine as they crossed the line to start lap 12. Murray feinted to the left on the approach to Paddock Hill bend, then switched to the inside for the run to Druids, where he had the inside line. Dunne tried to sit it out around the outside but was powerless to stop Murray from leading on the way to Graham Hill Bend. As Niall got the head down, Dunne was pounced on by the pack, like a wounded animal, powerless to defend, even finding himself bundled off at Graham Hill Bend a few laps later. Boyd was on a charge though, displacing Dunne and White in quick succession before closing the gap to the leader, the pair crossing the line side by side on lap seventeen, with Boyd almost carrying off a brave move right round the outside at Paddock. Murray had it all under control though and was not being too generous with the tarmac- the resultant moment dropping Boyd back to third behind White. Murray reeled off the remaining laps with no mistakes to cross the line, fist aloft to add his name to an impressive list of previous winners. Boyd managed to charge back to second- a little miffed and vowing to turn the tables at The upcoming Walter Hayes Trophy- in a weeks time! Ivor McCullough was sixth after a fine run, just ahead of Dunne, with Stephen Daly and Jonny McMullan next up- the latter having suffered huge understeer on a different set of tyres, having dominated the Historic race just an hour earlier! Doyle, Byrne and O’Hara were 14th, 15th and 16th respectively- all three having weekends they would rather forget. The day, however belonged to young Niall Murray and his Murray Motorsport Team. To win the Festival in his first year of FF1600 was something very special. Add to the equation the fact that Murray Motorsport have never run a single seater before 2013 and you can’t fail to be impressed- I certainly was!