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Sharp wins 50th Formula Ford Festival after chaotic final

Sharp only started sixth for Sunday’s main race at Brands Hatch, which included former winners Jan Magnussen and Dennis Lind who were late additions to this year’s event.

But it was two other former winners who started on the front row, with Joey Foster (Firman 2021) and Niall Murray (Van Diemen BD21) both intent on taking a hat-trick of outright wins at the Festival.

Foster initially led from pole as Murray dropped behind 2020 Walter Hayes Trophy winner Ollie White, with the impressive 16-year-old Tom Mills moving into fourth.

The front quartet began to break away until the fourth tour of the 20-lap final, when Murray made an attempt to repass White on the climb to Druids.

The pair touched, with Murray’s Van Diemen sent spinning into the path of the helpless Mills as all three were eliminated on the spot.

The safety car was called to retrieve the wreckage with Foster now leading from Sharp, the Kevin Mills Racing duo of Neil MacLennan and Michal Moyers, with Ivor McCullough and Team USA Scholarship driver Max Esterson completing the top six.

Jamie Sharp, B-M Racing

Jamie Sharp, B-M Racing

Photo by: B-M Racing

At the restart, Foster initially resisted the pressure from behind but uncharacteristically made a mistake at Clearways at the midway point, catching one of the few damp patches still remaining and skating off into the gravel as did Moyers after Esterson dived up his inside.

Sharp thus inherited the lead in his B-M-Racing-run Medina Sport JL17 – the same squad which took victory at least year’s Festival with Rory Smith – but his time at the front lasted only another three laps as MacLennan made his move for the top spot at Druids.

The pass was successful but came under a yellow flag for two stranded cars on the climb up Hailwood’s Hill.

The KMR driver had no intention of conceding the position though, which would eventually prove costly, as he defended at various points around the Indy circuit.

But four laps from home Sharp made the decisive move, getting a better run out of Graham Hill Bend and moving to the inside before completing the pass into Surtees.

“I was just going out to have fun [having started sixth], we always had in the back of our minds we were there to win it and when Niall ended up in third I thought it’s anybody’s race,” said Smith, who only took his first car race victory earlier this year in the National Formula Ford Championship.

“The crash happened, I was in second and then Joey went off. After I got past Neil again, that was it, all guns blazing just trying to keep it from going off and keep in front of him.”

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MacLennan finished second on the road, but would be disqualified for his overtake on Sharp which had given him the lead.

This promoted Esterson to the runner-up position after a brilliant rise through the order, ahead of fellow Team USA Scholarship driver Andre Castro, with Jordan Dempsey, Chris Middlehurst and McCullough completing the top six, as Foster recovered to seventh ahead of 2019 Festival winner Jonathan Browne.

Recently crowned British GT3 champion and 2010 Festival winner Lind finished ninth, while his uncle and 1992 Festival victor Magnussen took 11th having risen up the order from 24th.

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