The new Ford EcoBoost-powered Ford British F4 championship carries the junior motorsport torch lit at Brands Hatch in June 1967 by the first Formula Ford race.
Over 51 seasons since, great names such as Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, James Hunt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen , Jenson Button and Lando Norris have all had good reason to thank Ford-powered single-seater racing for their early training.
This migration of Formula Ford towards the FIA Formula 4 chassis, which employs the latest carbonfibre technology designed to meet stringent FIA safety levels, gives Ford the ideal showcase in which to display its latest engine technology. The 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine employed in the British F4 chassis is a stock unit exactly the same as a Ford owner will find under the bonnet of their Fiesta ST, Focus, Kuga or Mondeo, while the carbon fibre technology of the chassis is similar to that employed in the body shell of the new Ford GT.
FIA-accredited Formula 4 series are springing up around the globe as motorsport’s governing body seeks to streamline and clarify its preferred pathway for junior drivers. Ford EcoBoost-powered FIA Formula 4 championships are underway in Australia and Mexico, and there are series supported by other manufacturers taking place in Italy, Germany, China and in other corners of the world.
The Ford EcoBoost-powered MSA Formula Championship enjoyed a brilliantly successful maiden season in 2015 and was a huge spectator hit with live TV coverage as part of the British Touring Car Championship roster of events. Drivers from the UK, Australia, Brazil, Romania, India and the United States battled it out over 30 races, with nine different race winners and the inaugural MSA Formula crown going the way of a talented 15-year-old Briton, Lando Norris.
In 2016 the championship was rebranded to the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost. It is a year which will be remembered as one of the most entertaining and competitive in the history of the series. 10 different race winners, the championship leader changing after every race weekend bar one and six drivers from four teams still in title contention heading into the season finale.
The 2017 season had an abundance of young stars and talented protagonists, but in many ways it was dominated by one young man in particular: Jamie Caroline.
Caroline sent records tumbling on his crusade to the title. The 18-year-old blitzed the field in the first half of the season. Having joined Carlin over the winter, he got off to a winning start in the opener at Brands Hatch and would never be headed in the standings, with win number two also coming that weekend.
Eight more victories followed in 2017, including another brace at the subsequent meeting and a historic hat-trick at Thruxton; becoming the first driver in series history to win all three races in a single weekend.
The top step of the podium beckoned for Caroline at Oulton Park, Snetterton and Knockhill, after which a more conservative approach saw him carefully manage his way to being crowned FIA British Formula 4 champion with two races to spare. His tally of 10 victories the most recorded in a British F4 season, as well as his points total which surpassed the record set by 2015 champion Lando Norris.
In 2018 it was the turn of the ‘Green Arrow’, Kiern Jewiss, to strike. Six race victories and a further ten podium finishes set the BRDC Rising Star on the path towards Double R Racing’s maiden title success in the category, with over half the field taking a turn on the top step of the podium in another hard-fought, dramatic season of racing.
Those triumphs – once at Donington, Oulton Park and Croft alongside a brace at Thruxton – gave Jewiss the momentum, and despite the best efforts of Ayrton Simmons and a late surge from Fortec’s Johnathan Hoggard, two sixth-places and a victory on the final weekend at Brands Hatch handed the 16-year old the FIA British Formula 4 title – and 12 vital FIA Super License points – on his first attempt.
The return of the Rookie Cup proved equally captivating, with Red Bull Juniors Dennis Hauger and Jack Doohan sharing 20 class victories between them over the course of the campaign, the latter eventually crowned by a mere 15 points – the equivalent of a single podium finish across 30 races.
The trend of broken records continued – not least Vice-Champion Simmons setting a new benchmark of 713.5 for all-time career points in the category – and that looks set to be the case again as the championship gears up for another bumper season of Ford EcoBoost-powered action again in 2019.
History of Formula Ford
Formula Ford was launched in Britain in 1967, using a 1600cc ‘Kent’ engine direct from the Ford range. The formula allowed engineers to design their own steel spaceframe chassis to use with the engine, and it launched the careers of many great motorsport engineers, technicians and teams.
Formula Ford flourished in the ’70s and ’80s with an exceptional number of competitors producing champions around the world. The closeness of the racing became a defining quality of Formula Ford, which has continued to this day. In the 1990s the Kent power unit gave way to the Zetec engine, and from 2006 Formula Ford was powered by the Ford Duratec engine. In 2011, Championship Organisers RacingLine added the ‘EuroCup’ into the calendar, bringing the best of all European Formula Ford racers together for four rounds. The 2012 season witnessed the beginning of a new era with the introduction of the EcoBoost Formula Ford.
The 2009 F1 World Champion, Jenson Button, remembers his early racing steps with affection: “Formula Ford was a great championship for me to start my career in single-seater cars. For drivers making the step up from karts to cars, Formula Ford couldn’t be a better championship to introduce rookies to open-wheel racing. After winning the British Formula Ford Championship and the Formula Ford Festival, the next step up for me was Formula 3. I definitely think that Formula Ford gave me the right preparation and experience needed to move up again in my career.”