Dane laments decline of Formula Ford
Friday 5th March, 2021 - 4:16pm
Roland Dane is “disappointed” at the decline of Formula Ford given the lessons which the category taught to a generation of stars.
Formula Ford was axed as a Motorsport Australia (then known as CAMS) national championship at the end of 2013, ostensibly due to a funding shortfall after the withdrawal of Ford backing.
It then formally lost national series status two years later and, while the Formula Ford Association has preserved the competition, its profile and grandeur is arguably nowhere near its heyday.
Meanwhile, the Australian Formula 4 Championship, which was promoted by CAMS itself, controversially came and went in the space of five years.
Of the six Supercars drivers on the books at Dane’s Triple Eight Race Engineering, including Bathurst 1000 co-drivers, four have won the Australian Formula Ford title and Shane van Gisbergen claimed the championship in his native New Zealand.
That quintet includes Dunlop Super2 Series steerer Angelo Mouzouris, who asked Dane about the importance of an open-wheel background in his own new video series.
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“I’m actually disappointed that Formula Ford has started to drop off the radar,” said the veteran team boss.
“Although you [Mouzouris] did Formula Ford, it didn’t have the profile that it had 10 years ago, let alone 20, 25 years ago.
“In the middle of the nineties, you had the likes of Mark Webber coming through it, and you roll through and you see Russell Ingall did it, you see Marcos Ambrose did it, Garth [Tander] did it, Jamie [Whincup] did it, Craig [Lowndes] did it, Shane did it in New Zealand…”
While Formula Ford still exists, with Round 1 of the national series being held at Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend, there is no comparable category with official Motorsport Australia endorsement as it stands.
Dane hopes that something similar will emerge soon, given what Formula Ford taught so many youngsters in decades past.
“I think Formula Ford is such a terrific category to teach drivers about car movement – they haven’t got too much grip – but also race awareness,” he explained.
“It’s the same as karting; you don’t last very long unless you’ve got some peripheral vision, and [that applies in] Formula Ford even more so.
“They’re pretty spindly wishbones hanging it all together; if you interlock wheels and don’t have respect for the people around you, you end up in the gravel pretty quickly.
“Unfortunately, in Australia we haven’t really got that any more, and although it exists, it’s not at a national level which it fully deserves to be.
“I’d love to see a formula come up that replaces the really good aspects of Formula Ford in this country.”
National Formula Ford title winners currently driving full-time in the Repco Supercars Championship number 11, namely Will Davison (2001), Fabian Coulthard (2001/02, New Zealand), Whincup (2002), David Reynolds (2004), van Gisbergen (2005/06, New Zealand), Nick Percat (2009), Chaz Mostert (2010), Andre Heimgartner (2010/11, 2011/12, New Zealand), Cameron Waters (2011), Jack Le Brocq (2012), and Anton De Pasquale (2013).
Thomas Randle (2014) is firmly in the frame to join that contingent next year given his multi-year contract with Tickford Racing, while Hunter McElrea is making his way in the United States after claiming Formula Ford glory in Australia in 2018.
Mouzouris, meanwhile, took his first Super2 pole position when he kicked off his second season in the series last weekend at Mount Panorama and sits fifth in the standings on a countback.
Round 2 of the second tier of Supercars supports the Winton SuperSprint on May 29-30.