Formula Ford champion Blanchard to return at Winton

Tim Blanchard races at Adelaide in 2007

Tim Blanchard will race in next week’s Australian Formula Ford Series round at Winton, almost 15 years after winning the national championship.

On the same weekend that his own Supercars squad contests the Pizza Hut Winton SuperSprint, the 34-year-old will drive with the very team with which he won the 2007 Formula Ford title, Sonic Motor Racing Services.

In a further nod to that triumph, Blanchard will take the wheel of a Mygale carrying the same Jaylec livery as he raced with back then.

The cameo is motivated in part by a desire to stay match-fit for October’s Repco Bathurst 1000, when he will share the Blanchard Racing Team’s CoolDrive Mustang with Tim Slade.

However, it has also come together with an eye on a future start in the Walter Hayes Festival for Formula Fords at Silverstone.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Formula Ford at Winton. It’s a category that I’ve always loved and I have a real soft spot for,” said Blanchard, who was also runner-up in the 2008 British Formula Ford Championship.

“I’ve been doing historic Formula Ford racing for the last few years and I really enjoy driving the cars, so I was keen to try a new challenge and pit myself against all of the young stars coming through.

“The hidden agenda is that I’d really like to do Walter Hayes Festival at Silverstone at some point, so I wanted to see how I go against the current level of drivers and see if I’m wasting my time or not!

“I also want to keep race miles up ahead of the Bathurst 1000, and with this Winton Formula Ford round on the Supercars bill, it’s a good chance to do it. I’m already going to be there, so I thought this was a handy opportunity.

“There’s a real nostalgic element with Mick and Maria [Ritter] from Sonic too. Tim Slade prepared my Formula Ford back in 2007 with Sonic, so on the Friday, he’s going to come over and give the team a hand – it’s a full reunion.

“Also, from a BRT point of view, you always need to keep an eye on the future, and what better way to assess the future stars than to actually get in the car and race against them and see what they’ve got?

“In terms of expectations, I have mixed feelings.

“On one hand, I feel like I should be up the front. I’m pretty experienced in racing, so I should be competitive, but on the flipside, I haven’t raced a Duratec-powered Formula Ford in 15 years, and these guys are racing them all the time, so I’m not really sure where I’ll land.”

The car which Blanchard will drive at Winton

Blanchard’s younger brother Harry will drive the same car, in its retro Jaylec livery, in a Victorian Formula Ford Championship round this weekend at Phillip Island.

Sonic owner Mick Ritter believes the former Supercars driver’s experience will also prove valuable for Valentino Astuti and Winston Smith, who the team fields in the national competition.

“It’s great to have Tim back with us in Formula Ford, rekindling some of the past glory that we had together,” he said.

“Tim and his family have been fantastic supporters of Formula Ford over the years and we are pleased to have been part of that history with them, winning the title with Tim in 2007 and now entering his brother Harry in state-level competition.

“Tim tested last week and he was quickly near the pace, and I’m sure he will only get faster as the Winton race weekend goes on.

“One of the best things about having Tim back in our team will be to see how he can help develop our regular drivers Valentino and Winston.

“Both of them are exciting young talents, but having an experienced guy like Tim in our camp will only help them, both on and off the track.”

Blanchard will drive Car #3, as he did in 2007, and as BRT fields in the Supercars Championship today.

The Winton SuperSprint takes place on May 20-22, with the headline act first on track from Saturday, May 21.

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