Knockhill, Fife, Scotland – Thursday 17th May 2018: Coming off the dream start to his British Formula Ford 1600 Championship return in Silverstone to lead the standings with a strong trio of finishes that included his first win of the season, Team DOLAN’s Niall Murray made the trip to the Scottish highlands last weekend for rounds four, five and six of the BRSCC run series aiming to extend his margin at the top of the championship standings.
Running in an anti-clockwise direction, the 1.267 mile Knockhill Circuit provided both drivers and teams with a new challenge and the potential to throw up more than a few surprise results. In qualifying, it looked as if Murray may not have it all his own way for the second weekend of the year, setting the fifth fastest time aboard is Van Diemen RF99.
Having busied his mechanics ahead of race one, Niall came to the grid feeling confident that they had made the necessary improvements to his car to enable his charge up to the front of the field. Off the line, it was a clean getaway and positions remained unchanged for the opening two laps. By lap three however, Murray was on a charge and moved ahead of Jamie Thorburn for fourth. Closing rapidly on Nico Gruber for third, Niall just slipped ahead before the Safety Car neutralised the field for two laps. When racing got back under way on lap nine, Murray was locked onto the gearbox of Ray driver Neil MacLennan in a battle that would change position on every lap. However the race would ultimately finish with a red flag, crucially for Murray at the right time as he was ahead to secure second just one tenth of a second behind teammate Matt Round-Garrido.
Starting positions for race two on Sunday morning were set based upon the finishing order from race one, placing Niall on the outside of the front row. Knowing that passing can be tricky around the tight Scottish venue, Murray set off in hot pursuit of the lead as the lights went out. Forced wide exiting the hairpin, Niall found himself down in tenth at the end of the opening lap and with a mountain to climb for the remainder of the race. With the odds of a miracle win stacked against him, Murray picked his way up the order in a series of fantastic manoeuvres, and by just lap six he was already back up to second and chasing down race leader MacLennan. Closing in with every lap, it was inevitable that Niall would eventually find a way past. That moment came at the start of lap nine as the pair crossed the start/finish line side by side, the Irish driver finding a Formula Ford sized gap on the inside granting him the perfect opportunity to complete the move into the first corner. Just as he took over the lead, the Safety car was deployed for two laps before the race returned to green for a single lap shoot-out to the chequered flag where Niall remained in charge to take his first win of the weekend.
The third and final race of the weekend would be a drama filled affair. The initial running of the race had to be postponed after an incident involving the Safety car saw a number of competitors run off the track including Niall, picking up some extensive damage in the process. Amidst the drama, the Team DOLAN crew worked miracles, and had Murray’s Van Diemen repaired and ready to take the start of the re-scheduled race three late in the evening. Getting a good start, Murray was quickly able to dispatch Nico Gruber on the opening lap with Jamie Thorburn next on his shopping list. However, before Niall could make any real advances, he was forced into retirement with some legacy issues from his earlier incident severely affecting the handling of his Van Diemen RF99.
Niall Murray – #5 Team DOLAN Van Diemen RF99:
“I think its best just to focus on the positives of this weekend, where once again we proved that Team DOLAN is the best team in the paddock. I picked up my second win and despite the issues around the third race this weekend, still managed to maintain my lead in the championship which we have to be happy about. The incident in the first running of race three was not good, and some of us could have been very badly hurt, or worse, but that’s all I want to say about that for now. Once again, a huge thanks to everyone in the team, I’ve worked them hard this weekend that’s for sure and I still don’t know how we made it out for the last race, but we did. Next up is one of my favourite circuits, Brands Hatch where I hope we can continue to build our advantage.”
Brands Hatch, Kent, UK – Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd June 2018.