Brands Hatch, Kent, UK – Tuesday 5th June 2018: Coming off the back of a dramatic weekend in the Scottish highlands where despite a dramatic non-finish in race three, a win and a second in the opening races meant that Murray still managed to maintain his series lead. The Dubliner was keen for a much calmer weekend as the championship moved to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit for rounds seven, eight and nine of the 2018 Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship.
Typically for the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, qualifying was a close affair at the front of the field, but it was double Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival winner Murray who maintained the upper hand throughout. His margin at the head of the times just over one tenth of a second ahead of a top 10 separated by just half a second.
Starting the opening race of the weekend on Saturday afternoon from the prime position, Niall got a superb start to lead at the end of the opening lap. However an early Safety car put pay to any slender advantage he had built up and it wasn’t until lap five that green flag racing resumed. Undeterred, Niall once again set off and quickly opened an advantage that would extend to over five seconds as he took the chequered flag and with it his first win of the weekend.
Courtesy of his race one victory, it was déjà vu for Murray who started again from pole position on Sunday morning. With the vastly experienced Joey Foster alongside for company, Niall knew an early break would be crucial. Once again, he nailed the start to lead into Paddock Hill bend but Foster and the rest of the field were now hot on his heels. Over the coming laps, his advantage never stretched too far beyond half a second before a Safety Car eradicated any gap on lap six. Neutralised for just two laps, racing was back under way on lap eight. Maintaining his lead, it wasn’t long before the Safety Car was again on circuit on lap ten, this time for five laps. Back to green flag conditions on lap 15, now well experienced at leading the restarts, it was a textbook effort from Murray to lead what would now become a five lap sprint to the finish. However Niall made it look easy as he put in a series of blistering laps to edge out a slender advantage of almost seven tenths of a second to take his second victory of the weekend, further extending his command at the top of the series leader board.
The third race of the weekend was set to be a real test with the top eight finishers from race two reversed, meaning Murray would start from P8 on the outside of row four. Knowing that points ultimately make prizes, Niall’s aim was to ensure he scored as highly as possible to add to this double maximum score from the opening two races. As the lights went out, it was an action packed opening lap that saw Niall go three abreast into Paddock Hill Bend with Joey Foster and Michael Eastwell. Managing to displace the latter, it was now a race to Druids with Foster. Last of the late brakers into Druids, Niall left himself on the outside of the corner allowing Eastwell back in front with Nico Gruber now muscling his way past in tow. However just one corner later Niall was back in front of Gruber and resetting his charge up the order. Coming back up to Druids, Niall was already lining himself up for a re-pass on Eastwell that he completed to good effect as they exited Graham Hill bend.
Now in seventh, Niall was closing on teammate Matt Round-Garrido and taking full advantage of the tow on the main straight completed a superb pass around the outside coming into Paddock Hill bend. With Foster and Michael Moyers making contact exiting the corner just in front, this allowed Niall up the inside of Foster to secure a double promotion from sixth to fourth overall. With the Moyers incident necessitating a Safety Car period, the scene was set for a superb showdown over the closing laps. Right under Jamie Thorburn’s gearbox for third, a two lap battle between the pair came good for Niall on lap nine to move onto the first step on the podium. From there, largely due to multiple yellow flags, Murray would remain in third to the end, securing a 100% podium finishing record from the weekend and building a healthy advantage at the top of the points standings.
Niall Murray – #5 Team DOLAN Van Diemen RF99:
“Great end to a fantastic weekend at Brands Hatch with two lights to flag wins and then I was really looking forward to starting from eighth in the reversed grid race three. I made up some places in the first few laps but with three laps under the Safety Car and then yellow flags at Paddock Hill and Clearways for most of the remainder of the race it really stalemated the race up the front! It was a fantastic weekend all in all and once again huge thanks to EVERYONE at Team DOLAN especially Damian and Bernard for consistently giving me the best car on the grid and making my job easier!”
Kirkistown, Newtownards, Northern Ireland – Friday 22nd & Saturday 23rd June 2018.