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XCAR: Formula Ford: Racing in the footsteps of Senna, Webber and more

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XCAR: Formula Ford: Racing in the footsteps of Senna, Webber and more

7:31 /

XCAR throws its hat into the ring and competes in the single-seater racing series that saw Ayrton Senna take his first steps in professional motorsports at Brand's Hatch.

1996. As an 11 year old kid, I sat in this very seat watching the Formula Ford Festival here at Brands Hatch. Mark Weber took victory and I had my family around me. We used to do it every single year and it was an important part of my motor sport upbringing. Never in a million years did I think that I would be participating in a Formula Ford race on this Brands Hatch Indy circuit, until now. [MUSIC] I'll be racing one of the most competitive single seated championships in Britain, still with considerable support from the Blue Oval. My rivals have been thrashing around the Indy circuit for months. Some of them not even alive when I watched that chiseled Aussie wonder mount that podium in 96. The Formula Four Championship of Great Britain is now in its 48th year and it's the only single seater championship backed by a manufacturer in the U.K. It can boast champions such as Damon Hill. Eddie Irvine. Andy Davidson. And Johnny Herbert. And even my hero. Ayrton Senna. The car has changed quite a bit since the early 70s. And the 2014 spec machine showcases the very latest in road car technology from Ford. Starting with the engine. This 1.6 liter turbo charged eco boost engine is exactly what you find in the Fiesta ST and kicks out an awesome 197 horsepower. Coupled to its Cheebla frame sashy and carbon fiber crash structure, this car only weighs 475 kilos. And that's why it's the fastest single seated Junior Championship in the UK. In the cockpit, I can just about see my Dunlop racing slick tires. In my mirrors my fully adjustable aerodynamics. And of course in my right hand, a six speed sequential gear box. I don't even need to use a clutch. The electronics blip the engine for me. [MUSIC] This was the first time I'd every raced a single seater, let alone a formula Ford. I would need every little bit of help I could get. [MUSIC] Too much wheel spin at the start from the powerful turbo, and going into the first corner Louise went past. A few laps later, breaking into druid, and Greg Holloway managed to find a way through as well. My pace was well off. I could keep the car on the track. But as the laps grew on, I got tireder and tireder. Then the nail in the coffin. In a 25 minute race, the leaders came through to lap me. Four pace and P12 did not feel good. [MUSIC] Tricky race. Really tricky race. Just having the confidence to throw your car down Patago Bend at a 110 120 miles per hour, has to come from your brain. That was only, a qualifying session really in terms of experience. I don't have it in me yet, the confidence to just do that, and know that it'll stick, and know that I won't go back into the wall. With no power steering the g forces will throw me to the outside and it makes it this tough roller coaster. As I contemplated my fate, I should introduce you to my team. Richardson Racing is a family run team put together to run son Andy who is my driver coach and team managers again and Louise who is my team mate. Dad, Gwen, the boss, and mom, Lindsey look after other drivers when they can. And this weekend, it's me. There was a glimmer of hope for me this weekend. The car had an in-built telemetry system which tells my coach what I might be doing wrong. If we take Louis's best lap, and compare it to mine, we can see why I simply can't keep up. You just go to correct it a little bit and you just be patient and wait. You don't want it come off. And now, to put all that into practice for race two. A much better start and for the first few laps I can hold on to the cars in front. Progressive acceleration was the key, not getting too much over steer out of the corners and accelerating down the straight. But then fatigue starts to set in. The vicious nature of driving the car flowed my pace and I started to be [UNKNOWN] My brain couldn't keep up. My forearms really injured from the crops single seater and again I dropped back to end the race P12. To take my mind off my plight for a moment, I wondered off towards the circuit to watch the British touring cars in qualifying. [NOISE] One of the greatest things about the Formula Ford Championship is the British touring car build. And that means from the crowd the [INAUDIBLE] An also live television coverage, national TV coverage [INAUDIBLE] before. It adds an extra element of pressure though, to the drivers. Which means they have to deal with the media, interviews, and television cameras at every point. Forcing every single mistake that they make. And that adds pressure, but also develops you as a driver, as you move towards Formula 1. The crowds slowly depleted as the day drew to and end. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? I kept being haunted by my first moments in the car on a wet test day, punished by the turbo's power and stiff suspension. My confidence was shattered. [NOISE] Well, I thought there was a big crowd on Saturday, but there are throngs of people arriving here on Sunday morning. It really adds to the sense of occasion. [MUSIC] Race three was to be broadcast live on ITV4. So 30,000 people at circuit and then nearly half a million on TV were watching. [MUSIC] Vital to the start of the race is warming the brakes and tires to have confidence going into that first corner. Another great getaway, and with a staller to my inside, I had a chance to hang on to tenth going through Padec the first time. Suddenly, a new experience. The drivers around me snapping at my heels, flicking from wind mirror to wind mirror, like a jet fighter in battle. I just had to try and keep Connor Mill behind even if he did hit me. Another crash. Ricky Collard and Mack Marshall tangle and the safety car was needed. It allowed me to catch up and to have a small rest as well before the blast to the flag. I finished 12th again, and most importantly improved on my previous pace. The car, so much fun to drive and participating as part of the British Touring Car Package quite an incredible experience. I'd learned so much thanks to the way Ford have conceptualized the championship, it really is the best place to learn single seater across. I was bruised, battered, mentally and physically shattered. But it's an experience I'll never forget.

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