The tragic events in the IndyCar Series finale at Las Vegas completely overshadowed anything else that happened in motor racing last weekend, as the two-time Indy 500 winner and former series champion, Dan Wheldon, died as a result of a horrific 15-car crash.
Fortune may have smiled on Wheldon at Indianapolis in May, but it certainly turned its back on him on Sunday.
Before the tragedy in America, it had been a weekend of jubilation, as Red Bull clinched their second constructors’ championship in Korea, Matt Neal won his third British Touring Car crown, and Casey Stoner celebrated his 26th birthday by winning the MotoGP title.
Celebrations were also in full swing at Brands Hatch, as Formula Ford ace Scott Malvern added a lucrative bullet-point to his already impressive CV in the form of a Festival win.
Winning the Formula Ford Festival is a victory that is understood by people at the very top of the sport; it is one of the most prestigious prizes in motorsport for aspiring drivers, and the Festival’s roll-call is a who’s who of racing.
With an illustrious list of previous winners that include former F1 World Champion Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Anthony Davidson – along with numerous other drivers who climbed to the top of the single-seater career ladder – it’s no wonder the Festival attracts young racers from all over the world including Australia and the USA.
And yet, despite the importance of the event, it doesn’t seem to grab the attention from the press that it once did. Gone are the days when the winner used to receive a massive amount of PR, as journalists were short of material as most other categories had already wound down by the middle of October.
Of course, this is no longer the case as the racing calendar is seemingly ever-expanding and other national events – such as this year’s BTCC finale – attract the attention of journalist and spectators alike, which was evident in the relatively small number of punters who trickled through the gates of Brands Hatch this year.
Those that did make the trip to Kent’s famous circuit were treated to an excellent days racing, as Malvern steamrollered the competition much like he has done all season.
He made light work of getting through to the blue riband Duratec Final. Beating Finland’s Antti Buri in Sunday’s curtain-raiser before putting on a masterful display in the second Semi Final by finishing 3.3 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
A fairly typical autumn evening began to draw in as the grand finale got under way – the 26-car field initially tip-toeing their way round as they struggled for grip in the chilly conditions. Inevitably there were a few early casualties in the form of Rogier de Wit, Matthew Merton and Darren Burke, who crashed out on lap three, resulting in a lengthy period under yellow flag conditions.
Malvern was able to stamp his authority on the race once it resumed after the trio of cars were removed from the exit of Paddock Hill Bend. The 22-year-old fended off advances from Dutchman Steijn Schothorst and Australian Nick McBride over the remaining eight laps to take a lights to flag victory by 0.427s, capping off what has been a superb season of racing for the series’ record breaking driver.
It was a brilliant swansong performance by Malvern for the Jamum Racing team, with whom he had already won the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Champion of Great Britain in dominant fashion.
“It couldn’t have gone any better for me,” said Malvern. “This was the one I wanted to win all year. It’s a great end to my Formula Ford season.”
His joyous mood was dampened, however, by the news from the USA of the death of Dan Wheldon. Like Malvern, Wheldon’s junior career was nutured in Formula Ford; he was Formula Ford Festival runner-up in 1998, finishing behind Jenson Button.
“I went to bed over the moon,” said Scott, “and woke up to the news about Dan. It’s very hard to take and a double blow coming so soon after the death of Martin Hines. They will both be missed by British motorsport.”
Malvern has worked hard to earn his success this year and is clearly one to watch as tries to realise his F1 ambitions.
Some may question the 104-point margin by which he clinched the British Formula Ford title, suggesting that his runaway success was due to a lack of competition from the rest of the field. But the figures speak for themselves: 18 victories from 24 races, and one important Festival win – you can’t take anything away from Malvern being good at his trade. If anything, it was up to his rivals to work harder to try and catch him, and they failed.
One hopes that he is now able to muster the necessary funds required to climb up the motorsport ladder and, as success (undoubtedly) comes his way, he begins to attract a deserving amount of recognition – something that tragically wasn’t always the case during Wheldon’s lifetime.