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Surprise win for van der Merwe

South African Alan van der Merwe took a surprise but well-deserved victory in a wet Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch today (Sunday). The third win out of the last four Festivals for the Mygale chassis was also van der Merwe's first win of the year, despite him being a pre-season favourite for the British FFord Zetec championship.

Van der Merwe and his Haywood Racing team mate Ronnie Bremer both out-dragged the pole-sitting works Van Diemen of Richard Goransson at the start and drove off into a race of their own. Bremer initially led the Haywood battle, but van der Merwe cut through to take a lead that he would not lose with a bold move down the inside of Bremer at Graham Hill Bend on the third lap. He is the first South African to win the event.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," van der Merwe said. "This has been a hard year. We had a lot of bad luck at the beginning, which didn't help, but the team has done a good job to turn things round. The conditions were tough ­ there were streams across the track and it was very greasy at Paddock Hill Bend ­ but it was the same for everyone. Ronnie was pushing me hard and every lap I had to be cautious but push. This is a good end to the year."

One surprise omission from the Festival final was event favourite Patrick Long. The American took a controversial win in the first semi-final, run in atrociously wet conditions, but was disqualified from the event for his collision with FFord Zetec title rival and race leader Robert Dahlgren on the run down from Druids on the penultimate lap.

Dahlgren had moved into the lead from third place on the grid by beating Long and works Van Diemen team mate Robin Rudholm at the restart for two race stoppages. Ironically, Long's move to take the overall race spoils was unnecessary, as he had already won the race on aggregate thanks to the two red flags which forced organisers to run the semi-final as a two-part race.

Goransson, who had taken a comfortable win in the second semi-final, was edged out of third place in the Festival final by Sweeney-Hopper Racing Van Diemen driver Adam Carroll. Graf Racing's Dutch ace Stefan de Groot and works Van Diemen driver Robin Rudholm rounded out the top six.

Formula Ford Festival ­ final results (20 Laps)
Pos Driver Team Chassis, Time/Gap
1
Alan van der Merwe (Haywood Racing ­ Mygale SJ001) 18m12.290s
2 Ronnie Bremer (Haywood Racing ­ Mygale SJ001) + 2.871s
3 Adam Carroll (Sweeney Hopper Racing ­ Van Diemen RF01) + 4.184s
4 Richard Goransson (Works Van Diemen RF01) + 5.531s
5 Stefan de Groot (Graf Racing ­ Mygale SJ001) + 8.091s
6 Robin Rudholm (Works Van Diemen RF01) +10.494s
7 Gary Turkington (Works Van Diemen RF01) + 10.813s
8 Steven Colbert (Mackie Motorsport ­ Mygale SJ001) + 17.627s
9 Westley Barber (Haywood Racing ­ Mygale SJ001) + 23.269s
10 Mark Marchant (Works Jamun T25) + 26.654s
Fastest lap: van der Merwe 54.100s (81.59mph)
Conditions: Wet

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