After the jubilation of the opening meeting at Donington Park – from which he emerged as the joint leader of the 2005 UK Formula Ford Championship – Duncan came back to earth with a bump in rounds three and four at Oulton Park in Cheshire.
Fortunately, his early season form did not desert him, but his luck did, as through no fault of his own he failed to finish either race.
Testing at the demanding 2.75 mile circuit went very well, as Duncan and Round One winner Joe D’Agostino topped the time sheets. Come Qualifying on Saturday morning, Duncan was still showing good pace in his Jamun Racing Mygale SJ04, although he was pipped to pole position by D’Agostino and team-mate Charlie Donnelly.
Nevertheless, he earned the right to start both races from third position on the grid. “I was happy with that,” confirmed Duncan. “We looked at the data and were confident that we could find more time.”
Sure enough, relative to the drivers that qualified ahead of him, Duncan stepped up his pace for the opening round on Saturday afternoon. Despite that, D’Agostino and Donnelly ebbed away from him as Duncan became embroiled in a battle with Rob Sunderland (Mackie Motorsport SJ2000).
It was Sunderland that headed the pairing at the end of the first lap, but Duncan got him back on the next circuit. The lead changed hands again on lap three but a further three laps in, Duncan – who had never been more than a few tenths of a second adrift of his rival – was back into third one more. All of this within sight of the leading pair.
As the race headed towards its conclusion, Duncan held sway in third with Sunderland becoming increasingly keen to oust him from the position. Sadly, it ended in dismay for Duncan. “After Joe and Charlie had got a break, we never quite caught up, and Rob and I were battling over third,” he explained. “He tried a silly move at Knickerbrook and his front wheel touched my rear and pretty much ripped it off. Everyone who saw it said he used me as a brake!” Duncan’s race was over, D’Agostino beat Donnelly and Sunderland took third.
Matters were expected to improve in the second race of the weekend on Sunday afternoon, and for a time it appeared that they would do exactly that. On this occasion Duncan was able to shake off Sunderland with more ease and he clung to the coat tails of the duo who had finished one-two in the opening race.
But Joe gradually managed to ease away this time. “I had recollections of Donington Park (where Duncan and Charlie fought spectacularly, but allowed D’Agostino a comfortable win), but we had decided to work together,” said Duncan. “Unfortunately Charlie made one or two mistakes and Joe broke away.”
Having been forcibly removed from the Race One reckoning, Duncan’s second outing was ended by a mechanical failure after nine of the 12 laps. “A bolt sheared off the upright and the wheel came off,” he recalled ruefully. “It gradually worked its way loose – I thought that there was something wrong with the steering.”
Despite this freak occurrence and the disappointment of being manhandled out of Round Three, Duncan was able to take positives from the weekend. The gearbox problems that had stymied his chances of victory at Donington Park had been resolved – “Everything felt fine” – and despite his nil return from the weekend he felt he had once again marked himself down as a worthy victory contender. “I proved that I had the pace in both races – it was just unfortunate they ended the way they did.” he said.
Having hopefully got his bad luck out of his system early in the year, Duncan heads to Croft (North Yorkshire) for the next two rounds on May 7/8.
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