Duncan got his 2005 UK Formula Ford campaign off to a superb start at Donington Park, leaving the Derbyshire venue sharing the joint lead of the championship with his team-mate Charlie Donnelly. Victory sadly eluded him but two second-place finishes have given him a tremendous platform for the rest of the ten-event season.
The weekend of success was set up by an awesome display in Saturday morning’s 25-minute qualifying session, in which Duncan secured pole position for each of the weekend’s two races in only his fourth ever Formula Ford race meeting. He had excelled in testing in the run up to the opening round, with the exception of the final test before the event when tyre problems caused minor disappointment – but that just made pole position that little bit sweeter!
Unfortunately Duncan couldn’t capitalise on his excellent starting position in the first race as he approached the first corner, Redgate, on a rather wide line and rumbled over the kerbs on the exit to the turn, allowing Joe D’Agostino through. “That was my mistake – I just went in too hot” he admitted, the exhilaration of starting the race from the front of the grid perhaps having got to him.
A second rival, Rob Sunderland, briefly shot through but Duncan quickly retaliated with a blinding pass at Schwantz Curve that elevated him back up to second place. Then fellow Jamun team mate Charlie Donnelly – a man with considerably more experience of the class than Duncan – became his main opponent, passing him into Redgate at the start of lap seven.
However, Duncan didn’t give up and treated the crowds to a tremendous display as he tried to regain second place as D’Agostino, meanwhile, cleared off into the distance. It was with the help of Norweigan driver Thor-Christian Ebbesvik that Duncan was able to wrest the position back, the Scandinavian briefly taking second place at the chicane on lap 14.
That distracted Donnelly, and the trio ran three abreast into Redgate at the start of the following lap with Duncan crucially holding the outside line for the corner to secure second place. His team-mate reclaimed third position but D’Agostino had become a dominant winner as the rest slowed each other up with their fighting.
Only afterwards did the magnitude of Duncan’s performance become clear, when he told of the mechanical problems that had dogged his race. “From the half way mark I definitely had a problem with the gear linkage and I had to take Coppice and the chicane in third gear in the end. That was losing me at least a second per lap.
“It was gradually getting worse and in the first few laps it didn’t do it at all. If we can sort that we will be alright”. He added “If someone had asked me at the end of last year if I would be happy with second in the first round of the championship I would have said ‘definitely’. It is only because qualifying went so well that we had our hopes up for the win.”
With pole position for Sunday’s race as well, he had the opportunity to go one better in the second event. Unfortunately the gear selection problems recurred and that posed a major problem for Duncan, who lost two places in the opening two laps into the chicane as he tried to find an appropriate gear.
First D’Agostino and then Donnelly sailed by on the approach to the corner, but this time D’Agostino would not run off with the victory. Instead, he spun off the circuit at the Old Hairpin and rejoined last, and although he made good progress back up the order, contact with another competitor eliminated him from contention.
That left the way clear for Donnelly and Duncan to fight it out for the lead. The ‘Red Arrows’ as they were dubbed by the commentators, traded places several times in the opening laps before Duncan, in second, came under greater threat from Sunderland. For the second time in the weekend Duncan momentarily fell behind the other Mygale driver, but for a second time he quickly recovered the place in the chicane.
While those two had been battling, Donnelly had been able to make a small break, but over the final four laps Duncan was able to reel him in, reducing the margin from 1.8s to 0.2s by the fall of the chequered flag. For a brief time on the final lap, it looked as if he might have been able to steal victory – sadly it wasn’t to be. Had there been a few more laps it might have been a different story.
With the combination of his two second place finishes and pole position double, Duncan netted 56 points from the meeting – an identical total to Charlie. So although he didn’t get the win, Duncan was still happy with the weekend and in particular the efforts of the team to get his car running so well.
“I’m not complaining – it is a really good result for Jamun” said Duncan. “I want to say thanks to my engineer, James Mundy and to the two mechanics Ollie and Tom. They’ve done a really good job.”
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