On form, Cantabrian James Penrose will head into the opening round of the 2021 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship as odds-on favourite to take the title. In fact, barring a mechanical or a rare driving mistake, Penrose will be very difficult to beat.
Penrose heads into Saturday’s first of three rounds, at Hampton Downs, race fit. He’s competed in all five 2020/21 South Island Formula 1600 Championship rounds, qualifying on pole in each and having won all 15-races so far this season.
If there was a point of weakness, one could argue that he could be lacking some real, wheel-to-wheel racing. That’s because he has led every lap in the South Island series this season. Yet, that has been his strategy. Get pole, gap the field, treat every lap as a qualifying one and stay out of trouble. In other words, control what you can.
Let’s not forget that this is on top of his fast and reliable Van Diemen Stealth. Penrose, along with his father Tom, have several years’ experience in the category. They intimately know the car, the circuits and what it takes to win. They have experienced the lows, retired from races, crashed and had their share of mechanicals. From this, they now know how to win.
Penrose is just one of two returning drivers from last seasons competition, finishing third overall in the title fight. The other is Blake Evans, who competed in three of the five rounds that made up the 2019/20 championship which was cut-short by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Two other South Island drivers will head North for the first two rounds. Zac Christensen (Ray GR20) sits third overall on the South Island series points table. He hasn’t found a way past Penrose this season and the two North Island circuits will be new to him as well.
Jacob Douglas (Van Diemen RF91) is in his rookie single seater season. The kartsport champion has competed in three of the South Island rounds this season, never far from a top five finish. He also heads north to circuits he hasn’t raced on and will be keen to embrace the challenge.
Also, in the field are a number of rookies who are currently competing in the 2020/21 North Island Formula Ford Series. Matthew McCutchen (Van Diemen Stealth) who currently leads the series will be joined by Kyan Davis, Flynn Mulley (Spectrum) and Aston Addy (Ray).
Penrose and his team are seasoned Formula Ford campaigners. They know what to do, they have both tasted success and competed at the national level before. More importantly, mentally they are strong, calm and won’t let the occasion get the better of them. The fight for the rest of the field may well be for second and third.
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