The new BriSCA F1 season begins next Sunday at Belle Vue with the first of two World Championship Qualifying Wild Card rounds.
With two double-points rounds featured in the opening two meetings of the season, it gives drivers a very early bonus leading up to the two World semi-finals later in the summer.
To guarantee a healthy points haul in March drivers have to compete in both Wild Card rounds at Belle Vue and King’s Lynn the following Saturday on March 24.
Car numbers are likely to increase for these two meetings, with names such as National Points champion Stuart Smith Jnr, British title holder Frankie Wainman Jnr and Dan Johnson – making his first appearance in an F1 stock car since the World Final at Ipswich in September – the headline acts.
However, in among the big names of the sport, there are a number of fresher faces entering the fray this year, hoping to make a name for themselves in 2018.
Phoebe Wainman, while not a new name to the sport, is going to race BriSCA F1 on a full-time basis in 2018. She adds to the list of Wainmans regularly racing in BriSCA F1, alongside her illustrious father Wainman Jnr, as well as brother Frankie Jr and uncle Danny.
Phoebe Wainman made her introduction to BriSCA F1 in 2015 at the Gala meeting at Birmingham, in her father’s car, and then came out again at the final Coventry meeting for her first try being on shale in November 2016.
While some may have found the transition daunting, Wainman thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“I absolutely loved it,” Wainman says. It is a lot different going from the Minis into an F1 than it is from the V8. Obviously, I had a bit more experience than those who came straight from the Minis. It is a lot harder than a V8 and quite different but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so much fun.”
Phoebe made her name in V8 Hotstox, winning the British Championship in 2016 at Skegness, to become the first female driver to win a major short-oval title. It was also the the night her father won the F1 version of the British, to make it a night to remember for the Wainman family.
The 22-year-old also had a handful of outings in BriSCA F1 last year, including at Skegness at the Shootout round last October, when she finished an excellent second in her heat behind Aaron Leach, and ahead of the likes of Bradley Harrison, Ryan Harrison and Luke Davidson.
That day she used the car of her boyfriend Karl Hawkins, who she competed against in Hotstox, but in 2018 Wainman will be racing the former car of Neil Smith, a car that was bought during the winter. Wainman will race the car on both shale and Tarmac.
“It is going to be a dual-service car,” says Wainman. “I definitely prefer shale. It is so much more fun, there’s more carnage! If you get hit, you get hit. You know what you are going into!
Wainman has key objectives in 2018, and one is to qualify for a World semi-final. “I really want to qualify for a semi-final this year,” she says. “I am going to do all the qualifiers.
“I would also like to make it up to blue, because obviously I have been a star grade but that was only because I was a superstar in V8s when I did the Gala meeting. But I would like to actually like to earn my grade.”
And Wainman would also like to try and get the better of boyfriend Hawkins, who will also be racing wheel-to-wheel each weekend. “We raced against each in V8s, but we weren’t a couple then,” she says. “He use to take me out in races all the time .
“I don’t know whether he will start doing the same in F1? If he does, I’ll make him fix all the damage!”
Another female racer coming into the fray in 2018 is Catherine Harris. Catherine is the sister of Tom Harris and is the reigning Ministox British Champion, a race she won at Sheffield last June.
Now having turn 16 years old Catherine is racing in V8 Hotstox for a full season this season, but she will be having the occasional outing in F1, driving the former car of Paul Ford, which also happens to be the first car her brother built himself.
‘I’m racing V8s at the same time as making a few appearances in F1 on Tarmac,” Harris says. “But it is more likely to be towards the second half of the season.
“Because the V8 don’t race at as many meetings as the F1s, we will try to make a few outings in the F1 as well the V8, so hopefully we should out a few times.
“The car is owned by PRG Utilities and they will let us use it this year.”
Harris has a chance to try out the car in a practice session at Birmingham Wheels recently. “The car was a amazing,” Harris says, although she had been out in the same car a few years earlier.
“I actually had a go in the car when Tom had it when he was world champion,” she explains. “I was only 12 and I really enjoyed it.”
The plan is to get a Tarmac V8 eventually because it is quite hard in the adult formulas to go from one surface to the other, but I will definitely be racing on both surfaces.
Harris will start as a novice at the back of the grid for he first outing. “My aim is to get through the grades as much as possible,” she says.
Harris is still at school, studying for her GSCEs now, with exams in May and finish in June. She will then go to college in September to study animal welfare for three years. “The plan is to hopefully go down the vet route after that,” she explains.
Another new name hoping to make a name for themselves in Finn Sargent, son of BriSCA F1 driver Mark Sargent.
Sargent turned 16 earlier this month and makes his debut in BriSCA F1 at the Good Friday meeting at Skegness. It also is an important date for Finn’s father Mark, who also celebrates 25 years as a BriSCA driver this season.
“My dad started at Skegness in BriSCA F2s and I also started at Skegness in Ministox,” Sargent explains. “So that is the main reason for making my debut in BriSCA F1 on that night.”
Prior to his debut Sargent raced in Ministox for six years, and finished third in the points standings in 2017. “Last year was my best season in Ministox,” Sargent says. “We had a big more luck that in previous seasons.”
The F1 car he will race in 2018 is a hybrid of a number of other cars, including the Stuart Finnikin space frame car from over a decade ago,. Billy Tom O’Connor put chassis rails under it in 2007 and the last time it raced was as part of Mat Newson team of hire cars in 2014.
“Paul Redfern did a couple of meetings in it back then,’ says Sargent. “We bought it as an entire car from Mat and went testing. Since then I wanted to change a few things and it turned into a massive rebuild!”
Prior to an interview at Silverstone going testing again before his first outing, where he will start off the back of the grid.
After Skegness, Sargent will take a break from stock car racing to focus on the more important priority – his education.
After taking his finals GCSEs the plan is for Sargent to be picked up up from school on Friday, June 15 and make his way to Cowdenbeath for the Scottish weekend. He hopes to race at all the Tarmac meetings in the second half of the season. “I will go off the back at Cowdenbeath as well, so I don’t get followed in,” Sargent says. “The car is quite shiny, so I don’t really want to scratch it!”
“I think I will also be racing at Texel in one of Mat Newson’s hire cars or dad’s old Tarmac car,” he says. “And then maybe a King’s Lynn.”
Then in the autumn Sargent hopes to be installed at the motorsport college at Silverstone. He has his interview at Silverstone this week prior to a day’s F1 stock car testing.
“I hope to do the race technician course at Silverstone,” Sargent says. “You learn how to work on circuit cars. At weekends you go away on touring cars on different teams and become a part of the circuit racing outfit.
“It would be a great to get into. I imagine travelling the world is a fun thing to do!”
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley, Phoebe Wainman, Melanie Freeman and Finn Sargent
Neil Randon 2018