It should come as no surprise that Ashley England is currently fourth in the BriSCA F1 National Points table, having blazed a trial since joining the sport for his first full season.
A look at his CV says it all.
From the age of seven England began his racing career in karting. He was good – very good.
Third in both 2007 and 2008 in the Super One Honda Cadet National Championship, he raced for the Evolution Racing works team in 2010 in Rotax Mini Max, and was the best-placed British driver in the European Championship in Spain. He competed against and beat some big names, including Williams F1 driver Lance Stroll and George Russell, who is reserve driver for Force India.
It was in 2010, while he was in thick of his karting career, that the England family watched Gears And Tears on TV. England’s father, Alan Jnr, was a former BriSCA F1 star, who followed in the footsteps of his own father, Alan Snr.
Gears And Tears resurrected Alan England Jnr’s interest in the sport. Having retired from F1 in 2005, he took the family racing again.
Then at Birmingham’s Gala meeting in 2012, Alan Jnr noticed that Daz Kitson had an F2 for hire. “Dad asked if I wanted to have a go in it to see if I liked it or not,” England says.
He did. After his 16th birthday England had his first outing at Northampton and won the final.
He then went out to Holland that same year and finished fourth in the World Cup at Venray. Two years later his finished sixth in the European Championship at Northampton and then fifth in his first BriSCA F2 World Final at Cowdenbeath.
After three years in BriSCA F2 England stepped up into BriSCA F1 at the Gala meeting in 2015. In his first meeting he finished eighth in the Under 25s Championship to Danny Wainman, before improving with a sixth in his heat and fifth pace in the final.
I was half a lap ahead of Nigel Green and I don’t think he would have caught me in that amount of time
In 2016 he had a few more outings, including a fourth place in the final at Birmingham’s Shootout round and was in line for a victory in the final at the Gala meeting that year when in a healthy half-lap lead in the closing stages.
But then the yellow flags came out.
“I was gutted,” England says. “I was half a lap ahead of Nigel Green and I don’t think he would have caught me in that amount of time. But then after the yellow flags he went past and got away.”
Hiring cars from Derek Brown and Aaron Leach his best results last season came at Northampton’s World Championship qualifying round, when he won his first BriSCA F1 race in his heat, and then finished fourth to Green in the final, and was second in the Grand National.
He then won the Grand National at the World semi-final at Stoke in his first try on shale in the car of Robert Plant.
Having hired cars throughout his F1 career England is now the proud owner of Frankie Wainman Jnr’s British, European and World Cup-winning Tarmac car, which was bought after Christmas.
“I borrowed it for Gala night last year for the U25s race,” says England. “I had no-one else to ask because all the cars I had raced in before were all being used.
“I asked Frank if I could use his and so I hired it for the meeting. I thought it was a really good car.
“I then got offered it and because Dylan [Williams-Maynard] is not racing now, Gary Maynard offered his engine with Frank’s car. Frank was using that engine in his shale car at the end of last year.
In my second heat I was leading again but there was a parked car in turn one and I went straight into the back of it because I couldn’t see due of the rain
“It is a good car to have for my first full season.”
England went to Skegness on Good Friday for the first meeting with his new car.
“I hadn’t driven the car before that meeting and then it rained,” says England. “I led the first race, before Luke Davidson caught me up and passed me. In my second heat I was leading again but there was a parked car in turn one and I went straight into the back of it because I couldn’t see due of the rain.
“In the final I got second behind Kyle Gray, who drove really well. Towards the end of the race I started catching him a bit more because traffic was getting in his way, but it wasn’t enough.”
England added a second place in the Grand National.
The following weekend England went to Birmingham for his first experience in the car in dry conditions.
A final victory did not look on the cards until Mark Sargent dramatically slowed out of the last turn. With Sargent slowing virtually to a standstill do to mechanical problems, England saw his chance to win the race.
“When Sarge slowed when I came round that last corner I had a bit of a panic,” admits England. “I wondered where I should go, because I knew Lee Fairhurst and Dan Johnson were close behind me and I thought “if make a mistake here I could lose two positions”.
“But luckily I went up the inside and Mark didn’t go on to the infield or try to move out of everyone’s way. He sat in the middle of the track and I just got up the inside.
“Lee went for the outside but I still had it.”
The victory was in the bag.
Throughout my career in karting and in the F2s I always seemed good in the wet
The next day at Hednesford it rained again but England he still won his second successive final over the weekend. While his victory the night before was somewhat fortuitous, the win at Hednesford was anything but.
Even so, it could have turned out completely differently.
“Throughout my career in karting and in the F2s I always seemed good in the wet,” he says. “In the final Hednesford I didn’t get the most amazing start and I had a few blue tops behind me like Karl Hawkins and Stuart Shevill, but once everyone spread out a little bit I started getting on it and passing a few people.
“But I didn’t realise Joff Gibson was parked in the middle of turn one, and as I went in someone hit me and I lost the rear of the car and smashed my rear offside wheel on to his nerf rail and buckled the wheel badly.
“When the yellow flags came out and bunched the field back up I was, as it turned out, quite lucky.”
And so he was. With his rear wheel buckled track marshalls considered forcing England to pull off. And his father was also of the same opinion.
“I didn’t notice the buckled wheel that much,” says England. “My dad and my mechanics noticed it earlier on and they were going to come to the fence and tell me to pull off.
“Afterwards dad said he was was glad that he didn’t, because he couldn’t get to me in time before we set off in the race again.”
England got a good start and settled in behind leader Sargent.
“I was catching Mark but probably not enough to win,” he says. “But when we came up to the backmarkers a few started holding him up and he passed Joff Gibson, who then went back past him again.
“I just got up the inside of him and stayed there for the rest of the race. Luke Davidson started catching me towards the end. Sarge got back past him and tried a last-bender on me but just missed.”
After his double final victory England is now fourth in the National Points table and will start races from superstar from the next grading list. It doesn’t faze him. In fact, he can’t wait.
“I’m really happy,” he says. “I have been a Frankie Wainman Jnr fan for quite a few years from when I was younger. And now I will be starting back there with him and people like Stuart Smith and I’m really looking forward to it.
“And I’m in Frank’s old car.”
Ashley would like to give special thanks to his dad, mum, brother Charlie, sister Jamie, Jamie Ward, Matthew Lloyd, Steve Leach at Shaw Tyres, Gary Maynard, FWJ Racing, Mike Ashcroft at Boundary Garage, Firow Propshafts, Danny Wright, Tom Drabble and NFR for all their help and support.
Neil Randon 2018
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley and Paul Tully