Having spent the opening months of 2017 focused on his state exams, Mullingar man Jordan Dempsey burst back onto the Formula Ford trail in Kirkistown just days after sitting his final exam. Having been out of his Van Diemen RF00 for several months, many felt it was going to take Dempsey some extra time to get back up to speed, given the competitive nature of both the British National Championship and Northern Ireland championship that he was planning to enter that weekend.
As he has done on so many occasions in the past, Dempsey defied the odds stacked against him. In his first qualifying session in several months up against some tough opposition, he put his Team MCP Van Diemen on the front row for the first of three British Championship races of the weekend. From there, the 17-year-old finished runner-up in race one, before contact on the opening lap of the second race left him on the side-lines and with a big recovery job coming from the back in race three. Maximising his track time, Dempsey also entered the two Northern Irish Championship races, which have been split by mere hundredths of a second so far this season between regulars Niall Murray, Kevin O’Hara and James Roe. Now it was Dempsey’s turn to muscle in on the act and the youngster looked set to secure his first Formula Ford race win of the year in the last race of the weekend. After arguably one of the best Formula Ford races in recent years, he was denied the chance in a robust last corner move from behind that left him unrewarded from what had been a sensational return to the hot seat overall.
Keen to prove his pace wasn’t just a flash in the pan on home soil, Dempsey’s programme was extended to a further two weekends, with Donington Park next on the calendar. Having previously visited the Derby circuit as part of the British Championship in 2016, this time around the action would take place on the full Grand Prix circuit, providing a fresh challenge for most of the field. Jordan was also set to face a new challenge in the form of a new team for the weekend. With his father’s Team MCP committed to customers at Mondello Park, Dempsey joined up with front running outfit BM Racing. From the word go in qualifying, it seemed as if he had struck gold, securing pole position in qualifying by almost half a second ahead of his nearest rival. Eager now to convert his advantage into a debut win, Dempsey dominated the race, leading all but two laps, when cruelly on the second last lap a freak upright failure sent him flying off the circuit at Craners and into retirement. Now starting from the back, the youngster wasn’t going to give in on his weekend just yet. Climbing a staggering 23 positions in three and a half laps, the race was eventually cut short with a red flag with Jordan currently sitting ninth on the road.
Further drama would follow, when a post-race penalty was applied, Dempsey was promoted to eighth, which crucially afforded him a pole position start for the final race of the weekend compliments of the reverse grid procedure. Keen to make amends for missing out on a win in race one, Dempsey hit trouble from the start when he was knocked down the order to tenth on the opening lap. Once again, he charged his way back up and taking the chequered flag, his efforts were rewarded with a third place finish to the weekend.
Clearly having lost none of his speed and if anything getting even faster, Dempsey could smell his first victory and was keen to take a firm grip on it. Castle Combe in the South of England was next on the championship trail just a week later and would present a new challenge for the Mullingar driver. Learning the circuit for the first time during Friday’s testing, Jordan, now back with the family team, Team MCP, worked hard throughout the day to refine their setup to suit the unique circuit. In the end, it wasn’t until the very last session that they found the sweet spot, vaulting them almost half a second clear of their nearest rivals on the day. Testing is one thing, carrying the pace into qualifying is another, but Jordan once again left many reeling in his wake, clearing the field by over two tenths of a second to start race one from pole for the second weekend in succession.
Aiming to make amends for what could have been in Donington, Dempsey shot off the line in what would be a very short race one – red flagged after just three laps. Despite having trailed Luke Williams early on, Jordan took the lead coming into Quarry on the second lap which ensured he would again start from pole for the restart. When the race was eventually restarted, Jordan successfully pulled off a repeat performance to lead once more. Despite the close attentions of Williams and local favourite Michael Moyers, Dempsey maintained a level of composure at the head of the field far beyond his years of experience to take his first National Championship Formula Ford 1600 victory.
Starting the second race of the weekend again from pole position on Sunday, Jordan now had the winning feeling and was ready for more. Unable to repeat his race one getaway, Dempsey slipped to second, but by the end of the opening lap was already plotting a move to retake the lead. However just a lap later he would be robbed of the chance to battle it out for the win when the race was red flagged and declared a result after just three racing laps. Furthermore, due to delays during the event, the third and final race of the weekend was also postponed to a future event.
Jordan Dempsey – #49 Team MCP Van Diemen RF00:
“It was a quite satisfactory comeback from the start qualifying on the front row for the first race in Kirkistown and getting a second place finish in my first race of the year. Donington was even more satisfactory pace wise, clinching pole by almost half a second only to be robbed of a dominant win in the race due to a rare component failure. Race two was good fun, gaining 23 places in three and a half laps. Race three was annoying when we were knocked off on lap one and dropped to tenth but still fought back to third, scrounging a result in the end. But Castle Combe, that was just amazing. We struggled in testing right up until the last test session when a setup tweak meant we found half a second and were comfortably quickest, which translated into yet another pole position! The race was tricky because it was so short and one mistake could be crucial, but I managed to take it home for my first National win – making me a very happy bunny! Race two was good but annoying that we only got three laps due to a red flag. I made a poor start and dropped to second before I starting to plot a move for the lead only to be cut very short! I was looking forward to race three but it was cancelled. Overall we couldn’t have wished for a better weekend, I just need to work on my starts and we’ll be capable of winning regularly! Thanks to Dad [Morgan Dempsey Jnr] and Dean [Rigney] for a brilliant car and engine and to BM Racing for their help in Donington! Now it’s onto Kirkistown in two weeks time!”