In 1990, Jimmy Vasser became the first to represent the Team USA Scholarship when he was invited to contest the famed Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in England. Today, 27 years later, Aaron Jeansonne, 19, from Sulphur, La., and Jonathan Kotyk, 23, from Atlantic Beach, Fla., will become the latest in a long line of talented young American racers at an early stage in their career to carry the patriotic red-white-and-blue colors in what has become acknowledged as one of the world’s most prestigious junior formula car events. They will seek to emulate Josef Newgarden in 2008 by becoming only the second American to take home the victory spoils.
Jeansonne (at left, above) and Kotyk (right) already have been in England for more than 10 days in preparation for their overseas car racing debuts. They gained their first experience of Cliff Dempsey Racing’s Ray Formula Ford cars in a shakedown a week ago Tuesday at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground not far from the team’s base in Corby, Northamptonshire, then headed to test sessions at Donington Park in Leicestershire and Oulton Park in Cheshire, followed by three full days of testing this week at the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent.
The action will commence today with the field of over 70 cars split into three heat races, the grids for which will be set by individual qualifying sessions commencing at 10:20 a.m. local time, followed by the 15-lap heat races starting at 3:15 p.m. The top 14 finishers from each heat will qualifying directly for the pair of Semi Final races on Sunday morning. The Formula Ford Festival Grand Final is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
“I feel pretty good going into tomorrow,” said Jeansonne, whose career began only this year in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series. “I’ve just been focusing on trying to get as good a lap as I can in testing to prepare for qualifying and we’ll see where that takes us for the heats. I don’t really want to look too far ahead of that right now.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot done in a relatively small amount of time. It’s definitely made me feel more confident. The cars are mega-fun to drive. I like the H-pattern shifting and how the cars reward aggression. The track’s pretty cool, too. There’s actually a lot to it considering how small it is, and that kind of caught me off guard so I’m just trying to learn the track as well as I can.”
“I feel like our testing has gone really well,” added Kotyk, who finished second in this year’s F1600 Formula F Championship Series in his first season in cars following an impressive karting career which included time spent alongside last year’s Team USA Scholarship winners Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood at the Ocala Gran Prix team.”I feel quite well prepared. I’m really impressed with Cliff’s team. They are very professional and bring a lot of knowledge to the table, and the competition here is definitely the toughest I’ve ever gone up against. It’s been a really good learning experience and an opportunity for me to put my skills to the test and learn a lot more to bring back to the States.”
Veteran team owner and former driver Cliff Dempsey (pictured, top) has been impressed with his two charges: “Obviously it’s hard for them to come in after everybody else has been racing here all year. Trying to get them up to speed in five or six days is difficult but we’re making good progress. Both boys have had an absolutely brilliant attitude, I have to say. Absolutely no problems in that area whatsoever. As you know, I’m pretty hard on them and I see things they can do better but they seem to like it and that’s the way I am and I ain’t changing it. I’m here to try to win, like they are, and that’s always been the case.”
Results, including live timing, can be found at http://tsl-timing.com/event/174233.