The end result was disappointing but Jake Craig and Colin Mullan can hold their heads high after a strong performance during this weekend’s Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford extravaganza at Silverstone. Mullan eventually finished 12th in the 36-car Grand Final, while Craig, after challenging for the lead of his semifinal, retired on the opening lap after being collected by two spinning rivals at Brooklands corner.
The two Californians were the latest to fly the Team USA Scholarship colors and are looking to follow in the footsteps of a long line of youngsters who have progressed to the top echelons of the sport dating back to the first two winners, Jimmy Vasser and Bryan Herta, in 1990 and 1991.
Their results from yesterday’s Heat races saw them progress into the second of two 12-lap semifinal races this morning. After starting fourth on a damp track, Craig moved up one place on the opening lap before falling to sixth when he slid wide at Brooklands while challenging the two leaders next time around. Craig regrouped and charged back to second by lap 9. He then whittled a deficit of two seconds to race leader Julian Van der Watt’s Spectrum to just a few car lengths as they began the last lap. Craig briefly nosed alongside his rival on the long Wellington Straight, only for the South African to fight back, resulting in a spin for Craig, who eventually crossed the finish line 11th.
“I had great pace,” reflected Craig. “On lap one I had a lock-up that caused me to lose some spots but I drove my way back up to second by the last lap. I was catching the leader extremely fast, so I went for a move on the last lap and I unfortunately had a spin. I’ve got a lot of work to do in the final but I’m not giving up. Anything is still possible.”
Mullan also made good progress in the tricky conditions, rising from 14th to ninth before tangling with Josh Fisher at Becketts. He resumed to finish right behind Craig, posting the second-fastest lap of the race on his final lap.
“The conditions were constantly changing and we had to adapt our driving style every lap,” said Mullan. “Unfortunately, while I was battling for ninth, I got pushed over to the outside curb, locking up and spinning Fisher who was right in front of me at the time. I went off track but was able to continue. I finished 12th, but I know we have the ability to take more positions in the final.”
The pair duly lined up an unrepresentative 21st (Craig) and 23rd (Mullan) for the Grand Final, which again was held on a damp and slippery track. Both immediately began to move forward, with Craig making up a half-dozen positions on the opening lap before Brooklands corner once again proved his undoing.
“Unfortunately, a car got hit and spun on the inside of me and clipped my left-rear destroying the left side of my car,” he related. “I’m extremely disappointed but I had great pace all weekend and I can’t thank Cliff Dempsey Racing enough for providing me with such a competitive car.”
Mullan, who had followed Craig around the outside of Copse Corner and also made up several positions, narrowly and thankfully avoided the carnage to emerge in 17th. Mullan continued to make up ground after a brief Safety Car interruption to finish just outside the top 10.
“My final at the Walter Hayes went fairly well,” he summarized. “I started 23rd and was able to finish 12th. I got a good start and followed Jake through around the outside. Unfortunately, when Roger Orgee spun, Jake was in a bad position and got collected. I kept my head down, making a few more passes and staying out of trouble. In the end, I wish I could’ve challenged for a bit more positions but I’m happy with the result.”
Local driver Michael Moyers (Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum) claimed his second successive Walter Hayes Trophy title, holding off a determined challenge from northerner Matthew Cowley (Team Dolan Van Diemen), who won the 2016 F1600 Championship Series in North America, and Irishman Jordan Dempsey in a second KMR Spectrum.
“I’m overall so happy with this entire trip,” said Craig. “I’ve learned so much from racecraft to car setup, it’s been tremendous. “I’m looking forward to applying everything I learned to my future. I can’t thank Cliff and Michelle Dempsey enough for being so great on this entire trip. I would also like to thank Jeremy Shaw and all the Team USA supporters for making this possible.”
“The Team USA Scholarship has been such an incredible experience overall,” added Mullan. “From racing a MINI all year, and with minimal Formula Ford experience, I’ve just been absorbing every bit of information I can. I’ve learned so much as a driver through the racecraft over this trip, it’s really amazing. As a bonus, being able to tour so many professional race teams like McLaren and Mercedes F1 was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ll never forget my time with Team USA, and owe a huge thanks to everyone who made this program possible.”