Team USA Scholarship drivers Scott Huffaker, from Menlo Park, Calif., and Josh Green, from Mount Kisco, N.Y., took the checkered flag in ninth and 10th positions at the conclusion of a closely fought AIMSHOP.com Formula Ford Festival Grand Final this afternoon on the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy Circuit.
The event was won by Cliff Dempsey Racing teammate Jonathan Browne, who completed a perfect weekend by taking pole position, winning both his Heat Race and Semi-Final, then leading throughout the 20-lap final in his Ray GR19. Two-time Festival champion Niall Murray (Team Dolan Van Diemen) finished second.
Weather conditions this morning could hardly have been more different from yesterday with the steady rain replaced by cool, crisp temperatures and a picture-perfect bright blue sky.
The two Team USA drivers started from the third (Green) and 10th (Huffaker) places on the grid for the second of two Semi Final races. An eventful first lap saw Green lose a couple of positions and Huffaker gain three, with the Californian then finding his way past Luke Cooper’s Swift SC16 on Lap 2 for sixth before the red flags flew following a multi-car incident at the foot of Paddock Hill Bend.
With less than two full laps in the books, the race was restarted from the original grid positions. Green initially held onto third before slipping behind both Rory Smith (B-M Racing Medina) and Peter Dempsey (Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray), while Huffaker again was soon on the move forward.
An incident between Dempsey and Smith at the Druids hairpin resulted in Green losing momentum but proved beneficial for Huffaker, who vaulted to fifth place ahead of Green as the Safety Car was scrambled to allow several cars to be removed from the racing surface. Neither Team USA driver made a particularly good restart but they finished strongly in fifth and sixth, hot on the heels of Dempsey, who was later disqualified for his part in the earlier incident with Smith. Murray won the race by less than a second from teammate Chris Middlehurst and Cooper.
“The semi was good,” said Huffaker. “I was starting 10th because of not the best performance in the heat, so I knew I had to make up some positions. I made a good start, the first one in the dry, and was aggressive. By the end of the first lap I was in sixth and then there was a red flag. That put everyone back to their original grid positions and I was back in 10th and then they shortened the race so I was a bit upset about that because now I had to do all the same work in a shorter amount of time. I was able to get up to fifth and then Peter [Dempsey] had a penalty that put me to fourth, which put us in a good position for the final.”
Huffaker lined up eighth for the Grand Final, with Green in 12th after being penalized one position for an infraction during the Safety Car interlude.
Following an early Safety Car period after one of the two Team Canada cars broke on the starting grid, Browne took off into the lead ahead of Murray, Matt Cowley (Team Dolan Van Diemen) and Middlehurst. The top two positions remained unchanged throughout the 20-lap race with Browne eventually winning by 2.687 seconds. Middlehurst overtook Cowley for third on Lap 7 before Cowley reasserted himself to be chased home by Michael Eastwell (Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum), Joey Foster (Don Hardman Racing Firman) and BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600 Champion Ross Martin (Team Dolan Van Diemen).
Huffaker lost out to Foster in the early stages before settling into ninth, with Green battling his way past several rivals into 10th by Lap 8. The two red-white-and-blue cars ran in relative isolation for a few laps before Huffaker began to close on the battle for fifth between Foster, Cooper, Martin and Middlehurst. Huffaker executed a nice pass on Middlehurst under braking for Druids on Lap 16, only for Middlehurst to grab the place back one lap later. They eventually finished just 0.012-second apart, with Green some way back in 10th.
“I think today went well,” said Huffaker. “I made positions up in the Semi and in the Final. I did make a few mistakes but the car was great. I just wasn’t able to break into the top five. I was in a battle with a group of cars for sixth place overall. I was up into eighth and made a mistake and fell back and the race was just a little too short with the safety car. Overall the Festival experience has been great. I have enjoyed every minute of being here and the track is awesome. There was some really competitive racing and now the (Walter) Hayes is next and I look forward to that.”
“The Semi wasn’t the best but I got set back from an incident I had to avoid, and from the struggle I learned a lot,” added Green. “The Final was tons of fun picking up a few positions and finishing in the top 10. The racing over here is very different and really enjoyable, so I really can’t wait for the Hayes Trophy. Again a massive thank you to Cliff Dempsey Racing for the great cars and the Team USA Scholarship for the opportunity to be here.”
Huffaker and Green will begin testing on Wednesday at Silverstone in preparation for next weekend’s Walter Hayes Trophy.