Josh and I started the Formula Ford Festival week on Wednesday with the first practice day at Brands Hatch. This would turn out to be the only time to get practice in the dry before the race. We had four sessions in the dry and showed good pace. The Cliff Dempsey Racing team has an abundance of data at Brands from all the years of entering the Festival so we knew the setup. We worked with our teammate Jonathan Browne, plus Cliff’s son, Peter, who has a huge amount of experience in these cars, and the two Team Canada Scholarship drivers, Zach Vanier and Jonathan Woolridge, to help us get up to speed as fast as possible.
Thursday and Friday were run to a similar four-session schedule but it was raining most of the time. I was able to get a good feeling for the car in wet conditions and dry conditions which allowed us to be the most prepared for the Festival.
Saturday we had qualifying in the dry. I was in the same qualifying session as Peter so we were able to work together to qualify in the top five. Moving into the heat I got a good start for my first ever FF1600 standing start to jump from fifth to third off the line, but I struggled in the weather and finished seventh. This was the heaviest rain that I drove in all week which caught me by surprise. I was disappointed with the result but kept my head up looking forward to the Semi-Final.
Sunday was the big day, I had the Semi and the Final. I started the Semi from 10th so I knew I had some work to do. I got a good start getting into sixth on the first lap and was making a move for fifth when the race was red-flagged. The race was then restarted from the original starting positions and was cut by three laps, which was extremely frustrating. Still, I rushed to eighth at the second start on the first lap and eventually found myself in a battle for fourth with my teammate Peter. I finished in fifth but due to a penalty for Peter I got promoted to fourth.
I lost a position in the Final at the start, then the race immediately went into Safety Car mode. I made a mistake on the restart that dropped me back from the front pack, and I spent the entire race closing the gap. With a few laps to go I caught the back of the car in eighth but wasn’t able to make up any positions.
Overall it was a great experience, and even though I am disappointed with the result, I want to say a big thank-you to everyone on the Cliff Dempsey Racing team for all the hard work that went into this, and to everyone who helped made the Team USA Scholarship possible. Also big congratulations to our teammate Jonathan for winning the Festival with a dominant drive.
Monday we spent the morning at the McLaren factory just outside London! This had been a dream of mine since I started racing. We started the tour looking at some of the most iconic McLarens ever made. A personal favorite was the 1995 McLaren F1 GTR. Everything was magnificent. We got to see the mission control for where the decisions are made for the F1 team during the race weekends, the assembly line for where the street cars are made, and the racing department where they work on all of their race cars.
One thing I found most interesting was their struggle with geese! There is a helicopter pad that gets swarmed by geese so they “employed” a hawk to try and scare them away but it didn’t work, so instead they got a dog named Clive. Clive is one of the cutest dogs that just runs around the McLaren factory scaring the geese! The visit was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, fulfilling a bucket-list item for me ever since I was a kid.
We’re off to Silverstone next for the Walter Hayes Trophy so will update you from there. Thanks for reading,