Team USA Scholarship drivers Jackson Lee and Bryce Aron were faced with some changeable conditions on the opening day of the 49th Formula Ford Festival & World Cup at Brands Hatch, but both came through with flying colors. Lee, 18, from Avon, Ind., finished a solid third in his Heat race, while Aron had to be content with fourth in what turned out to be by far the most competitive of the three 15-lap contests which will set the starting order for tomorrow’s pair of Semi Final rounds.
Fellow American Max Esterson also finished third in his Heat race aboard another Low Dempsey Racing Ray.
The top 14 finishers from each Semi Final race will progress through to the 20-lap Grand Final on Sunday afternoon.
Qualifying this morning was held in dry conditions. Aron was out first for Heat One, during which he posted the third-quickest time behind last year’s Walter Hayes Trophy winner Jordan Dempsey (KMR Spectrum) and veteran Formula Ford ace Chris Middlehurst (Van Diemen LA10).
But the fickle English fall weather lived up its billing as a heavy rain shower left the 1.2079-mile Indy circuit soaking wet by the time the Heat races rolled around.
Dempsey, Middlehurst, Aron and Rory Smith (Medina JL18) were involved in a thrilling battle during the early stages before Smith, moving up impressively from fourth on the grid, edged away to take the victory over Dempsey and Middlehurst, with Aron taking fourth after posting the fastest lap.
“Great first day of racing here for the Formula Ford Festival,” said Aron. “The day started off dry in qualifying and ended in some torrential rain for the heat races. I managed to finish fourth in my race after some great battles with very experienced drivers in Jordan Dempsey, Chris Middlehurst and Rory Smith. I also managed to grab the fastest lap in the tricky conditions which made the result a bit sweeter as well. Overall a very good day and we will be looking for more tomorrow.”
Lee lined up fourth on the grid for his Heat race behind Low Dempsey Racing teammate and reigning Formula Festival champion Jonathan Browne, FF veteran (and former FRP F1600 Championship Series winner) Matt Cowley (Van Diemen JL15) and Horatio Fitz-Simon (KMR Spectrum). As expected, Browne romped to a clear victory over Cowley, and while Lee lost some ground on the opening lap, he quickly made his way back, overtaking Fitz-Simon on Lap 5 with a strong move around the outside under braking for the notorious Paddock Hill Bend and remaining in third place for the duration.
“Another great day at Brands Hatch,” concluded Lee. “I was able to put all of the past week’s testing to good use. Thanks to the hard work of Low Dempsey Racing, I was very comfortable and I was able to put myself in a good position for tomorrow’s Semi Final.
“My lack of rain experience showed on the start where I got too much wheel spin and dropped back to P6. The conditions continued to get worse, but I put my head down and worked my way onto the podium. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s races! I’ve had the most fun and learned a lot this entire experience and I’m excited for the rest of the races.”
The starting order for tomorrow’s Semi Final races, which will begin at 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. local time, will not be posted until the morning. Please note that the clocks in England will go back one hour overnight. Live timing for the event is available at https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/204331. Live streaming will be at https://en-gb.facebook.com/BRSCCFF1600/ and the British Racing & Sports Car Club’s YouTube channel.