Max Esterson: Ready to go at Brands Hatch

Max Esterson: Ready to go at Brands Hatch

Team USA Scholarship

Max Esterson: Ready to go at Brands Hatch

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It’s been over six months since I packed my bags and moved to Brackley, England — home of Mercedes AMG F1 and located about 10 minutes from Silverstone — to tackle a season of Formula Ford racing. It’s hard to believe it’s already been over half a year, but at the same time, I could’ve never imagined learning so much in that period of time on and off the track.

When sitting on the grid waiting for a race to start at the beginning of the year, an unexpected rain shower was probably one of my biggest fears; however, I now welcome it as an exciting challenge. I was also a bit frantic at the start of the season and my eyes were wide open. I was fast but made a few mistakes that I probably could’ve avoided making had I looked more at the bigger picture, but that’s exactly why I came to England: to learn how to race.

Before moving to England, I don’t think I had ever been away from my family at home for more than a couple of days. From cooking for myself most days to figuring out how to deal with my car breaking down in central London, I feel that I’m much better prepared for life than when I left the US. I couldn’t be happier with my choice to race in England. It would be nearly impossible to spend close to 70 days in a race car in six months anywhere else or in any other category besides Formula Ford. That, combined with the technical circuits, challenging cars, and the UK’s passion for motorsport is why I think BRSCC Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship was the perfect choice for me, and I hope to see more young American drivers racing in the series in the future.

More recently, the last two weeks have been super busy since we left the final round of the Formula Ford championship at Snetterton. As part of Team USA, Andre Castro and I had an incredible visit to Haas F1, where we met with Mick Schumacher’s engineer and also had a video call with team manager Guenther Steiner. It was awesome to see what it’s like behind the scenes of a Formula 1 team. We have some more visits to high-level motorsport teams planned for the coming days which should be fantastic!

I also spent a day coaching my Team USA teammate back at Snetterton, passing on to Andre what I know about driving the Low Dempsey Racing Ray Formula Ford. Andre and I then had a full test day together at Donington as final run before the Festival. Adding to the fun, I’ve also had a day on a sim preparing for a post-season test in an F3 car.

 

Looking ahead, I’m so excited for the upcoming weekend’s 50th Anniversary BRSCC Formula Ford Festival. The Formula Ford Ford Festival is generally viewed as one of the most competitive events in any junior racing category. Within the Formula Ford paddock, the Festival is seen like the Indy 500 or the Monaco GP; winning the Festival is arguably more important than winning the championship. This year being the 50th Anniversary makes the event even more of a special occasion.

While the original Festival was first held for three years at Snetterton starting in 1972, it moved to Brands Hatch in 1975 where it has remained on the furiously tight confines of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit where 50-second laps fly by with action at every corner. One of the characteristics that everyone says makes Formula Ford so great is the tradition of both young, aggressive up-and-coming drivers cutting their teeth racing against a field of past-champion veteran competitors. Typically this leads to the action-packed environment the class is known for, and for this weekend the regular front runners are being joined by a host of Formula 1, IndyCar and Le Mans veterans, most with a history of having run the Festival in their day and many having been past Festival winners. Andre and I will be joined at Low Dempsey Racing by 1992 FF Festival winner, former F1 and IndyCar driver, and four-time Le Mans winner Jan Magnussen and his nephew, 2010 FF Festival winner and 2021 British GT champion, Dennis Lind. It is going to be great to learn from these two world-class drivers, but hopefully I’m able to keep them behind me!

Brands Hatch is a magical place for me as it was the first track I came to in England at the end of last year. The dramatic elevation changes along with its history make it a great place to race a Formula Ford, but the short nature of the circuit makes every hundredth of a second count and its tight confines punish any misstep. Last year, despite being a wide-eyed rookie, I qualified second for my heat race, ran my first, second and third ever rain races and finished sixth in the Grand Final. We’ve had a good setup at Brands Hatch all year and run well — having qualified on the front row in the August National event. Our pace has been good in the dry and even maybe a bit better in the wet, so my hopes are that I can avoid trouble and put myself in a position to fight for the win on Sunday.

The format this year includes testing on Thursday and Friday leading to a series of four heat races, two semi-finals, and ultimately the Grand Final. Live timing for the weekend can be found on tsl-timing.com along with a live broadcast on the BRSCC’s YouTube channel.

Thanks to the Team USA Scholarship and all its supporters for providing this amazing experience. It’s been an awesome month so far and hopefully the best is yet to come!
-Max

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