Here we are in Silverstone for the final race of the year, the Walter Hayes Trophy. It’s been a hectic week, which has become quite normal; Monday and Tuesday were spent soaking in our Festival success and taking in new experiences, while from Wednesday through Friday we have been pounding laps around Silverstone Circuit.
Of course, it has been incredible to receive such an outpouring of support online for our double podium finish at the Formula Ford Festival last Sunday. I still have to pinch myself to realize I finished P3 in the biggest FF1600 race in the world (above, with team owner Andy Low, and below, at Paddock Hill Bend) in only my second start in the category — five years after my first Team USA involvement as a finalist. I’m very proud of our team and they deserve every bit of praise they’ve received; I’m also hoping this result will be a boost going forward for myself, Max, the Team USA Scholarship, and everyone at Low Dempsey Racing.
As for the week’s activities, Max and I headed off to Multimatic on Monday, where Rob Taylor showed us around their Thetford facilities. We were shown a plethora of dampers, inerters and different projects throughout their massive campus. The geometric intricacies in all of their components were impressive to witness, and I was shocked to hear that the Canadian company is represented in almost 50 percent of automobiles worldwide. Max and I also experienced our first ever rides in a Tesla, courtesy of Rob!
On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to jump into a GB3 Championship car for the first time thanks to Douglas Motorsport (above). Max and I logged about 25 laps each around the Bedford Autodrome, and by the last few laps, I was feeling much more comfortable in the high speed corners and under braking. What a thrill it was to use all that downforce in the final section of the track, two fifth-gear corners at over 100 mph! The relatively short running left me itching for more, and I hope to be able to strap back in to a GB3 machine at some point in the future.
We then moved on to Silverstone for more Formula Ford testing, and we’ve logged easily a couple of hundred laps around the National circuit since Wednesday. We’ve had mostly dry conditions, with a bit of damp running on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday we were among the top three quickest in the field, whereas on Friday I struggled a little bit with consistency and my shifting, although we were still among the top group. It was a bit of a rocky day for myself personally, but after looking at the data with driver coach James Theodore and speaking in depth with team owner Andy Low, I believe we stand a good chance to qualify at the front tomorrow. I’m hoping this will give us a good starting position for my heat, which can carry us forward with good momentum through the semifinal and the final on Sunday.
Once again there is a huge entry, with over 100 cars split up among four heat races initially. You can keep up all weekend with live timing at tsl-timing.com, along with commentary.
In the weeks leading up to the Hayes, there has been a hidden saga that has played out, and only reached its conclusion earlier today. Our specially made Team USA Scholarship suits, made possible by Billy Deakins and everyone at Sparco USA, were unfortunately held up by FedEx in Birmingham. We were unable to reach anyone or get the suits cleared from customs for days, until late this week we reached a breakthrough; the package was finally released, and we obtained it the night before qualifying for the Walter Hayes! It’s a small victory for the team, and I’m excited to debut the suit tomorrow and give it a great run in the races.
It hasn’t quite hit me that this will be my last race of the season with Low Dempsey Racing and the Team USA Scholarship, but I’m as determined as ever to go out on a high and repeat our Festival success.
– Andre Castro