Team USA Scholarship drivers Max Esterson and Andre Castro initially mirrored last weekend’s result on the opening day of the Formula Ford Festival by claiming a win and a third-place finish as the equally prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy event kicked off today at the Silverstone National circuit. Unfortunately, Castro later was assessed five-second penalty for exceeding track limits, so was eventually classified seventh.
The two young New Yorkers made full use of a fruitful few days of testing with their pair of patriotically liveried Low Dempsey Racing Ray chassis and are expected to be in contention for honors on Finals day tomorrow.
Another strong entry of over 100 Formula Ford cars was split into four Heat eight-lap races which will determine the starting positions for a pair of 12-lap Semi Finals tomorrow morning. Impressively, no fewer than 23 different chassis manufacturers are represented on the entry list.
Esterson, 19, was drawn in Heat 1 and immediately laid down a marker this morning by posting the fastest lap in qualifying to assure himself of the pole position starting slot. Esterson exchanged the lead several times with Englishman Matt Cowley (Van Diemen), a former FRP F1600 champion in the U.S. and now an accomplished contender in the British GT Championship, during a thrilling encounter before taking the checkered flag just 0.015sahead of his rival.
“I had another strong start to the weekend today after taking pole on the last lap of a very greasy qualifying session,” said Esterson. “I controlled the last lap from the lead but lost traction exiting Luffield on some oil that was dropped yesterday and nearly got beat to the line. Great start, two more to go tomorrow.”
An hour or so later, Castro, 22, lined up fourth on the grid for Heat 3. He lost a position on the opening lap but, as at Brands Hatch one week ago, more than made up the lost ground as the race progressed. Castro finished the race in third to ensure a good starting position for the next round of competition on Sunday morning. The race was won by former two-time Walter Hayes Trophy winner Michael Moyers (Spectrum), with 2020 winner Oliver White (Medina) a close second.
“We had good speed today, qualifying fourth in my heat and battling through to finish third on the road,” said Castro. “Unfortunately, I was given a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits, which knocked me back down to seventh. This was due to going wide at Copse Corner too many times, and it was my mistake to be using too much of the green curb, as I was pushing hard to try and catch the top two.
“Although we start the Semi Final on the seventh row tomorrow, I’ve learned from my mistake, and the good news is we have the speed to make up positions. Thanks as always to Low Dempsey Racing and my head mechanic Josh Bowman for giving me an excellent car to fight with; I hope to reward them with a run up through the field tomorrow.”
The remaining Heat races were won by 2021 Avon Tyres British Formula Ford Championship winner Chris Middlehurst (Van Diemen) and perennial Silverstone front-runner Josh Fisher (Van Diemen).
Live timing, as well as expert commentary from Ian Titchmarsh, for all the action tomorrow will be available at https://livetiming.tsl-timing.com/214456. The first Semi Final race is slated to start at 11:00 a.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) and the Grand Final for 3:15 p.m., although race meetings in the UK often run ahead of schedule. Clocks in the U.S. will turn back one hour overnight, so the five-hour time difference between Silverstone and the U.S. East Coast will be restored.