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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Esterson wins Silverstone Walter Hayes Trophy for Team USA Scholarship

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Max Esterson produced a main class to claim victory in the 21st annual Walter Hayes Grand Final today at Silverstone. 19-year-old Esterson, of New York, NY, swept the weekend in his Low Dempsey Racing Ray GR18, winning his hot race yesterday and continuing his rich action this morning into the semi-finals. He started first in the 15-lap Grand Final and dominated the race from the front, despite heavy pressure from a host of competitors.

Esterson’s performance capped a massive few weeks which included a runner-up last weekend at the 50th Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. Having finished close to Esterson in third one week ago, teammate Andre Castro, 22, also of New York, NY, ran out of luck in the cold conditions today and had to retire from Ray GR14 early in the Grand Final.

Last year’s winner, Oliver White (Medina JL17) finished the race in Esterson’s heels, trailing by less than a quarter of a second. He was followed by Ben Mitchell (Van Diemen JL16) and 2021 Avon Tires British Formula Ford Champion Chris Middlehurst (Van Diemen LA10), who lost two places on the last lap after leading the Esterson chase for most of the way.

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Esterson became the fourth Team USA Scholarship driver to receive the highest honors in the Walter Hayes Trophy, following on the wheel tracks of Conor Daly (2008), Connor De Phillippi (2009) and Tristan Nunez (2012).

The first two semi-finals of 12 laps this morning saw Esterson take pole position after winning Heat 1 yesterday. Round two winner Chris Middlehurst (Van Diemen) lined up side by side. The pair had an exciting battle in the first half of the race, with Matt Cowley (Van Diemen), Joey Foster (Ferman) and Lucas Romanek (Van Diemen) also in contention, along with Thomas Mills (Spectrum) taking a quick lead after she started 13.

An incident on lap 5 between Mills, Cowley and Foster left Mills as the only survivor in the first set, while it was still Esterson ahead who maintained a poor lead over Middlehurst. Mills and Romanic crossed the line in third and fourth, although Mills later received a time penalty after contact with Cowley which relegated him to 12th.

“I got a good start off the line and took the lead at Copse,” Esterson said. “We made a little gap after Matt Cowley and Joey Foster got tangled up, but Tom Mills quickly realized that. I lost the lead to Middlehurst in the Pickets, but got it back out at the Brooklands a few laps later. I had some breathing space with two laps to go and just sewed down the straight Trying to break the drag. I couldn’t leave the set behind but I managed to defend really well on the last lap to take the win. It’s nice to start first in the Grand Final, although I’ll definitely have my hands full!”

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Shortly thereafter, Castro lined up 13th in his semi-finals. An inadvertent push by an opponent in Pickets’ turn on the second lap dropped him off the standings, but Castro (left) fought back admirably to finish seventh and secure a starting position in the top half of the field for the Grand Slam. last.

Match two of the semi-finals were won by two-time Walter Hayes Award winner Michael Moyers (Spectrum), with Mitchell and a pair of Medinas led by Rory Smith and White.

“It was an eventful semi-final for me,” Castro said. “I got a few places on the first lap, but on the next lap I hit the right rear which sent me up in the air and off the track. I was lucky to keep going, as I had to come back from outside the top 20 to P7 at the end of the 12 laps. We know we have the pace for the final, so we’re looking forward to moving forward.”

After a long delay following a protest lodged on Mills’ behalf – and with shadows quickly lengthening and dusk quickly approaching – the contestants finally took their positions in the grid for the Grand Final with Esterson and Moyers on the front row.

Esterson stopped Moyers’ attention on the opening lap (below) and quickly started to drift away a bit as Silverstone’s favorite fought to keep a massive train of cars, led by Smith, behind him.

The Team USA driver’s lead grew to 1.4 seconds after five laps, helped by Moyers and Smith converging in his mirrors, but once he finished second, Middlehurst gradually began to fall back on deficit. Esterson’s lead was reduced to almost nothing with five laps remaining, but despite losing his advantage briefly on the last lap at the exit from Copse Corner, he took it back in the long run towards Brooklands and retained a famous win (below).

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Walter Hayes Cup Winners! Easterson shouted. “What a team and a group of fans behind me. The car was just on the rails. It was a really perfect weekend: first, hot win, half win, and drove all 15 laps to the final. It wasn’t easy though. I carried the lead around the part The outside of the first corner and I threaded the strait to try to break the drag. I actually got a 1.5sec lead at one point after Rory Smith and Michael Moyers got tangled up. Although there was a gap, I knew it was inevitable that the herd behind would catch up again; the slipstream Very strong at Silverstone.

“Chris Middlehurst was right on my gearbox with three laps left and I had to be super defensive against Cobbs, Pickets and Brooklands. On the last lap Chris almost got a full lead into the Pickets but I was able to stop later and stay in front. It was a drag race along Wellington Street but luckily for me Chris lost a gear that made my life a little easier; however, last year’s winner Ole White wasn’t far behind and tried to get around the Brooklands.

“Thank you to Low Dempsey Racing, Ray Race Cars, iRacing, Max Papis Innovations, and of course Jeremy Shaw, Team USA Scholarship, and all her supporters. Winning the Walter Hayes Cup means the world to me, especially after being so close to festival week The past. It’s been nine years since an American won it, so hopefully this is the start of another successful career!”

Naturally, Castro was disappointed after his early exit, due to a mechanical failure possibly due to some variable difficulties, but he was happy to see his teammate win.

“I didn’t want to end my tenure here in British Formula Ford,” Castro said. “After recovering from the knockout to last place in the semi-finals, I had a good start to the final, until the car slowed down on lap 2. Last week at Brands Hatch we had some luck on our part, but this week it simply wasn’t there. Congratulations to Max on his win. The wonderful – honestly this could not have happened to a better man.”

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