Professional race preparation and management

Reports > Walter Hayes Trophy, Silverstone 2017

Fisher takes 2nd at the WHT

The annual Walter Hayes Trophy meeting was held at Silverstone on November 4/5 2017 and the WPR team were back, hoping to improve on Josh Fisher's third place the previous year. Josh was entered in the Castle Combe Championship winning Richard Hudson-Evans Van Diemen RF99/JL14 (the newer Van Diemen DP08/JL17 was also on hand but remained unused over the week-end). The team had also entered Josh Barnett (son of successful engine builder Neil) in the Hudson Evans Reynard FF89 and although he had to withdraw he is looking forward to competing in the 2018 Castle Combe championship in the car.

Ray Smith was back in his ex Vincenzo Sospiri Van Diemen RF88 and was joined by regular, Steve Bracegirdle (Van Diemen RF89) and Doug MacDonald in the teams's Van Diemen RF88. Doug hails from Cape Town where hed has raced Formula Vee and more recently Shelby Can-Am. Over in the UK on business this was to be Doug's first time at Silverstone and in a Formula Ford. The team had also entered, Steve Bracegirdle's Mini Cooper in the Closed Wheels scratch race but an engine failure in practice led to the car non starting.

Saturday qualifying and heats were generally damp, only improving later in the day. Ray and Doug were in Heat 2 and Ray was comfortable in the damp conditions qualifying an excellent 12th with Doug, familiarising himself with track, car and conditions, qualifying further back. It was still damp for Heat 2 and Ray held his starting position to finish 12th (and qualify for the Last Chance race) while Doug made up a couple of places and was looking forward to the Last Chance race on Sunday morning.

Josh was joined by Steve in Heat 6 with both drivers going well. Josh qualified second for a front row start while Steve, really happy with the way the car was handling following a comprehensive set up, was 14th on the grid.

By the time the Heat began the track was considerably drier than for the previous heats but misfortune befell Steve as he lined up on the grid. The car ahead of him had spun on the warm up lap and was unable to take up its grid slot. A start line marshal instructed Steve to move up but, realising the mistake, instructed him to reverse back. His, normally meticulous, start line procedure interrupted, Steve was struggling to get from reverse to first as the lights went out, got too much wheelspin, got tagged and slammed into the pit wall! Out on the spot, Steve was ready to pack the whole thing in but the team got the car back and began repairing it for the following day just in case.....

Steve's misfortune actually benefited Josh as an average start saw his drop to third on the opening lap. However, a red flag brought about a re-start and Josh made no mistakes this time, taking the lead on the opening lap and holding it to the finish. As the fastest Heat this would mean that Josh would start his Semi on pole.

Sunday turned out to be fine and sunny but rather cold. Overnight Steve had decided to continue and the team were busy repairing his substantially damaged Van Diemen for the Progression race. Things were looking promising but as the car was wheeled out onto the pit apron and a problem was notice in the steering so he was unable to make the start. Doug had a mid grid position for the Progression race and made a great start completing the first lap in tenth place. He fell back a little to finish twelth,just outside the qualifiers to move on to the Last Chance race but a good result nonetheless. However, being unfamiliar with the Silverstone layout, Doug missed the chequered flag and kept racing as a car in front slowed. In the ensuing accident Doug's Van Diemen crashed into the pit wall removing two corners, damaging a radiator and tweaking the chassis. An unfortunate end to an enjoyable week-end for the South Africa, who was discharged from the medical centre without injury.

The Last Chance race saw a full grid of 36 cars with Ray starting half way up in 17th place but a little concerned that his dry track pace wouldn't be able to match his wet track one. And so it turned out unfortunately. After a great start, getting up to 14th on Lap one the huge pack gradually reeled Ray in and he slowly dropped down the field to finish 22nd tantalisingly close to a Semi Final place.

Steve finally made it out for the Pre 94 consolation joining the grid right at the back but had a very encouraging race, working his way up to 14th place just behind Ray who finished 11th.

So to Semi Final 1 and Josh made a super start, pulling out an immediate gap and breaking the tow so that by Lap 5 he had an unassailable lead. A red flag finished his hopes of an easy win and despite taking the lead at the re-start was unable to break away. But by clever use of the yellows Josh was able to hang on to take the win by 0.03s! This result meant a front row start for the Final and Josh duly led but couldn't pull away as a three car group (including Moyers & Foster) formed at the head of the field. These three traded places with Josh occasionally dropping to third but an audacious move around the outside at Brooklands on the penultimate lap saw him take the lead (and fastest lap) which should have surely sealed the victory. However, coming up Wellington straight for the last time Moyers was just ahead as they approached Brooklands where yellow flags were out and Josh was unable to re-take the lead having to second for second. At least this was one place better than 2016 so who knows for 2018?