SMRZ EXCELS IN BRITISH FORMULA FORD COMPETITION AS MEMBER OF TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP
American teenager finished fourth in the Formula Ford Festival and ninth in Walter Hayes Trophy
COEUR D'ALENE, IDAHO (November 3, 2009) -- American Brett Smrz took another step towards a successful career in motorsports over the past several weeks, racing a Formula Ford in England as part of the prestigious Team USA Scholarship. The 18 year-old showcased why many view him as an up-and-comer in the junior open-wheel ranks by finishing fourth at the historic Formula Ford Festival, as well capturing a Heat race win and finishing ninth at the renowned Walter Hayes Trophy.
Smrz, having been selected as one of two Team USA Scholarship drivers for 2009, commenced his inaugural English racing adventure by taking part in the world famous Formula Ford Festival at the Brands Hatch Circuit. Despite having never previously seen the demanding British road course, the 2008 Jim Russell Championship Series champion was immediately up to speed in testing and practice. Piloting the No. 21 Team USA/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray GRS08, the American continued the trend when the action officially got underway, starting and finishing second in his Heat race.
Race day at Brands Hatch proved to be an up-and-down affair for Smrz. The left-leg amputee -- the result of a freak trampoline accident in 2007 -- got a poor launch from the traditional standing start in his Semi-Final, losing several places, before a quick spin relegated him to ninth place. While battling to regain the lost positions, his race came to a premature end via an incident with another car. Fortunately, Smrz had one last opportunity to reach the Final via the Last Chance race. The Team USA driver, in what was a precursor to the Final, showed tremendous speed and race craft in the short race, working his way up to third place by the checkered, setting the fastest lap in the race en route to place in the Final.
When the lights went out at Brands Hatch for the Kent class Formula Ford Festival Final, Smrz immediately built on his previous result. The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, driver, making the most of an early-race full-course caution and every overtaking opportunity, rapidly worked his way forward from the rear of the field. Completing one or two passes virtually every lap, Smrz found himself among the lead pack during the closing stages of the race. In the end, the Team USA standout secured an impressive fourth place result, having started 27th.
After a brief one-week break, in which Smrz not only enjoyed some of the sights and sounds of England, but visited several leading race car manufacturer facilities, it was time to go racing via the Walter Hayes Trophy.
Going head-to-head against over 100 FF1600 drivers, Smrz quickly came to grips with the high-speed National Circuit layout at the famed Silverstone Circuit in England. The Team USA driver, having posted some very fast times in dry testing, displayed his ability to adapt to changing conditions, earning the pole position for his Heat Four race in wet conditions. When the eight-lap Heat race got underway later in the day, Smrz continued to impress, converting the P1 starting position into a win, earning a place in the Sunday Semi-Final.
While heavy rain greeted the drivers when they arrived at Silverstone on race day, the track was rapidly drying when lights went out for the Semi-Finals. Continuing to showcase the talents of a future champion, Smrz finished a strong third in his Semi-Final, despite a running a less than ideal full wet setup, placing him on the third row for the 15-lap Grand Final.
For Smrz, the plan early on in the Walter Hayes Trophy Grand Final was to hold station among the lead pack until his tires got up to ideal temperature, then attack for the win. Unfortunately those plans went out the window within the first lap, when contact with another car resulted in the Team USA/Cliff Dempsey Ray briefly getting airborne. While Smrz was able to continue without losing any real ground, his car was damaged. A bent rear wishbone resulted in Smrz battling severe understeer in all but the one left hand turn on the track. Unwilling to give-up on a top finish, the talented teenager met the challenge head on, eventually crossing the stripe in a hard fought ninth place.
"The whole entire Team USA Scholarship experience was absolutely fantastic," stated Smrz. "I have never had as much fun racing as I did these last couple of weeks. Being able to go over seas and race for America with a fellow racer (and an amazing team) couldn't have been more fun. The scholarship has changed my view on where I want my career to end up. I am setting my goals very high, and I want to make it to Formula 1.
"I want to thank the Team USA Scholarship for allowing me to have such an amazing opportunity to go over to Europe and race," added Smrz. "I wouldn't have been able to do it without Jeremy Shaw, and all of his supporters. Special thanks also go out to the entire Cliff Dempsey Racing team (Cliff Dempsey, Michelle Dempsey, Peter Dempsey, Frankie, Francie, Dave Hart, Dave Collier, Andrew, Bob, Scott Malvern, Cormac O'Neill and Josef Newgarden). I will never forget this experience."
Smrz, having returned to the USA, continues his pursuit of back-to-back Jim Russell Championship Series titles, with the season-finale doubleheader on November 14-15 at Infineon Raceway. Prior to the event, Smrz will continue his search for sponsorship and funding for the 2010 race campaign, with the goal of competing in the Star Mazda Championship.