Some things are constant, even in motorsport, and thus if it is the first weekend in November it must be the Walter Hayes Trophy. The thirteenth running of this now established contest saw victory go to Scott Malvern (Kevin Mills Racing) but not before some truly stunning racing was done by all and sundry, and it’s fair to say he was assisted in his run to victory by a tendency among the very strong field to unexpectedly self-destruct. Second place at the end of two days of entertaining competition went to Oliver White, who just held off Kevin O’Hara all the way to the finish line.
The popularity of the event seems to grow from year to year with old hands like Joey Foster and the Fisher brothers (Felix and Josh) showing up every time. They were joined by what seemed to be everyone in Ireland who has access to a Formula Ford, including Peter Dempsey who was taking a weekend out from chasing a drive for 2014 to have fun.
There were as ever some unexpected names too, the most surprising being Vincenzo Sospiri, the Italian stepping back into one of these cars after a quarter of a century and apparently having a fine old time. He should have been joined by Soheil Ayari driving “Black Beauty”, the increasingly fragile Van Diemen RF78 owned by the indefatigable James Beckett, the man who organises the whole meeting. Sadly, Ayari had managed to double book himself and was required at Paul Ricard, so Michael Vergers, another stalwart of this event, found himself unexpectedly with a drive.
As usual, Team USA also sent over a pair of youngsters, in this instance Joey Bickers and Jake Eidson. They were in at Cliff Dempsey Racing, and would be looking to emulate last year’s winner, Tristan Nunez. Saturday saw them getting their first taste of the competition, as they competed in the heats, six races of eight laps each that would see the first nine drivers go straight through to one of Sunday’s semi-finals. Everyone else would get a second (or even third) chance in the progression race on Sunday morning. Six drivers from there would go into the last chance race and battle for a place in the semi finals. From the semi finals, the top 18 drivers get to battle it out in Sunday afternoon’s Grand Final.
Saturday started overcast and in fact foggy, but it had lifted by the time Heat 1 got underway. Bickers was right up there in the thick of the action, but on lap four it all fell apart for the young American. A brush with another car in the close fought pack saw him clip the wall and end up stranded in the middle of the track while the rest of the mob streamed past on either side. The race was red-flagged but not before he’d endured what he described as a pretty scary moment or two. The race was eventually restarted over four laps and White proved the dominant force though he was hard pressed all the way to the flag by another of Cliff Dempsey’s boys, Chris Middlehurst. The Historic category went to Richard Tarling, another driver tempted out of retirement by this event (and who now owns the Van Diemen RF80 he was racing). In the end, Ian Gough came in 3rd.
Heat 2 was a very tough proposition for Eidson, the youngster qualifying on pole and finding he had Peter Dempsey alongside him! He didn’t let it faze him, but as the two of them tussled for the lead Malvern leapfrogged into the lead and drove off into the distance. That let Eidson to contend with some very seasoned opposition with not just Peter but Morgan Dempsey, Graham Carroll, Ivor McCullough and Robert Barrable giving him an object lesson in how to race these nifty little machines. He hung on for 2nd, but didn’t get a moment’s peace, McCullough coming in 3rd having edged out Dempsey (P). Sospiri was a very happy 9th and while Matthew Wood won the historic class, Nick Gethin (son of the late Peter, winner of one of the closest F1 races in history) was 2nd in the category.
Things calmed a little in Heat 3 with Wayne Boyd powering off the line and vanishing into the distance much as Malvern had in the previous heat. Behind him, and unable to keep up with him, Michael Moyers fought it out with Scott Moakes, Abdul Ahmed and Jonathan Hoad. It was debatable whether it would have made any difference had they not been so occupied scrapping among themselves. The speed Boyd was showing suggested they would not have been able to live with him. As it turned out, it was academic anyway as post-race scrutineering showed that Boyd’s car was not strictly legal, the nose containing some lead ballast that should not have been there. The team had not known it was there, and disqualifying him for something that disadvantaged him seemed harsh. Victory was handed to Moyers, from Ahmed, Hoad and Moakes, while Boyd was relegated to Sunday’s Progression race. The Historic category went to Mark Draghicescu from Oregon.
Heat 4 was all about Stephen Daly and Kevin O'Hara, the latter here on a one off deal from the Irish Sports Council and run by former racer Bernard Dolan. In the pack, fighting for 3rd were regulars Noel Dunne and Ben Norton, as well as Roger Orgee who was having quite a scrap with James Cole (another returned racer) before he got the better of the ex-Formua 3 driver. Cole would later get tangled up with David McCullough in the closing stages of the race, the battle only going in Cole’s favour when McCullough managed to run very wide indeed. Simon Jackson won the Historic category.
The result of Heat 5 wasn’t too surprising. Despite only starting 2nd it didn’t take Porsche specialist Nick Tandy to get ahead of Niall Murray, leaving him to deal with Ben Mitchell and Johnny McMullan, the pressure easing slightly when Adam Quartermaine crashed out on the first lap. Tandy wasn’t able to drive away as he might have liked, but he never really looked threatened either and it was Mitchell who finished 2nd having left Murray well behind as he tried to get on terms with Tandy. McMullan was 4th while the best placed historic car was in the hands of Dan Fox.
As in previous years it was starting to get very dark as the field lined up for the last of six heats. This was a very strong heat with three times winner Joey Foster on pole, and both Michael Vergers and Josh Fisher on the 3rd row of the grid. Foster was unchallenged almost from the start. David McArthur eventually claimed 2nd, making up for a grid penalty at the start, from Luke Cooper, despite the latter’s vociferous supporters. He certainly wasn’t able to stop Foster getting away. In the pack Scott Hargrove was 4th, from Josh Fisher. 9th after a spin was Michael Vergers, winning the Historic category but losing out on a top six place.
The progression race provided the usual clutch of recovery drives as those who had not had the Saturday they could have hoped for took the opportunity to move back into contention. Most impressive of the unlucky was Wayne Boyd, who started 25th but was seven places further up by the end of lap one. However, he would have to wait his chance a little longer as the race was promptly red-flagged after a selection of incidents. By the time the mess was cleaned up, we’d lost Steve Chapman, Wayne Poole, Don Boyack, Tom Stoten and Steve Hare. At the restart Boyd was again on the move immediately. It took him less than two laps to claim the lead and start to pull away, winning by over 12 seconds. Emmet Glynn was another who had a lot of work to do, coming in 2nd ahead of Quartermaine and Bickers, who put in a steady performance, not taking too many risks and biding his time when necessary. Tom McArthur and Klaus Dieter-Hackel were the final two to make it through to the Last Chance Race, in each case overtaking a lot of other cars to do it.
Last Chance Race
There was a feeling of déjà vu about this race with Boyd again going off like a rocket to make up places at the start. This time he had overhauled most of the pack before it all went wrong. A clash with another car saw him side-lined and yet another red flag was needed. As well as Boyd, Adrian Hamilton, Neil McArthur and Phil Waldron were all out of the race. That made it a slightly easier for Adam Higgins, who came home comfortably ahead of the battling trio of Higgins, Chris Hodgen and Autosport’s Ben Anderson. Bickers kept his hopes alive by battling his way to 12th, while Hackel was 13th and Glynn also made it through by finishing 16th.
Semi Final 1
This was anyone’s race. Tandy made a good start, but Malvern was faster, getting ahead by the time they reached Copse. In the pack Vergers had encountered a problem when Richard Higgins turned left on him in a right hand bend, wiping out the Dutchman there and then. He wasn’t impressed, it’s fair to say. Eidson was challenging for the lead initially, but then he got entangled with Foster and Tandy, the latter suffering brake problems. Tandy’s lack of stopping power led to him collecting Cooper as the list of retirements began to grow exponentially. Tandy limped on, but was unable to finish the race. He wasn’t the only one in trouble. Peter Dempsey was going backwards, while Morgan Dempsey was driving a very drafty car that now had a massive hole in the nose. Malvern came home three second clear of Eidson and Foster, with McCullough in 4th from Mitchell, Josh Fisher, Murray, Carroll, Scott Hargrove, and David McArthur.
Semi Final 2
Yet again we had cars off all over the place and a red-flag, this time apparently because there was oil on the track. White had got away into the lead but was being chased by O’Hare, The exit – in various directions – of Tom McArthur, Felix Fisher, Gough, Glynn, Ahmed), Luke Williams and David McCullough had reduced the grid drastically, and the clean up took some time. Luckily it was a fine, dry – if very cold and windy – day so waiting around for the restart was not too painful for anyone. At the restart O’Hara had the measure of White and edged ahead, though he couldn’t shake his opponent off, no matter what he tried. Ben Norton would finish 3rd though he couldn’t quite get on terms with the leading pair. 4th was Moyers, from Ashley Crossey, Middlehurst, Doug Crosbie, Noel Robinson, Roger Orgee, and Bickers, who had again fought his way up through the pack as he tried to make up for his heat.
Sadly for the watching crowd Malvern was early into the lead of the final, though O’Hara did his best to challenge for the lead. He couldn’t quite manage to stop the more experienced racer, and that was the victory pretty much sewn up even when the race had to be red-flagged after Ben Norton shoved Foster off into the Copse gravel and the track started to look like a car park. With Murray, Carroll, Robinson, Crosbie and Morgan Dempsey also hors de combat the clean up took some time and only Foster was able to rejoin, the nose and side of his car held together with copious amounts of race tape.
At the restart Malvern again drove away from O’Hara, leaving him to fight for 2nd with Eidson, who was giving him a lot of trouble. Middlehurst was also joining in and the cars were frequently three abreast into the Luffield complex to the vast entertainment of the packed BRDC grandstand. It wasn’t long before the threesome became a foursome, as White got in on the act as well, and then Mitchell was in there too. It was all getting very unseemly (and a lot of fun).
Just to add more interest back in the pack Foster was hacking his way through from the back like a man trimming weeds. It was brutally effective and while a win was no longer on the cards for everyone’s favourite racer, he might just manage a podium if he could maintain this sort of momentum.
The battle raged on for 2nd, which let Malvern motor away into the distance. A late lunge from Eidson as he tried to claim the place led to the youngster running very wide, spinning wildly and just managing to catch it before he hit anything. It was an impressive save, but it still cost him places and meant that Foster was promoted to 5th which quickly became 4th when he barged past Middlehurst who had also dropped back.
Foster now thought he might just be able to make it into 3rd and he kept on pushing as the laps ticked down to the chequered flag. He looked like he was going to run out of time but he wasn’t about to stop trying nonetheless. And so it proved. Malvern came home the winner, a long way ahead of White, and O’Hara, while Foster was mere seconds behind in 4th when the flag fell. 5th went to Josh Fisher, from Middlehurst, Eidson, Barrable, Mitchell and Crossey. Peter Dempsey ended up 12th while Canada’s Scott Hargrove was 16th and Bickers came home in a creditable 26th on his first shot at this meeting.
The fastest lap of the race was set by Malvern.