Team USA Drivers Set the Pace in Testing at Brands Hatch, Set for Qualifying Brands Hatch, England (October 16, 2008) -- Expectations are high for Team USA Scholarship drivers Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden as they go into tomorrow's official ...
Team USA Drivers Set the Pace in Testing at Brands Hatch, Set for Qualifying
Brands Hatch, England (October 16, 2008) -- Expectations are high for Team USA Scholarship drivers Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden as they go into tomorrow's official qualifying sessions for the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
The two patriotically liveried Ray GRS06/7 cars, prepared by Irish-based Cliff Dempsey Racing, have been at or very near the top of the testing charts during the past three days. The number of competitors has gradually increased as the week of testing has progressed, and both drivers are in a confident frame of mind as they head into their first-ever international event.
Unofficially, Newgarden has posted the fastest time of the week thus far at 50.7 seconds around the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch "Indy" circuit, with Daly and several others merely a tenth of a second or so slower.
Brands Hatch has hosted the Formula Ford Festival each year since 1976 -- when, coincidentally, Conor's father, Derek, won the event.
The Formula Ford Festival has spawned the careers of many top-line drivers over the years, including current IndyCar star Danica Patrick and Formula 1 standouts David Coulthard, Jenson Button and Mark Webber. Other well-known names to have developed their talents in Formula Ford include Emerson Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser.
Tomorrow (Friday) will see Daly and Newgarden in action for only 15 minutes apiece, but the pressure will be on as they prepare to set their grid positions for a pair of 15-lap qualifying heat races to be held on Saturday. The Team USA drivers have been placed in separate heat races. The top 12 drivers from each heat race will then progress into a pair of semi-final races on Sunday morning. The same process will determine the grid positions for the 25-lap Final on Sunday.
"I feel our third test day with Cliff Dempsey Racing went really well, and that not only ourselves but the team has been making steady progress," said Newgarden, 17, from Hendersonville, Tenn. "Throughout the entire day, Conor and I remained the guys to watch, despite all the red flags and heavy traffic. Today's four 25-minute sessions provided us with more than ample time to fine-tune our dry track condition setups.
"Tomorrow will be a short but critical day, as Conor and I will have one 15-minute session to set our grid position for Saturday's heat races. The team's chemistry has been mega all week and I feel we have a strong chance at qualifying up front tomorrow."
Daly's efforts have been hindered slightly by an obscure misfire at the top end, which, thankfully, seems to have been cured with a change of carburetor prior to today's final session. He, too, is excited about his weekend prospects.
"Testing the last several days has gone very well I think," said Daly, 16, from Noblesville, Ind. "Josef and I have learned so much about the track, cars and all kinds of weather conditions!
"Going into qualifying I am very confident. During testing we have either been the two fastest drivers or not far from it! We have worked with the setup a lot the last few days and have now got it fine tuned for qualifying. It will be very important to get a good starting position so everyone will be at their best!"