De Phillippi and Smrz Ready to Race at Silverstone This Weekend
Silverstone, England (October 30, 2009) -- Team USA Scholarship drivers Connor De Phillippi and Brett Smrz have spent the last two days at Silverstone, the self-styled "Home of British Motor Racing," in preparation for this weekend's Walter Hayes Trophy races. Both youngsters are ready to take on the very best British Formula Ford racers when the competition begins in earnest with official qualifying tomorrow morning.
"I'm comfortable, happy," says De Phillippi, 16, from San Clemente, Calif. "The team is doing a fantastic job. We've got the people and the equipment to take it to the podium, so it's just a question of getting the job done.
"The car's setup is great. Brett and I are turning competitive lap times and we haven't run new tires yet, so we definitely think we can pick up more time."
Smrz, too, is confident of another strong run, following his magnificent charge from 27th on the grid to fourth in the Formula Ford Festival two weeks ago at Brands Hatch.
"This time I will try not to make life difficult for myself," says Smrz, 18, from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. "The car is good. Right now [in testing] we're doing decent [lap] times on very old rubber. The races are much different to qualifying or practice, and the races are my strong point. I am confident that I will get my quick lap in qualifying tomorrow."
Both youngsters are enjoying their first taste of the Silverstone National circuit which includes several corners from the famed Formula 1 Grand Prix layout.
"The track's awesome," says Smrz. "I'm getting more comfortable with it, trying some different things and getting it figured out. It's a quick track; it's fun."
"It's moving toward the top of my list," declares De Phillippi. "I love everything about it. There are several high-speed corners and deep braking zones. I think it kind of suits my style. It's a lot easier to overtake here than at Brands Hatch. I think the racing is going to be good."
Over 120 drivers have entered the event which honors Walter Hayes, a former Vice President of Ford of Europe who was one of the founding fathers of Formula Ford in 1967. The field has been split into six eight-lap heat races, with Brett Smrz's #21 Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray GRS08 drawn into Heat Four and De Phillippi's identical #22 car set to contest Heat Five.
The top 11 finishers from each Heat race will progress directly into a pair of 12-lap Semi Final races slated for early afternoon on Sunday. The remaining finishers have two more opportunities to make it into the Semi Final round via a "Progression Race" and a "Last Chance Race" on Sunday morning.
If all goes to plan, the two teenaged Americans should not go head to head until Sunday's concluding 15-lap Final.
The event was won last year by Team USA Scholarship driver Conor Daly, who at age 16 was the youngest ever winner of this increasingly prestigious trophy.
Daly, who finished third and in this year's Star Mazda Championship, has been testing a Formula Renault car today at Brands Hatch and is intending to be at Silverstone over the weekend to cheer on his countrymen.
Fellow 2008 Team USA Scholarship driver Josef Newgarden also will be at Silverstone. Indeed he will be competing against De Phillippi and Smrz! Newgarden, who turned many heads during an impressive season in the top-tier MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, will drive an older Van Diemen RF92.
The Team USA Scholarship, now in its 20th year, is supported by Doug Mockett & Company, Road Racing Drivers Club, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Robo-Pong, Highcroft Racing, American Honda, Silicon Salvage, McMurry Inc., Dyson Racing, Metalore, The Gorsline Company, Integrated Performance Technology, PitFit Training, Sparco USA, OnCars.com, eFormulaCarNews.com, Speedstar Management, Manifest Group and an array of past Scholarship winners.