A hectic six weeks for this year’s three Team USA Scholarship winners, Elliott Budzinski, William Ferguson and Thomas Schrage, will conclude this weekend as they contest the prestigious annual Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford event at Silverstone.
The program has a proud history at the traditional end-of-season extravaganza held in memory of one of the founding fathers of Formula Ford, which has been providing affordable opportunities for drivers since its introduction in 1967. Max Esterson, last year, became the fourth Team USA Scholarship driver to claim victory, following in the footsteps of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Conor Daly in 2008 and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standouts Connor De Phillippi in 2009 and Tristan Nunez in 2012.
Esterson, from New York, N.Y., will return to the self-styled Home of British Motor Racing and of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix as the defending champion. He also scored an emphatic victory two weeks ago in the 51st Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, becoming only the second American to win after Josef Newgarden took top Kent honors in 2008.
Esterson will once again join the Team USA Scholarship trio at Andy Low’s locally-based Ammonite Motorsport team, which will also field a fifth Ray chassis for fellow American Shaun Rashid.
Budzinski, Ferguson and Schrage have been busy since their Brands Hatch foray with behind-the-scenes visits to the Haas F1 Team, Ilmor Engineering, the McLaren Technical Centre and Multimatic Motorsports.
“It was wonderful getting to look behind the scenes into how the motorsports world works,” said Budzinski. “Oftentimes as a driver you forget or under appreciate all the work that goes into running a team or race shop. Our tours were a wonderful way of reminding us how talented and dedicated all the engineers, mechanics and everyone else involved are.”
The trio also have just completed three days of testing in preparation for the Walter Hayes Trophy.
“I have to say I’m quite happy with how we’re looking in all conditions,” continued Budzinski (below). “The car is good and I’m feeling very comfortable on the circuit. Obviously the racing is going to be heavily draft dependent but that’s very similar to what we’re used to in the States. All in all I’m very excited to get the racing going tomorrow.”
“The last three days has consisted of multiple changes in driving and car setup, with ample amount of time in every track condition,” added Schrage (below). “Heading into this weekend I will be racing in heat four, so I will be taking full advantage of the races before me. I like the pace we have shown throughout testing and believe we have top-three potential, if not more.”
“It has been such an amazing experience driving around Silverstone,” said Ferguson. “There is just so much history surrounding the track, as well as the Walter Hayes Trophy itself. I’ve seen this place on…TV and video games thousands of times, but to actually be here is incredible.
“We have just finished up our third day of testing, and once again we have gotten to experience every kind of condition, which is great for the team, because we know what we’ll need for tomorrow when it rains. After a canceled final at the Festival, I’m very excited to get after it this weekend. Everyone under the Ammonite tent has strong pace, we just have to put everything together! Thank you Team USA and all of our supporters for making these last six weeks possible. I’ve had such a fun time and learned a lot about the world of motorsports, and a little about myself as well.”
A huge entry of almost 120 competitors has been split into four heat races. Budzinski has been drawn in heat one, with a 12-minute qualifying session Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. ET) and an eight lap race scheduled for 11:23 a.m (7:23 a.m. ET). Ferguson will be next up in heat two, due to see the green flag immediately after the lunch break at 12:38 p.m. (8:38 a.m. ET), while Schrage will compete in heat four, set to start at approximately 1:38 p.m. (9:38 a.m. ET). The top 13 finishers from each Heat race will move directly forward into a pair of semi final races on Sunday, starting at 11:25 a.m (6:25 a.m. ET). A total of 36 starters will contest the Grand Final on Sunday at 3:15 p.m (10:15 a.m. ET).
Please note times are approximate. Also the clocks have already changed in the UK, and they change in the U.S. on Saturday night. The current four-hour time difference from the East Coast to the UK will revert to five hours on Sunday morning.
Live timing for the entirety of the race meeting can be found at https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/224456. There will also be a live stream of Sunday’s races (only) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRoKbZU1cxE.