Lee picks up record
Freddie Lee broke a host of Pickup Championship records on his way to his first title last weekend. Lee became the series’ youngest champion at Brands Hatch, while also becoming the first person to take the Pro1 (2016) and Pro2 (2014) titles. “I think we had the pace last year but lacked the maturity,” said the 19-year-old. “This year I’ve concentrated on making the top six and that has paid off.”
I’ve never been to this meeting before. I last came to watch the Formula 1, and paid a fortune to sit in the grandstands. It was good, but this has been something else! And it only cost a tenner…” That’s a typical conversation with a race-goer at the Walter Hayes Trophy. This one took place by pure chance in the BRDC Grandstand shortly before the Grand Final of the Formula Ford 1600 knockout event.
Everyone is lumped together in the same stand, shivering in the frankly Baltic temperatures. But did anybody complain or whinge? Not a word.
That’s the glory of the Walter Hayes Trophy. It brings together all that is good about circuit racing. This year’s event featured some of the best singleseater racing I’ve seen for years, while the six-car fight for the Heat Four victory – taken in the end by Joey Foster – ranks as one of the greatest races I’ve ever seen in general. And it was only a heat.
The crowd gasped and tensed together with every lunge, every side-by-side braking duel and – in the case of Heat Four – every four-abreast fight around Brooklands.
The skill on show was sublime, with no intentional contact and each competitor showing respect to their rivals, even in the final when conditions were pretty dire.
It’s the atmosphere that really wins me over at the Hayes. A brisk walk down the pit lane is met with smiles and banter with old friends, and there’s not the tension you’d associate with other high-ranking race events.
And that’s the key. The Hayes is as prestigious and hard-fought a trophy as any around, but the meeting itself isn’t high-ranking. It’s an end-ofseason blowout where the best drivers and teams in one of Britain’s best-loved club formulas congregate for a winner-takes-all fight.
But in terms of public perception? Sitting in 0.5 degree temperatures under several fleecy layers at an ex-airfield in Northamptonshire doesn’t exactly scream glamour does it?
You can see why people pay hundreds for an F1 ticket, with the pageantry and pomp that comes with the ‘show’. But you can also see why their eyes are opened when they try the Hayes. There’s more overtakes in a single lap than an entire GP. It delivers real, hard-fought racing without fail.
More people need to try it. I was amused to watch visitors flooding in to the track on Saturday evening for the bonfire and fireworks display. It’s a shame. Had they arrived a few hours earlier they’d have seen brilliant on-track action beforehand for a £10 ticket. Frankly it’s the bargain of the season.
If you haven’t attended the Walter Hayes before, get it on your bucket list. If you have, you’ll know the warm feeling being in that chilled grandstand gives you each November.