Motor Sport News - - Front Page - Stephen Lick­o­r­ish

Un­til halfway through the 2018 Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy fi­nal, ’17 win­ner Michael Moy­ers looked like a man with seren­ity to spare. A dom­i­nant heat pole­man and win­ner on Satur­day, a rel­a­tively com­fort­able semi-fi­nal win­ner once Kevin Mills Rac­ing team-mate Michael East­well had mis­fired his way back­wards, and then swiftly past yet an­other KMR Spec­trum team­mate – Ju­lian van der Watt – to lead the fi­nal from sec­ond on the grid.

The po­ten­tial mishap of a too-dry setup for the quite-wet track was averted with a last-gasp change com­pleted just as the whis­tle blew in the assem­bly area. Moy­ers had the lead and the pace. Back to back wins looked pre­des­tined.

Then com­ing into a fiendishly slip­pery Brook­lands just be­fore half-dis­tance, Moy­ers had his only blip of the week­end.

“I screwed up. I prob­a­bly braked five feet too late. Lit­er­ally just too late,” he said. “The fronts locked and I had a bit of a wob­ble and I knew I had to go straight on. And my heart just sank.”

Even as Moy­ers was slith­er­ing over the run-off area, good news for him was un­fold­ing be­hind. Jor­dan Dempsey, an­other mem­ber of Kevin Mills’ WHT su­perteam, had been a huge threat early on – quickly re­cov­er­ing from a poor start to hack through into sec­ond by the end of the first lap and then hound­ing Moy­ers. Dempsey’s over­tak­ing am­bi­tions were only stymied by yel­lows at the com­plex af­ter team-mate Roger Orgee was sent spin­ning into Team USA Schol­ar­ship win­ner Jake Craig’s Cliff Dempsey Rac­ing Ray. Once that was cleared with a safety car, two thirds of the race re­mained and Dempsey’s “‘yes, I can have a go at him now!’” in­ten­tions were made very clear with a big look down the in­side at Brook­lands.

But next time around, Dempsey was at­tacked for sec­ond by a charg­ing Joey Fos­ter just as Moy­ers went off in front of them.

“He [Fos­ter] just un­der­steered into me and biffed me off,” said Dempsey. “But it’s the Wal­ter Hayes fi­nal, I can ex­cuse it.”

With Dempsey fol­low­ing Moy­ers across the run-off, and oth­ers los­ing mo­men­tum be­hind the in­ci­dent, Moy­ers re­joined the track to a pleas­ant sur­prise: rather than hav­ing tum­bled down into the mid­field, “it was just Joey in front of me”.

Moy­ers also had time to think “‘where’s Joey come from? That’s typ­i­cal Joey...’” when he re­mem­bered the new leader had started way down in 11th, be­fore quickly de­cid­ing he had to im­me­di­ately at­tack to avoid get­ting drawn into a bat­tle that would al­low the pack to swamp them.

Fos­ter thought he had Moy­ers cov­ered “for a frac­tion of a sec­ond” but “knew I had a fight on my hands” when he saw how much the Spec­trum gained on him through Copse.

Onto the back straight, Fos­ter thought “he’s not go­ing to go for it straight away, surely?” but that was ex­actly what Moy­ers did – div­ing to the in­side at Brook­lands and re­claim­ing first place pre­cisely where he had lost it just one lap ear­lier.

Still learn­ing about the quick but setup-sen­si­tive Fir­man he has re­cently taken on, Fos­ter’s pace would fade as the race went on. He also fell down the or­der when taken wide at Brook­lands by Fes­ti­val win­ner Josh Smith, who had charged through from ninth while grap­pling with tricky brake bias on his Oldfield Van Diemen that led to the brush with Fos­ter and an even­tual exit back­wards into the Copse gravel.

Fos­ter and Smith go­ing off-course to­gether opened the door for Matt Cow­ley to ap­pear in sec­ond. Back from Amer­ica to lead the charge of the Dolan team that had dom­i­nated the Na­tional Cham­pi­onship with the ab­sent Niall Mur­ray, Cow­ley had al­ready made epic progress from the Last Chance race and was ben­e­fit­ing from a Van Diemen with a dry-lean­ing set-up on an im­prov­ing track.

But Moy­ers had things in hand. Giv­ing him­self “take a deep breath ev­ery lap, keep calm, I’ve got it un­der con­trol” in­struc­tions in the cock­pit, he inched into a small ad­van­tage as Cow­ley found him­self very busy with the re­cov­er­ing Dempsey.

“I was so close to the dream week­end,” said Cow­ley, hav­ing fallen 0.978 sec­onds shy of vic­tory. “But con­sid­er­ing we weren’t even in the semi-fi­nals at the start of to­day to be bat­tling for the lead in the fi­nal and com­ing sec­ond was great.”

Third-placed Dempsey was left “a bit annoyed” as he – rightly – felt he had the pace to win, but read­ily con­ceded that Moy­ers had been “top class all week­end”.

While Mills’s crew cel­e­brated a fourth WHT win in eight years, it was quiet next door at Cliff Dempsey Rac­ing – so of­ten KMR’S main ri­val at this event. With Craig taken out, Nico Gruber re­tir­ing with dam­age, and the very rapid James Clarke a dis­con­so­late last af­ter spin­ning, CDR’S best fin­isher was Team USA’S Colin Mul­lan in 12th.

Two of the three driv­ers with the best vic­tory shots had scooted straight on at Brook­lands on lap one – fi­nal pole­sit­ter van der Watt and the ever-com­bat­ive Oliver White. Van der Watt’s week­end even­tu­ally ended in the pits straight gravel af­ter a tap on the rear through Wood­cote, but the South African was still ec­static about his per­for­mance. Promis­ing but low-key on his UK FF1600 de­but in last year’s Fes­ti­val, van der Watt re­turned em­bold­ened from a rookie sea­son in USF2000 and shone. White’s Souley Mo­tor­sport Me­d­ina was in the thick of things up front all week­end but was beached at Luffield af­ter a col­li­sion with Luke Cooper.

Fos­ter made it back to fourth ahead of Cow­ley’s Dolan team-mate Chris Mid­dle­hurst and Cooper – who was stymied dur­ing the whole event by an en­gine gen­er­ously loaned by Swift Cooper team-mate Alan Slater, but orig­i­nally pre­pared for re­cent rac­ing re­turnee Slater’s His­toric Nike and not up to chal­leng­ing for a WHT win.

Scot­tish cham­pion Ross Martin, last year’s WHT run­ner-up Josh Fisher, East­well and lead B-M driver Tom Mcarthur com­pleted the top 10. Mcarthur had starred all week­end and spent the early laps as Moy­ers and Dempsey’s main chaser be­fore “a rush of blood to the head” af­ter los­ing ground at the safety car restart sent him wide and down the or­der. He also had a slow­ing-down lap brush with Mid­dle­hurst that was in­ves­ti­gated by of­fi­cials, but over which no ac­tion was taken.

Fisher was “over the moon” with eighth given that he had started the day near the back of the Pro­gres­sion race grid, but East­well couldn’t de­cide how he felt about ninth. That was un­der­stand­able, his team boss Mills reck­on­ing East­well was po­ten­tially the fastest of all his driv­ers in the Sun­day af­ter­noon con­di­tions had he been able to start up front.

If you were go­ing to pick pos­si­ble heat win­ners be­fore the week­end, Fe­lix Fisher, Ju­lian van der Watt and Rory Smith were per­haps not at the top of the list. But all three tri­umphed as the Satur­day races pro­duced some sur­pris­ing re­sults.

Fisher did ben­e­fit from a huge slice of luck to win heat two in his TM Rac­ing Ray. Jor­dan Dempsey and Matt Cow­ley had a close bat­tle for the lead, with Dempsey hold­ing the ad­van­tage into lap seven of the eight. But then into Brook­lands the pair col­lided and spun.

Dempsey de­scribed Cow­ley’s move as “stupid”, say­ing: “Matt just went for a gap that wasn’t there. An ex­pe­ri­enced driver would know that it’s go­ing to close. I don’t know what he was think­ing.”

Cow­ley coun­tered: “I darted right and then back on the in­side and I think he thought I was on the out­side still and didn’t leave me enough room.”

Cow­ley and Dempsey weren’t the only ones in the wars, as Se­bas­tian Job spun his B-M Van Diemen at Beck­etts on the open­ing lap while Tom Brown rolled his Van Diemen RF79 ( see news) on the fi­nal tour at the same cor­ner af­ter clash­ing with Paul Ma­son’s Swift SC94.

Heat three didn’t look the most ex­cit­ing on pa­per, with it seem­ingly lack­ing ma­jor con­tenders, but it ended up be­ing one of the most en­ter­tain­ing. South African van der Watt, Tom Mcarthur, Scot­tish cham­pion Ross Martin and Carter Wil­liams (Ray) were close through­out, with van der Watt even­tu­ally pre­vail­ing af­ter Martin led ini­tially.

“What a heat!” en­thused Martin. “That was the first proper race I’ve had since I raced here last year. In Scot­land you don’t get races like that.”

Smith also had to work hard for his win in heat five, just keep­ing Team USA driver Jake Craig and three-time Hayes win­ner Joey Fos­ter at bay.

There was an­other slightly sur­pris­ing vic­tor in the fi­nal heat too. Fes­ti­val win­ner Josh Smith was on a charge on the open­ing lap, pass­ing Nico Gruber around the out­side of Copse and Ol­lie White at Brook­lands. But his lead only lasted un­til lap three when a missed gear on the pit straight cost him dear and al­lowed Roger Orgee, who has had lit­tle com­pet­i­tive ac­tion this year, through to win nar­rowly from White.

A less un­ex­pected win­ner was Chris Mid­dle­hurst in the open­ing heat. Michael East­well led the early stages but – just two weeks af­ter his Fes­ti­val heart­break – a missed gear on lap four dam­aged his en­gine and al­lowed Mid­dle­hurst to get ahead, although the Team Dolan racer reck­oned he had the pace to win any­way.

But in a worse po­si­tion was Josh Fisher. Hav­ing al­ready qual­i­fied at the back af­ter an oil leak in qual­i­fy­ing, he then spun off at Beck­etts on the fi­nal lap hav­ing just passed the ail­ing East­well.

The most pre­dictable heat win­ner of them all, how­ever, came in the fourth con­test as last year’s vic­tor Michael Moy­ers was dom­i­nant, with Ivor Mccul­lough’s Van Diemen snatch­ing sec­ond from Stu­art Gough’s Oldfield-run ma­chine with two laps re­main­ing.

While Moy­ers was look­ing omi­nously un­trou­bled, Josh Fisher, Job and Cow­ley all had plenty to do to reach the fi­nal.

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