Na­tional re­ports: Sil­ver­stone Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy; Brands Hatch

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - MATT BEER


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 team-mate – Ju­lian van der Watt – to lead the fi­nal from sec­ond on the grid.

The po­ten­tial mishap of a too-dry set-up 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,” he ad­mit­ted. “I prob­a­bly braked five feet too late. Lit­er­ally just too late. 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’s 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 just un­der­steered into me and biffed me off,” said Chi­nese For­mula 4 cham­pion 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 set-up-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 his own 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 the States 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 pit-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 all 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 run­ner-up Josh Fisher, East­well and lead B-M driver Tom Mcarthur com­pleted the top 10. Mcarthur had spent the early laps as Moy­ers’s 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 slow­ing­down lap brush with Mid­dle­hurst that was in­ves­ti­gated by the stew­ards, 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.

Dempsey (53) rued con­tact with Foster

Moy­ers (left) grabs the lead from van der Watt into Copse at the start of the fi­nal

Moy­ers leads Cow­ley as Foster (red car) and Josh Smith run wide at Brook­lands in fi­nal

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