Club col­umn: Matt Beer

News of pos­si­ble guest star driv­ers for the Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy may make head­lines, but there are plenty of real sto­ries among the rac­ers tak­ing part

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - MATT BEER


Fer­nando Alonso did not con­test the Wal­ter Hayes Tro­phy. Nei­ther did Mark Web­ber. Nor did Tony Ste­wart. Skier Lind­sey Vonn skipped it too. For­mer prime min­is­ter David Cameron’s re­cently mooted re­turn to the pub­lic eye did not take place at the wheel of a Souley Mo­tor­sport

Van Diemen RF89 at the Hayes.

WHT mas­ter­mind James Beck­ett’s play­ful so­cial-me­dia chas­ing of su­per­star guests is en­dear­ing (in fair­ness, he hasn’t re­ally been tweet­ing #Hayesfever in the di­rec­tion of @David_ Cameron). And the Hayes has a very strong track record for bring­ing in­trigu­ing names into – or back to – For­mula

Ford 1600 over the years.

My only mis­giv­ing is that too much fo­cus on po­ten­tial su­per­star Hayes ringers may leave the gen­eral mo­tor­sport fan un­der­whelmed when an en­try list ap­pears with­out any.

There were no ac­tive For­mula 1 driv­ers in the 2018 field at Sil­ver­stone. But the heats were won by a past Na­tional FF1600 and For­mula Re­nault BARC cham­pion, an elec­tri­cian do­ing the event on a shoe­string, a South African fresh from a USF2000 rookie sea­son, last year’s Hayes vic­tor, a 2018 Na­tional series fron­trun­ner who’s made bril­liant progress this year, and a dou­ble re­gional FF1600 cham­pion who was once a BMW ju­nior in sin­gle-seaters. That seems an ideal bal­ance of peo­ple for 2018-spec FF1600.

A worry with guest driv­ers is that they may not ‘get’ the

Hayes and prop­erly ap­pre­ci­ate it or Fford. Close rac­ing and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness aside, the main rea­son FF1600 is de­fy­ing all prag­matic logic and thriv­ing into a sixth decade in a world of not just slicks and wings (its orig­i­nal ex­is­ten­tial threats) but hy­brids, elec­tric­ity and au­to­ma­tion is the fer­vent group of Ff1600 be­sot­ted driv­ers, team own­ers, event/cham­pi­onship or­gan­is­ers, car/engine builders and jour­nal­ists over whose bod­ies you’d have to crawl if you wanted to erad­i­cate it. FF1600 believ­ers re­ally be­lieve in it, and how much its big events mean to them was vis­cer­ally ap­par­ent at Sil­ver­stone. “i’m still speech­less, my eyes are sting­ing be­cause I’ve got so much cham­pagne in them, I’m ab­so­lutely soaked, but I’m hav­ing the best time of my life,” de­clared now-dou­ble win­ner Michael Moy­ers. His face showed he wasn’t ex­ag­ger­at­ing.

Moy­ers’s team boss Kevin Mills, who finds fail­ure to win even more per­son­ally of­fen­sive than most team own­ers, as­sem­bled a six-car Spec­trum su­perteam and – as KMR’S only full-time staffer – worked 16-hour days to pre­pare them. He def­i­nitely wasn’t the only Fford per­son do­ing those hours in the Fes­ti­val/hayes fort­night. Mills sus­pects he lost money on the pro­gramme be­hind his team’s fourth Hayes win, but has no re­grets be­cause “it’s a good ad­vert for the fu­ture” and the Wht “has a place in my heart”.

The heat-win­ning elec­tri­cian was TM Rac­ing’s Felix Fisher, a man who last won a race in 2012, last did a full sea­son in ’15, was get­ting through the event on just one set of tyres and only had a half-day test in a Ray he’s driven barely a hand­ful of times. Never slow, but very much in “turn-up-and-have-a-go” mode in re­cent years, Fisher raised his game and “felt like a fron­trun­ner again”. His win was the first big un­der­dog feel-good story of an event al­ways full of them, and it wasn’t di­min­ished by the bro­ken dis­trib­u­tor that stranded him on the semi-fi­nal restart grid.

It wasn’t just the de­lighted driv­ers show­ing how much the Hayes means. At the other end of the emo­tional scale, James Clarke stood lost and dis­con­so­late in the mid­dle of the Cliff Dempsey Rac­ing garage af­ter spin­ning to the back in the fi­nal. Hav­ing starred in a Na­tional one-off at Croft af­ter switch­ing to the mul­ti­ple ti­tle-win­ning team, Clarke ad­mit­ted he’d let rep­re­sent­ing CDR at such a big event and rac­ing along­side the hand-picked fu­ture stars of the Team USA Schol­ar­ship over­awe him and af­fect his driv­ing. His tears showed how much he un­der­stood the value of Hayes suc­cess in the

FF1600 world; the speed and race­craft be­hind his semi­fi­nal podium showed why Dempsey rates him so highly and why he could be a fu­ture win­ner.

FF1600 is ad­just­ing and re­set­tling again right now, with re­gional grids shaky and Road to Indy/tcr-pack­age ques­tion marks float­ing. But teams are bullish and sign­ing up promis­ing num­bers of driv­ers for 2019 cham­pi­onships and next year’s Fes­ti­val and Hayes. This year, 330 peo­ple have raced an FF1600 in the UK, and 99 of them com­peted last week­end in a Hayes that may have lacked the triple-fig­ure en­tries and strength in depth of its great­est ever years but was still one of the best and most emo­tional week­ends of the 2018 mo­tor­sport sea­son.

The tem­po­rary added at­ten­tion that guest stars bring cer­tainly isn’t un­wel­come (I’m par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nated by the idea of NASCAR’S Ste­wart turn­ing up), but it’s sto­ries like Moy­ers’s, Fisher’s and Clarke’s that get me to Sil­ver­stone.

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