Motorsport News


The Clark-inspired teenager from Chicago chose UK Formula Ford to develop his racing skills, and now moves to BRDC British F3. Graham Keilloh finds out more about how FF1600 helped him


There are certain things you learn quickly about talking to racing drivers. One is, particular­ly with youngsters on the junior single-seater ladder, they in the main don’t share your nerdiness for motorsport’s past.

You ask the question of who their hero is, hoping for a nugget of interest. But often it is met with a slight shoulder shrug, and perhaps an apologetic suggestion of someone obvious like Lewis Hamilton.

But 17-year-old American Bryce Aron is no ordinary young single-seater racer. “I’d say Jim Clark,” he says when asked the question by Motorsport News, “because he was a very very humble person and he was extremely quick and he would just get the job done, and he had a very unique driving style at the time as well.”

Yet as Andy Low, Aron’s Low Dempsey Racing team boss from last year, tells

MN, this isn’t a surprise given who we’re dealing with.

“He just lives, breathes, eats and sleeps racing,” Low says of working with Aron. “Every conversati­on was racing; everything was racing.”

Little indeed is ordinary about Bryce Aron. The teenager from Chicago chose the UK, and Formula Ford, for his racing developmen­t, attracted by its competitio­n and bang for buck. This started with him competing in 2019’s Formula

Ford Festival mere weeks after his

16th birthday.

Suitably impressed, he went in for a full 2020 FF1600 season with Low Dempsey, successor to the decorated

Cliff Dempsey Racing squad.

And Aron’s enthusiasm manifests where it matters too. “He’s definitely got a natural ability and he is 110% committed and enthusiast­ic and worked very hard to achieve what he wants,” Low continues. “He’s full of energy all of the time! He shows it as well. Every lap he was giving 100%, he’d never back off. He was always pushing the limits. He’s very profession­al; he’s a hard worker.”

By 2020’s end Aron had taken a pole position on Brands Hatch’s full GP layout, beating the previous two Festival winners, when the Champion of Brands series supported British GT. And he took another Brands pole, this time on the Indy layout, against the full National FF1600 championsh­ip line-up.

Then came FF1600’s blue riband endof-year events, the Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy, which he contested as part of Jeremy Shaw’s Team USA Scholarshi­p that has Josef Newgardan among its alumni. Aron again was a contender. He finished fifth in the Festival, disappoint­ed to drop from a podium place late on. But he rectified this in an ultra-trying Walter Hayes event a week later by taking third (see sidebar).

Consider too that, as Aron explains, Formula Ford is unlike most junior categories. “There’s such a density of drivers in it that have got so much experience in Formula Ford and sometimes even other series, and just stay in Formula Ford,” he observes.

“So it’s not some other series where you go in and everybody’s new. Initially you get thrown to the wolves! But it really allows you to learn.

“It’s so down to racecraft, even if you’re the quickest on track it doesn’t mean much, because it’s so so close. So I’d say definitely the biggest thing I learned was the racecraft side of things, and even small things like standing starts, I’d never done those in the US.

“After races like the Walter Hayes I just got out of the car and said that was absolutely brilliant to battle that close for that many laps. It was just very very rare and Formula Ford taught me that very well.”

The 2020 season was a testing one in general for reasons that are by now familiar. One manifestat­ion was the National FF1600 championsh­ip had only three meetings, but such is Formula Ford’s UK landscape Aron was able to go a way to make up for it by competing in Castle Combe FF1600 events plus those in James Beckett’s ‘Champion of…’ categories. This included one at Cadwell Park.

“It’s an awesome place,” Aron enthuses of the Lincolnshi­re venue. “People call it the mini Nurburgrin­g and I remember walking the track the night before I was driving and it was so tight and it looked quick and it was a little intimidati­ng. But then I drove it and I absolutely loved the place.

“The James Beckett events, a lot of them were like mini-National races so you’re always getting experience every weekend and that was definitely key in the developmen­t of my driving throughout the year.”

Low adds: “Going to Castle Combe was really good because it’s really competitiv­e there so it’s a great benchmark, and Bryce was up the front there. And then Cadwell, maybe there wasn’t as much competitio­n but he was nearly to the lap record in qualifying.”

Low doesn’t doubt Aron’s improvemen­t during 2020 either.

“You could see from his first race performanc­es to towards the end, the Brands National [meeting] he put it on pole position and then the last race with us he finished third at the Walter Hayes, which is no easy feat.

“His wet running, he struggled a bit when he first came over and then he made really big steps over the year. [This was because of] experience, and he would listen to the driver coaches, he’d always take the feedback on board and work off of it.”

Aron concludes of his 2020 campaign: “It really gave me confidence to take the step forward this year.”

Indeed for 2021 Aron steps up to

BRDC British Formula 3, and with the powerhouse Carlin team. “With the momentum I gained with the Team USA Scholarshi­p we were thinking of moving up, I wanted to move into something with slicks and wings,” Aron continues.

“I did some testing in America, I did one day in the UK and then came back and we were looking at which would be better. What’s terrific about racing across the UK is that tracks are so close usually compared to the US. In the UK three-anda-half hours is considered a very long drive whereas in the US a drive to a track can be two-and-a-half days.

“So the [UK] testing cost is a lot lower and you can get a lot more track time. Especially moving into a new series, moving into a different type of car, track time is king and that’s why we decided to come this route.

“I think it was Daniel Ricciardo that said you don’t like expectatio­ns too much because expectatio­ns only create anxiety,” Aron adds on the F3 season ahead. “I’d say [my aims are] to learn and improve throughout the year, as long as I’m learning I’m happy.

“If I’m in the top five and can be a factor on some weekends for a win

I’d be really really happy for that.”

Low is more willing to commit.

“If he manages to align all of his aspects, his ability and his mindset, and get it all in the right place, I think he’ll do a good job,” Low says.

“It’s a big jump from a Formula Ford but with the team he’s with he’ll get the right treatment and the right amount of testing in the pre-season, so it’s open for him to do a good job.

“I hope that Bryce proves to everyone making the big jump to F3 that Formula Ford 1600 is such a great feeder series for anyone and it shouldn’t be glazed over.”

“In FF1600 you get thrown to the wolves!” Bryce Arron

 ?? Photos: Jakob Ebrey, BRDC British Formula 3 ?? Aron’s impressive results came frequently towards the end of 2020
Photos: Jakob Ebrey, BRDC British Formula 3 Aron’s impressive results came frequently towards the end of 2020
 ??  ?? Over here: young American Aron chose UK Formula Ford to develop
Over here: young American Aron chose UK Formula Ford to develop
 ??  ?? Aron moves to Carlin in F3 for ‘21
Aron moves to Carlin in F3 for ‘21
 ??  ?? Aron has tested Carlin’s F3 car
Aron has tested Carlin’s F3 car

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