Team USA Scholarship winners Tristan Nunez and Jack Mitchell Jr. displayed stunning form in cold, rainy conditions this afternoon at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit as each young man dominated his Quarter Final race in the opening rounds of competition at the 40th Annual Kent Formula Ford Festival.
When this morning dawned dry, albeit extremely cool, neither 16-year-old really knew what to expect, as virtually all their running this week with the Cliff Dempsey Racing-tended Team USA Scholarship Ray GR08 cars had been conducted on a wet track. They weren't fazed in the slightest. Nunez was first out on track for his 15-minute session and posted a best time of 50.705 seconds. It was good for fifth on the grid for the first of two Quarter Final races. An hour or so later, Mitchell turned a best lap of 51.143 seconds to snare the sixth starting position for Quarter Final 2.
To the youngsters' delight, the English weather worsened dramatically during the lunch break. The track was fully wet when Nunez took his place on the starting grid on Jack Brabham Straight. Nunez, from Boca Raton, Fla., had been among the fastest contenders all week duringtesting in the wet, and lost no time in taking advantage. A tremendous first couple of laps were completed when he passed front row starter Oliver White for the lead at Clearways on Lap 2. He never looked back, eventually taking the checkered flag 13.104 seconds clear of White.
“The standing start wasn't as a bad as I thought it was going to be,” said Nunez. “It will be interesting to see what the weather's like tomorrow, considering they said it was going to be fully dry today! Thankfully we got a bunch of rain for our race, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow definitely.”
Mitchell was duly inspired by his teammate's efforts. An equally impressive first lap in treacherous conditions saw him leap from sixth to third, whereupon he immediately began to put the pressure on vastly more experienced Jonathan McMullan and race leader – and 2011 Festival champion – Ivor McCullough. Mitchell moved to second place on Lap 5 and grasped the lead one lap later from McCullough. He was almost seven seconds to the good when an incident farther down the field ensured that the 12-lap race would finish behind the Safety Car.
“It was hailing before the start of the race,” exclaimed Mitchell, from Clarendon Hills, Ill. “I just took off like it was my street car and passed three people at the start, so it was pretty sweet. (McCullough) made it pretty tough. He kept to the inside but I stuck it in there on the wet line at Druid's (hairpin) and got some grip and pulled away; it was nice.”
Two 15-lap Semi Final races will take place on Sunday morning at 10:30 and 11:30. Nunez will start from pole in the first race and Mitchell from pole in the second. Finishing positions will determine the grid for the Kent Final