Team USA Scholarship drivers Jack Mitchell Jr. and Tristan Nunez enjoyed a solid first day of official action at a bitterly cold but dry Silverstone National Circuit, claiming third (Mitchell) and fourth (Nunez) during their respective heat races to remain firmly in contention for tomorrow's Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford Grand Final.
The 120-car entry was split into six eight-lap heat races. The track was extremely cold and slightly damp for the 10-minute early morning qualifying sessions, but the rain stayed away and, for the second straight week, ensured that the two teenagers would have to relearn the 1.639-mile layout after completing virtually all of their testing in the wet.
Nunez was up first, drawn into heat 2 along with several other leading contenders, including last weekend's Formula Ford Festival winner Ivor McCullough, who sped to an easy win. Nunez oscillated between third and fifth before finally crossing the line in fourth after Nathan Ward was eliminated on the final corner.
“It was definitely an experience,” said Nunez, who took the checkered flag a scant 0.016 second behind Cooper. “The draft here is just huge, so I got passed by two cars on the straightaway, and then two cars got together on the final corner. I had a run going onto the front straightaway for the last lap and lost it by a hair, but it was an amazing race.
“The car wasn't perfect,” he continued. “We had a little bit of understeer, but this was the first full-dry session we've ever had throughout this whole weekend so it was kind of expected. I still have some things to learn myself, and we've looked at the data and found a couple of things so I think we should be good for tomorrow.”
A fine start by Mitchell Jr. catapulted him from sixth to fourth on the opening lap, but he lost the draft to leading trio after trading positions several times in opening skirmishes with Austin Kimberly and David McCullough. Mitchell put his head down as he became acclimated to the dry conditions, moved into a clear fourth place, and inherited third when early pacesetter Ben Mitchell (no relation) was pitched into a spin at Luffield with one lap to go.
“I got a wicked start,” said Mitchell Jr. “I felt like I was Lewis Hamilton! I blew by someone right off the line then went to the inside wall and he kind of pushed me but he gave me enough room. We started losing the leaders a little but then I pulled a pretty solid gap and I was trying to reel them in but just ran out of time in the end.
“I gained a position when those two guys got together. It was kind of lucky we made the podium, but it's a good way to start a long weekend. It's all just about looking after the car at this stage, so I think we've done pretty well so far.”
Both Americans qualified comfortably for tomorrow's Semi Final races, but the complicated progression procedure means that they will line up behind each other in Semi Final 2, with Mitchell in eighth and Nunez 10th. The top 18 finishers from each 12-lap race will qualify for the Walter Hayes Trophy Grand Final.