Neil Alberico (LEFT) earned another victory in Sunday morning's Formula Ford Kent Festival Semi Final at Brands Hatch but came up just a little short in the 20-lap Final and had to settle for a strong third-place finish. Team USA Scholarship teammate Trent Hindman battled back to ninth from 22nd starting position after tangling with a rival and falling to the back of the field while running second in the other Semi Final.
In the Duratec Festival, Spencer Pigot overcame an accident in the morning's Quarter Final race and also showed tremendous fighting spirit as he rose from 26th on the grid to 16th at the checkered flag.
“Well, we were fast enough to qualify on pole, fast enough to win the heat race, fast enough to win the Semi Final and, unfortunately, we didn't win the one that counted,” said Alberico. “The guys at Cliff Dempsey Racing did a really good job and I'm so proud to be representing the Team USA Scholarship. I'm happy for everyone. This is a good result for Team USA. I'm glad to be on the podium but I can't help feeling I should have won the main event.”
Perfect weather conditions once again prevailed at Brands Hatch, and they clearly proved to Californian Alberico's liking as he stormed into the lead after starting from pole and never looked back. He took the checkered flag 1.019sec clear of Ireland's Cormac O'Neill after 15 laps to secure a front row starting position for the final.
Hindman didn't make quite as good a start in the second Kent Semi Final and lost a place immediately to Team Canada's Xavier Coupal. He then came under pressure from 2010 winner Neville Smyth, who made contact with Hindman at Druid's hairpin on lap two, causing the American to spin to the back of the field. He then mounted a furious charge, rising from 21st to 11th, posting a best lap merely 0.024sec adrift of Northern Irishman Ivor McCullough, who rose from eighth on the grid to finish second behind the impressive Coupal.
Coupal took pole for the Final by virtue of a slightly faster Semi Final pace and led away from the veteran McCullough, who snuck past Alberico on the run toward Paddock Hill Bend. McCullough passed Coupal at Druid's on lap two and led the remainder of the distance to score a well-deserved victory.
Behind, Coupal and Alberico fought a hard battle for second, which, unfortunately, ended in contact after Coupal made a slight mistake at Paddock Hill and then attempted to defend his position when Alberico made a move to the inside as they raced up the hill toward Druid's. Coupal's race ended in the gravel, but he sportingly shook hands with Alberico afterward. Alberico rejoined in third, a couple of seconds behind Scotsman Kenneth Thirlwall, and closed to within just 0.063sec at the checkered flag.
“The Formula Ford Festival was a super-fun event,” said Alberico. “Everyone just wants to win. I enjoyed racing with Ivor, Xavier, Trent and all the other guys and want to thank everybody in the Cliff Dempsey Racing camp. It's been a great weekend and hopefully I can redeem myself at the Walter Hayes Trophy.”
Hindman drove a smart, calculated race, picking his way steadily through the field until he ran up behind veteran Irishman John Ferguson, who steadfastly refused to cede a single inch, let alone his eighth position, and soon had a snarling pack of cars in his wake. Hindman was forced to cede a place to Rob Hall, so had to be content with ninth at the finish after Ferguson went off on the final lap.
“The race was good,” said Hindman. “I really learned a lot, how racing is over here. It was definitely an eye-opener, a bit of a culture shock. It wasn't necessarily tough to adapt; it was a lot different than what I'm used to, but the overall experience has been fantastic. Everybody's been great in helping me out and getting adjusted, and I just learned so much, so I'm really looking forward to the Walter Hayes Trophy (at Silverstone on Nov. 5-6).”
Pigot also endured a difficult day with tire problems and an accident in Sunday morning's Quarter Final race. The Cliff Dempsey Racing crew performed miracles to repair the damaged left-rear suspension in time for the second Semi Final race in which he rose from 14th to seventh. Unfortunately, because he had been slated to contest the first Semi Final race, he was sent to the back of the grid for the Final. Again, Pigot rose to the challenge.
“We had a lot of issues with the tires and the incidents that happened, but overall we kept working at it and it was a great experience to come back to the Festival, so a big thanks to all the Team USA Scholarship supporters,” said Pigot. “It's been a good trip. I've learned a lot but I'm just a little disappointed that we couldn't get the results.”