Luck didn't fall the way of Team USA Scholarship drivers Spencer Pigot and Felix Serralles in today's Walter Hayes Trophy, but they still came away with a pair of strong finishes.
After finishing second (Pigot) and third (Serralles) in the early afternoon Semi Final, the pair had to settle for fourth (Serralles) and seventh (Pigot) in the Final which was won by Irishman Peter Dempsey, son of team owner Cliff Dempsey. The victory was Dempsey Jr.'s third in the last five years and the fifth in succession for the elder Dempsey after Team USA Scholarship drivers Conor Daly and Connor De Phillippi claimed the spoils in 2008 and 2009.
Pigot and Serralles lined up in fifth and seventh places on the grid for their Semi Final, which took place in cool but dry conditions. Pole-winner Wayne Boyd, the 2008 British Formula Ford Champion, took off into the lead and was never seriously challenged during the 12-lap race.
Josh Fisher also managed to break clear of the jostling pack, but not for long as he was quickly tracked down by both Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray GRS08s, plus the similar Ray of Formula Ford Festival winner Neville Smyth. A four-car battled ensued, and was only settled on the final lap when Pigot made a speculative move to the inside under braking for Brooklands. Incredibly, Fisher and Smyth tangled, leaving Pigot to break clear in second place, while Serralles narrowly avoided being collected and came home to complete the top three.
“I started the [last] lap in fourth so I knew I needed to pick up a few spot to be sure of a good starting position for the Final,” said Pigot. “When they both went wide I just took the opportunity.”
Dempsey won the other Semi Final race, earning a position on the front row of the grid for the Final alongside Boyd. Pigot shared Row 2 with Ivor McCullough, with Serralles and Adrian Campfield on Row 3. A total 36 cars lined up for the 15-lap final on the 1.6-mile Silverstone National circuit, having been whittled down from the original 120-car entry.
Dempsey jumped into the lead at the start, narrowly edging Boyd into Copse Corner. He was able to make an all-important break as Boyd and McCullough squabbled over second place along with a long train of cars which also included both Team USA drivers. Pigot completed the first lap in fourth place and Serralles in seventh.
The first real drama occurred on lap 3, when Smyth attempted a move on Pigot under braking for Brooklands.
“He tried to pass me but he locked up, spun and just hit me. There was nothing I could do,” said Pigot, who fell to sixth place, then was assaulted again at Luffield corner by another Irishman., Noel Dunne. “He went off the track and then came back on and hit my rear wheel which made me spin and come to a complete stop,” related Pigot. “I fell back to about 11th and worked my way back to seventh at the end of the race. It was a disappointing result because I had the pace to run right with the leaders if it wasn't for the multiple collisions.”
Serralles profited from Pigot's first misadventure, then made a nice pass on veteran Dutchman Michael Vergers to take over fourth place, which he held to the end.
“It was a good race,” said Serralles. “It was hard to pass Vergers and unfortunately the leader got away. Once I got past him I closed the gap a little but they were too far ahead. The car was really good. The changes we made after the Semi Final were definitely good. I think I had the pace and could have kept up and battled for a podium, but fourth is good. It was a great weekend and I made it to the final which was the most important thing. Cliff Dempsey and the team did a great job all month and I really enjoyed being here and being a part of the Team USA Scholarship.”