Team USA scholarship drivers Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood finished second and fourth at the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford 1600 two-day event at Silverstone last weekend.
In the 16th running of the annual event at the home of the British Formula One Grand Prix, the Team USA drivers, who are supported by SAFEisFAST, each took part in a series of qualifying races and the Trophy’s Grand Final for Cliff Dempsey Racing.
Askew won both his heat and semi-final events, which meant the 19-year-old lined up second on the grid for the headline race. Kirkwood had to qualify through the ‘Progression Race’ on Sunday morning after he did not make it into the top nine finishers in his heat on Saturday.
But the 18-year-old from Jupiter, Florida, won that elimination round to get through to the ‘Last Chance Race’. Despite starting 33rd on the grid, Kirkwood moved through the field to finish third and join his teammate in the semi-finals.
Askew started his semi-final from pole and held on to win after a pulsating six-car battle in the closing stages with three-time Walter Hayes Trophy winner Joey Foster, Silverstone specialist Michael Moyers, Team Canada Scholarship representative Parker Thompson (who finished second in this year’s USF2000 Championship), Luke Williams and former British Formula Ford champion Richard Tarling.
Kirkwood also made it through to the Grand Final by finishing 12th in his semi-final. Niall Murray was the winner of that race, which was completed in a faster time than Askew’s and so the Irish driver started on pole for the finale as a result.
Rain hit the Silverstone track shortly after the semi-finals had been completed to add to the difficulty facing the 36 drivers starting the Grand Final.
Murray, who won the 2016 BRSCC British FF1600 Championship and the Formula Ford Festival, edged out Askew at the start, while Kirkwood fought his way all the way from 23rd to 11th after just one lap of the 1.639-mile Silverstone National circuit.
Murray escaped at the front of the pack and went on score a clear victory, while Askew initially came under pressure from Foster before weathering that challenge and pulling well clear of the chasing pack to finish second.
“These have been the best three weeks of my life,” said Askew after being presented his trophy by three-time Formula One world champion Sir Jackie Stewart. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity and what Jeremy Shaw [Team USA Scholarship founder] stands for – that being the support of young American drivers who work extremely hard to work their way to the top.
“The race today was very tense. The conditions were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, so I had to adapt from the lights going out. I stayed in second from start to finish and tried to keep it on track for the last few laps to bring home a very memorable result.
“With five podiums out of six races here in England, I am definitely going home with a smile on my face. I hope to use this experience for the future and I hope to keep progressing in the world of motor sport.”
Kirkwood had continued to make progress toward the front after his rapid first lap and he had moved up to fifth place by lap 10 of the 15-lap race. He then climbed briefly into third place on the penultimate lap, only to be overtaken by veteran Josh Fisher on the final tour.
“I gave up third place,” Kirkwood explained afterwards. “I saw Fisher was faster than me but I didn’t know what position we were in or how many laps were left. I couldn’t see my pit board because of all the spray from the rain, so I didn’t contest the position.
“I figured I would tuck in behind but then when we went across the line he threw his hand in the air and I realised it was the last lap. It’s frustrating but it’s still been a great day. I’m happy with the result, especially compared to how it was looking yesterday.”
Speaking after the Grand Final, Shaw praised the efforts of the two Team USA drivers.
He said: “I couldn’t be happier with the performance of both of our boys and that of Cliff Dempsey Racing. I’m told they did a fabulous job of representing their country and the scholarship program in last night’s Silverstone Club drivers’ forum and they have driven magnificently both in the Formula Ford Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy.
“If they can continue to create opportunities for themselves, there’s no doubt these two young men have extremely bright futures ahead of them. I also want to say a big thank-you to all of those who have made the Team USA Scholarship possible.”