Hayes Fever
Walter Hayes Trophy programme
November 4/5 2017
James Beckett
courtesy and copyright of James Beckett


2017 marks the seventeenth running of the Walter Hayes Trophy, and as annually expected, a huge entry of Formula Ford cars will line-up to contest the category’s ‘blue riband’ event. The Silverstone Walter Hayes Trophy is the world’s largest and most prestigious junior single seater competition, and James Beckett looks ahead….

Each year over 100 Formula Ford racers gather at Silverstone early in November to take part in the Walter Hayes Trophy. For Formula Fordsters, this weekend of racing is the main feature of their entire season. The Walter Hayes Trophy has been likened to being the Six Nations, the Ashes, the Grand National and the FA Cup Final all rolled into one. Quite simply, it’s a big deal.

Traditionally the Walter Hayes Trophy provides some of the best racing seen here at the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ each season, and this year’s running brings the curtain down on another exciting season of racing here at Silverstone, home of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, anx a track that saw Lewis Hamilton triumph in the British Grand Prix in July.

Many of the racers in action here have their eyes towards potential international racing careers, maybe in F1 or IndyCars, but if those dreams of stardom do not come to fruition for whatever reason, it is safe to say that they will successfully develop a bout of Hayes Fever by competing this weekend – potentially opening the door for multiple return visits to race in the competition. This event has that type of appeal.

Two youngsters using the Walter Hayes Trophy as a springboard in their careers are Team USA drivers, Jonathan Kotyk and Aaron Jeansonne. The Florida and Louisiana based pairing are the latest in an impressive long line of racers to visit Europe courtesy of the USA Scholarship orchestrated by Jeremy Shaw.

Team USA first made the trip to the WHT in 2008, when Conor Daly was victorious. His team partner that year, and winner of the FF1600 Formula Ford Festival, was none other than 2017 IndyCar champion, Josef Newgarden. Team USA certainly know how to breed race winners and champions.

Kotyk and Jeansonne may have found the going tough during the Festival at Brands two weeks ago in their Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray cars, but expect Silverstone’s fast and flat 1.6-mile National Circuit to suit them.

Cliff Dempsey Racing knows how to win the Walter Hayes Trophy. The team has won the silver bowl on six occasions, three with Peter Dempsey and three with Team USA and their drivers Conor Daly, Connor di Phillippi and Tristan Nunez. The team have also been twice runners-up.

Aside from Team USA cars, CDR will girls two Ray cars for Jamie Thorburn, a National Championship regular, and the returning James Raven.

Ray cars traditionally go well here at Silverstone, although for the last three years, after failing to record a single Walter Hayes Trophy victory between 2001 to 2013, Van Diemen cars have been the ones to beat.

There are a plethora of Van Diemens scattered throughout the entry, with 2016 Walter Hayes Trophy winner, Niall Murray, carrying the number 1 on his version. Robert Barrable is another racer returning to the class in a Morgan Dempsey-powered Van Diemen, and the highly-rated Joshua Smith drives an Oldfiekd Motorsport variant.

Smith has ended the season on a high, switching from a Forman chassis to an Oldfield car, the youngster won at Angelsey and showed great pace in the wet and dry during the Brands Hatch Festival. Another Van Diemen racer to keep an eye open for is Matt Cowley, a racer who spent the year, and winning, in the United States. Irish youngster, Keith Donegan, also drives a Van Diemen and comes to Silverstone fresh from a second place finish in the Formula Ford Festival, while multiple race winner, Ed Moore, is also an entry.

The Ray marque are also very well represented, with Joey Foster leading the charge in his Don Hardman Automotive entry. Foster, a member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, dominated the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch winning his heat, semi final and final. The former Le Mans racer, and three-time Walter Hayes Trophy winner, has huge Silverstone support from members of the Silverstone Racing Club and he is racing in an attempt to score a record-breaking fourth WHT victory. He will be joined in the Don Hardman team by fellow Ray racers, Vincent Jay and Abdul Ahmed.

Also driving Ray cars are members of the Graham Brunton Racing squad. Two names to look out for are Ross Martin, the Scottish champion, and Michael Macpherson. Martin has enjoyed great success this season, with Macpherson, aged just sixteen, one to loom out for in future years.

Roger Orgee drives a Kevin Mills Racing Ray, the only Ray in the team’s West Country squad. The rest of the KMR team is centred on Australian manufactured Spectrums, the type raced to WHT glory in 2011 and 2013 by Adrian Campfield and Scott Malvern. Local hero, Michael Moyers, leads the Spectrum charge.

Regarded as the nearly man of this competition due too ill fortune suffered in recent Hayes events, Moyers is keen to rid himself of the moniker and score victory here. Winner of the Castle Combe Carnival last month, Moyers undoubtedly has the pace to win at Silverstone. John Ferguson and Jordan Dempsey join him in Spectrum cars.

Oliver White won two trophy races earlier this year at Brands Hatch and here at Silverstone, scooping the Bert Ray Memorial and Jim Walsh Trophy titles. Out of luck at the Festival, White, a two-time podium finisher in the WHT, will be keen to shine after a practice engine failure put him out of last year’s competition. Matt Round-Garrido is another driver, like White, to gain assistance from the experienced John Loebell.

2017 BRSCC champion, Luke Williams, suffered an early retirement at the Festival in his Firman RFR, and will be looking for better luck here. The rapid youngster enjoyed a great season of racing g, and his Festival retirement was an unsatisfactory end to his BRSCC season. Williams is fast at Silverstone, racing to a podium finish on the Grand Prix Circuit in July. Jack Wolfenden is another tasked with a Firman chassis, and he should go well. Look out for him.

The Walter Hayes Trophy is not all about the current FF1600 machines, and again a host of older, dare it be said, traditional Kent powered cars are entered. The Pre ’90 and Pre ’82 era will both have crowned champions this year, and both sections will be hot contested. Richard and Chris Davison travel from Australia to race Souley Motorsport Van Diemens, with former Historic racer, Ed Thurston stepping into a Mondiale.

As Formula Ford is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, organisers of the Walter Hayes Trophy have been working to attract cars from the category’s golden era. A leading entry in the Pre ’82 section come via the HSCC regulars, including newly crowned champion, Richard Tarling, and Callum Grant. Benn Simms, Will Nuthall and Westie Mitchell add further HSCC interest.

Mike Gardner, absent from the WHT for a few years, will drive a Crosdle 32F and he fields a further two cars for racers from mainland Europe, including former class winner, Gislain Genecaud, in a Crossle 25F.

Other names to keep an eye open for during the event are Josh Barnett in the number 90 Reynard, a former multiple Champion of Brands, Swift Cooper duo, Luke Cooper and Thomas Capezzone, Luciano Carvalho from Portugal and the far travelling Swede, Peter Sikstrom, who races a Van Diemen RF79.

Twice runner-up, Peter Daly, will drive Dave Morgan’s Royale RP21 and British GT Safety Car driver, Lorna Vickers, Morgan’s RF90.

Local racing brothers, Dan and Lewis Fox,  will drive their PRS and ex Jan Magnussen Duckhams Van Diemen cars, while Andy Clark pedals a Van Diemen. Daniel O’Beirne will drive a Swift and Silverstone Instructor, Mark Armstrong, fresh from a race win at the Festival a Van Diemen RF80.

We are in for a great weekend… Are you ready to catch Hayes Fever ?