Walter Hayes Trophy programme 3
Walter Hayes Trophy programme 2

Walter Hayes Trophy, 2016
Programme: ‘Build it and they will come!’
– a history of the event
James Beckett
courtesy and copyright of James Beckett

When Neil Fowler drove to victory in the Walter Hayes Trophy for Pre ’72 Historic Formula Ford 1600 cars at the Silverstone Historic Festival on Saturday August 25th 2001, there was no way of knowing that the race he had just won would spawn a race meeting and become an institution.

With the demise of the Historic Festival in 2002, Formula Ford lost the opportunity to be placed in the shop window at another major track event until a race for the ever-popular category was arranged for the end-of-season BRDC Winter Warmer race meeting. This Formula Ford race was quickly handed the Walter Hayes Trophy name, and with a new silver trophy in place, the future of this Silverstone-based race was quickly assured.

A small number of cars lined up on a cold, damp but bright November day with Gavin Wills racing away to win. Such was the ‘feel good factor’ of the race that an expansion was planned for 2003 and three heats and a progressive format was introduced. Rivalling the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, the Walter Hayes Trophy proved to be a popular new kid on the block, a growing entry, a new orange logo and victory by Joey Foster ahead of Peter Daly and David Leslie in torrential rain made sure the WHT grabbed all the headlines.

Such was the momentum that entry levels doubled for 2004, when Foster won again, this time from Danny Watts, and by 2005 had reached the heights of 164 cars! Foster wrote his name into the record books in 2005, a year that offered up rain of near biblical proportions, to score a hat-trick of victories and earn the original Walter Hayes Trophy, presented to him by Sir Jackie Stewart, the then President of the BRDC, for keeps!

A new trophy was commissioned, and a year later Peter Dempsey drove to victory for his first WHT win and score the first of six victories in the event for the Cliff Dempsey Racing team. The 2006 race ended in near darkness, and under the safety car, after Gordon Shedden (yes, the reigning BTCC champion) and Michael Edgar managed to park their cars in pieces in the middle of the track at Beckett corner.

Dempsey came back the next year to score his second triumph, although he was unable to score a hat-trick like Foster, he had to wait until 2010 to score his third success. Peter Dempsey may not have won in 2008 and 2009, but the Cliff Dempsey Racing team did, and it was current IndyCar racer, Conor Daly, who became the first Team USA Scholarship winner of the coveted trophy when he won, again in rain-soaked conditions, in 20008. Team USA retained their title in 2009 with Connor di Phillippi securing the crown for the star spangled banner, while Tristan Nunez carried on the American flavour when he was victorious in 2012.

A five-year winning-streak for the Ray marque was halted by surprise winner, Adrian Campfield in 2011, when he shocked the establishment with a superb weekend of racing in a Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum, and Scott Malvern added a second Australian-manufactured Spectrum title to the tally when he dominated the Grand Final in 2013.

A much heralded match race between Peter Dempsey and Scott Malvern in 2014 ended with collision at Luffied on the opening lap of the Grsnd Final, and with the two leading contenders out of the race, the final then went on to deliver the famous Van Diemen marque their first WHT crown. Wayne Boyd snatched the lead from Rob Hall with just two corners remaining to score a very popular win.

After waiting for fourteen years to win one WHT title, Van Diemen didn’t have to wait long for another, with Graham Carroll sweeping to victory last year to win the fifteenth running of the Walter Hayes Trophy in spectacular fashion.

The WHT has developed something of a cult following. The race meeting is internationally known and recognised with racers heading to Silverstone from around the world to compete. The on-track action is traditionally some of the best witnessed anywhere, on any track, during the course of a season, such is the desire of competitors to compete in, or attempt to win, the Walter Hayes Trophy.Long may it continue!

The Walter Hayes Trophy – Great Racing…Great Atmosphere…Great Weekend!