TEAM USA scholarship winner Patrick Barrett reports
My Formula Palmer Audi Test in England
When teammate Joel Miller and I first landed at Heathrow International Airport outside of London on Saturday September 1st, we immediately got the sense that we had arrived in England when we stopped at the currency exchange booth. The rate was approximately $2.00 to 1.00 pound. After that was dealt with, we were picked up by a Palmer Sport employee named Neil who transported us to a town near Donington Park. It was that night we felt the first phase of jet-lag.
We spent all day Sunday at Donington Park watching a round of the Formula Palmer Audi Championship. In between races we got to tour the Donington Grand Prix Collection which showcased historic and modern formula cars and motorcycles. The most stunning part of the tour was walking into the McLaren Hall which featured over two dozen McLaren Formula One cars including the car which Ayrton Senna used to win the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington Park. Also included is a collection of Williams F1 cars, the Tyrell six wheeled F1 car as well as statue of Senna and Juan Manual Fangio standing together.
The remainder of our trip was either spent at a bed and breakfast, just outside of Bedford, or at the Palmer Sport complex located at the Bedford Autodrome.
On Tuesday we finally got a chance to drive the Formula Palmer Audi. Though Joel and I only had from 5:00 to 7:00 PM , the sun stayed up long enough to give us plenty of time to learn the car. One notable experience with the FPA was the turbo. It’s something that not too many formula cars have, but driving a car that had such power, 300 horsepower and turbocharged, was quite demanding. It definitely teaches a driver to be patient with the throttle and not to over drive the car. By the end of the day I had logged in over 50 laps on the 1.8 mile course. My forearms were sore from the extra effort it took to drive this car.
On Wednesday morning not long after checking in at Palmer Sport, Joel and I were off to visit the Snetterton circuit, a two hour drive east of Bedford. Our second and final weekend of racing will be held there. We were not able to go on track but we took the time to walk up on a grass hill and view parts of the course. It’s a really fast looking track with not much room for error. The key to this circuit will be momentum and using the draft to our advantage.
On Thursday we were assigned to help out with the corporate events that were being held at Bedford Autodrome. Joel and I were sent to the kart track to help with instruction until it was our turn to take over the circuit and pilot the FPAs again. This second outing in the car was similar to the previous day. I was able to experiment with car set-up, but what was most important to me was to get as much seat time as possible. By the end of the day I had completed just under 60 laps.
On our final night Joel and I went out to a local pub for a large dinner with our FPA host Chris Dredge. We spent hours reflecting on what we had experienced and how we looked forward to arriving home and telling our friends and family about our journey.
It won’t be long until we travel again to England for the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy which will be held in October and November. We understand that the competition will be tougher that last year and more will be at stake. The Autumn Trophy this year is a shootout to determine the final nominee for the McLaren Autosport Award which will go to a young British driver. F-1 star Lewis Hamilton is a past winner of the award. Joel and I look forward to our return to the U.K. and feel so grateful about representing the United States and everyone who supports the Team USA Scholarship program.