De Phillippi Wins The Walter Hayes Trophy
Connor De Phillippi had a hard act to follow. One year ago, wearing Team USA Scholarship colors, his good friend Conor Daly became the youngest driver ever to win the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford race at Silverstone. Daly made the return trip to England this year to cheer on the latest pair of Team USA Scholarship winners, and was every bit as happy to see De Phillippi take the checkered flag at the end of a thrilling 15-lap Final this afternoon – driving the very same #22 Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray GRS08.
“I can’t even describe how I feel,” said an ecstatic De Phillippi, who at the age of 16 years, 10 months and six days, beat Daly’s record as the youngest ever Walter Hayes Trophy winner by a mere 10 days. “This is by far the biggest race I’ve won. I can’t thank everyone involved in the Team USA Scholarship enough. It’s been a tremendous honor to be here. Hopefully the right people will see this and help us move up to the next step in my career.”
Teammate Brett Smrz finished ninth following an incident early in the race which saw his car riding over the wheel of a rival. 2008 Team USA Scholarship winner Josef Newgarden finished sixth in his National School of Motorsport Van Diemen RF92, while fellow American Doug Prendeville, from Whippany, N.J., finished 30th in the 36-car Final.
Earlier in the day, De Phillippi, from San Clemente, Calif., took advantage of a first-lap tangle between pre-event favorite Rory Butcher and Stuart Gough to take the lead in his 12-lap Semi Final. De Phillippi, who started fourth, narrowly avoided the melee and went on to control the remainder of the race. Smrz, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was third in the other Semi Final race, which was held on a drying track after heavy rain earlier in the morning.
Newgarden had a busy day, winning the Last Chance Race to earn a place on the back of the grid for the first Semi Final and then charging through to finish fifth. Prendeville finished 18th in the same race.
De Phillippi secured pole for the Final by virtue of winning the faster of the two Semi Finals. He immediately took off into the lead at the start, chased by Irishmen Robert Barrable and Neville Smyth and Englishman Felix Fisher.
De Philippi eked out a small advantage over the first few laps, but then strayed too far onto the curb at the tricky Brooklands corner and went into a n enormous sideways slide which he did extremely well to control. By then he had fallen back to fourth place, but realized he was still very much in contention.
“I just had to take a breath and get my head back in the game,” he recounted. “The car was on rails. I knew I was quick so I just had to focus on getting back up there.”
He made short work of Smyth, then passed Barrable in a brilliant move in the Brooklands/Luffield complex of corners. Fisher did everything he could to hold off the young American’s advances, but to no avail. De Phillippi finally made his move for the lead at the Beckett’s hairpin and romped on to victory by just over a second.
“If he wouldn’t have lifted, he’d have gone for a wild ride,” said De Phillippi, who wowed the fans – as well as an appreciative crowd of motorsports veterans in the British Racing Drivers Club Suite – with his impressive drive.
“I was a bit conservative at Brands [Hatch two weeks earlier in the Formula Ford Festival],” said De Phillippi, “but that was just a warm-up. This weekend I was a lot more aggressive and it paid off.”
The Team USA Scholarship, now in its 20th year, is proudly supported by Doug Mockett & Company, Road Racing Drivers Club, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Robo-Pong, Highcroft Racing, Firestone Indy Lights Championship, American Honda, Silicon Salvage, McMurry Inc., Dyson Racing, Metalore, The Gorsline Company, Integrated Performance Technology, PitFit Training, Sparco USA, Cruden America, iRacing.com, OnCars.com, eFormulaCarNews.com, Speedstar Management, Manifest Group and an array of past Scholarship winners.