American Wins Walter Hayes Trophy second consecutive year!
Connor De Phillippi
Junior formula car standout Connor De Phillippi is the latest American to make his mark in European open-wheel racing, following his historic Walter Hayes Trophy win this past weekend (October 31 – November 1) at the Silverstone Circuit in England. The California teenager became the second consecutive Team USA Scholarship driver and youngest-ever winner, when he bested over a 100 other drivers in the prestigious year-old Formula Ford event.
Only a short time after commencing his European adventure as part of the Team USA Scholarship program during the Formula Ford Festival, De Phillippi was back behind the wheel at the Silverstone National Circuit taking part in pre-event testing for the Walter Hayes Trophy, which features over 100 traditional Kent-powered Formula Fords battling for top honors. The reigning BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National presented by Mazda champion, as expected, wasted little time coming to grips with the high-speed road course. As result, when the event officially got underway via qualifying, the No. 22 Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray GRS08 driver was one everyone was keeping a close eye on.
Allocated to the Heat Five group, De Phillippi proved to be the driver to beat in the wet Saturday morning qualifying session, earning the pole position with a fast lap of 1:14.104. Lining-up P1 for the afternoon Heat race, the 16 year-old continued to impress in the eight-lap affair. Battling for the lead with the recent Formula Ford Festival winner from start to finish, De Phillippi led on more than one occasion, before eventually crossing the stripe in second, a mere 0.283s behind the winner. The San Clemente, Calif., driver as a result automatically earned a place in one of the two Sunday Semi-Final races.
De Phillippi continued his charge towards the historic event win one day later, returning to the cockpit of his Team USA/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray for the second Semi-Final race. Thanks to a first-lap tangle between two of the leading contenders, which he was fortunate to avoid, the race proved to be an uneventful affair for the talented young driver, leading every lap en route to the win. In scoring the victory, the American earned the pole position for the 15-lap Grand Final at the end of the day.
De Phillippi got a superb launch when the lights went out to commence the 2009 edition of the Walter Hayes Trophy, holding the top-spot through the opening sequence of corners. Initially it appeared as though as everything would go according to plan, with the No. 22 Team USA car pulling out a multi-car advantage. Disaster however nearly struck a short time later, when De Phillippi caught to much curb at the tricky Brooklands corner, getting very sideways. Fortunate to have not spun, De Phillippi continued in fourth place. The Californian, well aware that he was still in contention for the win, put his head down and set about regaining the lost positions. Following a pair of beautifully executed passes, De Phillippi retook first place via an out braking maneuver at the Beckett’s hairpin. Once back in the lead, he never relinquished the position, capturing the win by 1.035s. De Phillippi in taking the victory became the second American and second consecutive Team USA Scholarship driver to win the prestigious race. At the age of 16 years, 10 months and six days, he also beat his friend and 2008 race winner Conor Daly’s record as the youngest-ever winner.
“I can’t even describe how I feel,” said an ecstatic De Phillippi. “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.”
De Phillippi has now returned to the U.S.A., commencing preparations for the 2010 race season, where he will race with a yet to be determined team in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear via fully funded ride courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Driver Development Ladder program. The award is for winning the 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National presented by Goodyear championship.
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