“I was a bit nervous because of the wet conditions," said Daly, “because I hadn’t done a standing start before in the wet, but I kept the revs really low and basically just inched off the line. I didn’t get any wheelspin and it was better than all the guys in front of me. At the first corner, I went in way too fast, which is what I planned, went wide onto the runoff and came out in front."
From there, Daly engaged in a close tussle with 2007 British Formula Ford Champion Nathan Freke, driving a similar Ray. The pair exchanged positions a couple of times before Freke got sideways on the exit of Luffield and 16-year-old Daly took full advantage to nip past into Woodcote Corner. He then put his head down and gradually edged away to win by 1.45 seconds. Daly also set fastest lap at 1m12.672s.
“After everything that’s happened in the last few weeks, it’s good to finally get a first place," said a delighted Daly, whose father, ex-Formula 1 and IndyCar driver Derek Daly was on hand to witness his son’s maiden overseas triumph. “It’s definitely well deserved for the team, that’s for sure. They’ve worked really hard."
A couple of hours later, 17-year-old Newgarden lined up third on the grid for Heat Three after an abbreviated qualifying session. He actually posted a lap time that would have been comfortably good enough for the pole, only for it to be disallowed by the stewards because he crossed the line literally moments after the red flags waved due to an accident on the opposite side of the circuit. “It’s a real shame," said Newgarden. “That’s OK though. The car’s good and it’s the race that matters."
Sure enough, Newgarden mirrored his teammate’s start by getting a great launch of the grid. He immediately challenged the leaders into the first turn, Copse Corner before tucking in behind polesitter William Herron (Ray GR08).
“I just wanted to watch for the first lap and then make my strategy," related Newgarden. “I was trying to take it a little easy because Herron took Conor off [two weeks ago] at Brands [Hatch] and everybody says he’s kind of aggressive!"
Newgarden didn’t stay there for long. At the end of lap two, Herron’s car snapped completely sideways on the exit of Luffield and Newgarden made his move, ducking to the inside and taking the lead. He promptly drove away from the field, winning by 5.969 seconds and posting a fastest lap of 1m12.090s.
“The car was fabulous. It had a bit of understeer but we set the car up to do that," said Newgarden. “There was a lot of lapped traffic so you had to be careful. It seemed like a very short race. In fact I don’t think I would have seen the checkered flag if I didn’t see the crew cheering on the pit wall! I thought, what are they doing? Then I looked over and saw the checkered flag!"
The other heat races were won by Robert Barrable (Van Diemen), Rory Butcher (Van Diemen RF92), Scottish champion Graham Carroll (Van Diemen RF90) and Patrick McKenna (Ray GRS07). The grid placings for tomorrow morning’s two 12-lap Semi Final races will be determined in the morning.