Team USA Drivers do well in qualifying

UPDATE #2 Both 2008 Team USA Scholarship excelled today during qualifying for tomorrow’s pair of qualifying heat races which will begin the competitive action for this weekend’s Formula Ford Kent Festival at Brands Hatch.

Newgarden was first on track this morning with his #21 Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray GRS07/8. After the brief but hectic 15-minute qualifying session, Newgarden had posted the fastest time of the week thus far to snare the pole position with a lap at 50.520 seconds. The lap record currently stands at 50.3 seconds.

A couple of hours later, Conor Daly ventured out for his heat’s qualifying session in the #22 Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray and posted the second fastest time at 50.720 seconds, just 0.073 seconds adrift of pole-sitter Patrick McKenna in a similar car.

“Qualifying today went extremely well for Conor and myself," summarized 17-year-old Newgarden, from Hendersonville, Tenn. “We both managed to qualify on the front row for our heats and officially stamp our presence for this year’s Formula Ford Festival. I was a bit nervous before the session because I wanted to do so well, considering how good the week has gone so far.

“Qualifying on the front row really boosts your confidence for the preliminary races, but I know I can’t get too comfortable this early in the weekend. My plan for tomorrow is to keep my nose clean while finishing reasonably up front to better my chances at making the final."

The final part of Daly’s qualifying session was compromised by a yellow no-passing flag through the final sector of the track due to an earlier incident, but the 16-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., still did a fine job to ensure a front row starting position for tomorrow.

“It was a very interesting day for sure," said Daly. “When Josef went out and got the pole it put a little pressure on me to try and do just as well.

“I knew we had a good setup for qualifying and I was very anxious to go out. After the first few laps I was getting faster and faster and running pretty consistently. But traffic was a major issue. There was also a constant yellow flag in the last sector of the track for a crash. Through all this I was able to put together a lap that was good enough for P2 on the grid. This was a little disappointing for me because I had overtaken another car on my fastest lap which slowed me down just that little bit to not be able to get the pole"

“Looking ahead to tomorrow though I think we have two very good cars that are consistently quick and will give us the ability to have a good result."

10/17/08 Josef is in heat one and was first to qualify this morning. He did a great job and qualified on the pole.

Conor qualified for heat two just after lunch and was nipped for the pole on the last lap. He qualified second (missed by .07).

Tomorrow they each race in separate heats before the semifinal grid is decided upon.

The weather has been exceptionally good for England at this time of the year with blue sky and sunshine all day and 60 degrees.

10/16/08 Expectations are high for Team USA Scholarship drivers Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden as they go into tomorrow’s official qualifying sessions for the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.

The two patriotically liveried Ray GRS06/7 cars, prepared by Irish-based Cliff Dempsey Racing, have been at or very near the top of the testing charts during the past three days. The number of competitors has gradually increased as the week of testing has progressed, and both drivers are in a confident frame of mind as they head into their first-ever international event.

Unofficially, Newgarden has posted the fastest time of the week thus far at 50.7 seconds around the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch “Indy" circuit, with Daly and several others merely a tenth of a second or so slower.

Brands Hatch has hosted the Formula Ford Festival each year since 1976 – when, coincidentally, Conor’s father, Derek, won the event.

The Formula Ford Festival has spawned the careers of many top-line drivers over the years, including current IndyCar star Danica Patrick and Formula 1 standouts David Coulthard, Jenson Button and Mark Webber. Other well-known names to have developed their talents in Formula Ford include Emerson Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser.

Tomorrow (Friday) will see Daly and Newgarden in action for only 15 minutes apiece, but the pressure will be on as they prepare to set their grid positions for a pair of 15-lap qualifying heat races to be held on Saturday. The Team USA drivers have been placed in separate heat races. The top 12 drivers from each heat race will then progress into a pair of semi-final races on Sunday morning. The same process will determine the grid positions for the 25-lap Final on Sunday.

“I feel our third test day with Cliff Dempsey Racing went really well, and that not only ourselves but the team has been making steady progress," said Newgarden, 17, from Hendersonville, Tenn. “Throughout the entire day, Conor and I remained the guys to watch, despite all the red flags and heavy traffic. Today’s four 25-minute sessions provided us with more than ample time to fine-tune our dry track condition setups.

“Tomorrow will be a short but critical day, as Conor and I will have one 15-minute session to set our grid position for Saturday’s heat races. The team’s chemistry has been mega all week and I feel we have a strong chance at qualifying up front tomorrow."

Daly’s efforts have been hindered slightly by an obscure misfire at the top end, which, thankfully, seems to have been cured with a change of carburetor prior to today’s final session. He, too, is excited about his weekend prospects.

“Testing the last several days has gone very well I think," said Daly, 16, from Noblesville, Ind. “Josef and I have learned so much about the track, cars and all kinds of weather conditions!

“Going into qualifying I am very confident. During testing we have either been the two fastest drivers or not far from it! We have worked with the setup a lot the last few days and have now got it fine tuned for qualifying. It will be very important to get a good starting position so everyone will be at their best!"

Leave a Reply