Reports > Walter Hayes Trophy November 2021
Strong showing by entire WPR team at Walter Hayes
The 2021 edition of the Walter Hayes Trophy meeting at Silverstone was held on 6/7 November and the Wayne Poole Racing team arrived with a strong line-up of five Formula Fords. For the first time in many years the team had two contenders for outright victory. After taking a year out Josh Fisher was back in the in the Richard Hudson-Evans owned and Classic Auction Review backed Van Diemen RF99 which he has used extensively in the past and which Ben Mitchell raced successfully at Castle Combe in 2021. Ben was in Richard Hudson-Evans' newly acquired Van Diemen JL16 and looking forward to competing for outright victory having finished 12th in 2020 in an 'historic' Merlyn. Joining them were regular WPR drivers Steve Bracegirdle (Van Diemen RF89), James Colborn (Van Diemen RF88) and Peter Barrable (who last took part in the WHT in 2008, finishing 11th in a Ray) with his recently purchased Royale RP26 and fresh from its first outing at Brands the week before. Peter's main focus was on the Carl Hamer Trophy race for pre '82 cars.
The week-end began frustratingly as Josh lost an engine in testing which had to be replaced with a spare. But this didn't feel as strong as the original so a head swap was made and the engine performed well for the rest of the week-end. James had a rear upright break causing the wheel to tuck under the chassis and sending him off requiring some significant repairs. Then in qualifying for the first heat Steve had a major off on the pit straight going into Copse. The resulting damage was extensive (three corners) and took the team until late in the evening to get the car repaired and ready for the next day.
But the team's fortunes were about to improve and ultimately lead to their strongest showing at the event for many years.
Heat 1 should have featured Steve but the car was still being repaired and he would have to start the Progression race from the back of the grid. Heat 3 saw James and Peter qualify next to each other in 19th and 20th with James making good progress in the race to finish 16th and a good grid spot in the Last Chance race. Peter finished 19th and the second 'older' car in the race but with some ideas about how to improve the handling.
Josh and Ben were both in Heat 4 and qualified 2nd and 3rd respectively a couple of tenths apart. Josh reported that a year off wasn't an issue and he was quickly back on the pace. Ben said that the 'new' car felt very similar to the one he had been driving all year and that being able to share data and set up info with Josh was benefiting both drivers. In the race, after good starts, Ben took the lead on Lap 2 with Josh taking over on Lap 3. It was looking like a WPR one two until the last lap when Ben dropped to third while Josh took the win and fastest lap.
In the Progression race Peter started from pole and held a convincing lead for a couple of laps until some of the more modern cars made their way through the field but he still finished a creditable fifth and happy with the changes made to the car overnight. Despite having to start from the very back of the grid Steve had an excellent race and moved through the field to finish 12th and a spot in the Last Chance race.
In the Last Chance race all three WPR drivers went well with James in 15th and Peter in 20th both securing places in a semi final. Steve made good progress from the back to finish 21st to be the first reserve for Semi 1 which turned into a place in the Semi 1 (his first) and meaning that all five WPR drivers made it into the Semis.
In Semi 1 both James and Steve had quiet races finishing near the back of the field of mostly more modern cars but thoroughly enjoying their semi final appearances.
In Semi 2 all was going according to plan with Josh leading and even eking out a small lead until he was nudged into a spin at Luffield on Lap 7 dropping him to 13th. But a good recovery saw Josh get back to seventh which became sixth after another driver ahead received a penalty. Meanwhile Ben, who had been in the lead group just behind Josh carefully took his chances, briefly taking the lead at one point, to finish a very encouraging second. Peter ran reliably to finish 27th.
So to the Grand Final, held in the gathering gloom as the start was delayed due to various appeals over penalties applied in each of the Semis. One of the US Scholarship drivers, Max Esterson, made a break early in the race and was just able to hang on to the finish as a group of five cars disputed second place for the entire race. Ben made a good start and was well placed in this group for the whole race while Josh, also starting well, closed on the group by mid race but was finding it difficult to break through. However, both drivers made their moves on the final lap with Ben taking third and Josh fifth - a really good team result.
In the two races for older cars, Peter took ninth in the Carl Hamer Trophy race for pre '82 cars and in the Janet Cesar Trophy race for pre '93 cars James came 22nd and Steve 24th.
So, a Heat win and Grand Final Podium and all five cars completing nearly 20 races over the week-end - a great result for all involved, especially the hard working mechanics.
Thanks to Greg Charman for the additional images