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Houk rises from 31st to 14th in Walter Hayes Trophy Grand Final

A dramatic final day to the 23rd Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone brought substantially improved weather conditions but no major difference in the fortunes of Team USA Scholarship drivers Ayrton Houk and Jack Sullivan. Both made tremendous early progress in their Semi Final round, rising into the top four positions before Sullivan experienced a mechanical failure and Houk lost ground following an incident at Brooklands.

With Sullivan unfortunately on the sidelines, Houk upheld team honor impressively in the 15-lap Grand Final, rising from 31st on the grid to a strong 14th-place finish.

Sullivan lined up ninth and Houk 11th for this morning’s Semi Final, with bright sunshine and clear skies having replaced the deluge of Saturday. A tremendous start saw Sullivan rise briefly as high as third at Brooklands on the opening lap. However, the engine soon began to lose power and he eventually pulled off the road to retire.

Sullivan and Houk both moved forward in the Semi Final.

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“The Semi Final was looking good until it wasn’t,” said Sullivan, 17, from Hamilton, Ohio. “After a cracking getaway off the line, I was able to make up a few spots and after an incident in Brooklands on lap 1, I was up into fourth from my ninth-place starting spot. I felt the engine start to slowly lost power over the next three laps until it finally stopped, ending our weekend. It’s just super unfortunate after all the hard work everyone has put in over the last few days and weeks to get us up to pace and well prepared for the two big races so it’s a difficult way to end the trip.”

Houk also made up ground, including an incisive pass for fourth place on the seventh lap before he was assaulted from behind under braking and forced into a spin. He recovered to finish 16th, earning him a position on the 16th row of the grid for the Grand Final.

Houk immediately began to charge forward in the climax of the weekend which honors Walter Hayes, one of the founding fathers of Formula Ford. He made up 10 positions during the opening four laps, and continued his charge after a red-flag stoppage following a variety of incidents. Houk took the checkered flag as the highest finishing American (out of seven who began the event) in 14th.

Englishman Andy Middlehurst claimed a popular and hard-earned victory in his Bernard Dolan Racing Van Diemen following a sequence of strong finishes in recent years. Michael Eastwell, who led much of the Final, had to settle for the runnerup placing for the second straight year.

“Heading into the final, I knew I would have some work ahead of me,” said Houk, 20, from McCordsville, Ind. “Starting 31st was quite intimidating but as the lights went out all bets were off. I managed to make up two spots off the line and was quickly met with a wall of competitors ahead of me. As the field spread out four almost five wide down the back straight I had a tough time deciding where to go. I settled with an outside line and made up a few more spots just on the first lap. A few more laps were in the books before a red flag came out bringing a standing restart.

“I focused on getting clean off of the line and I made up a spot heading into Copse Corner and made a deep lunge down into Maggotts for two more. The rest of the final was managing traffic and staying clean.

“Overall this whole week has been an amazing experience and I have learned so much. I truly believe my racecraft has developed tremendously in the time I have been over in the UK racing.”

Sullivan leaves the UK with a wealth of new knowledge and experience.

Sullivan, too, has benefited enormously from the wide range of experiences gained over the past month and a half.

“This trip has been the most incredible few weeks of my life,” he said. “From getting my first experience running with a professional team, living on my own, touring Formula 1 factories and racing the two most prestigious Formula Ford races in the world, it was just such an awesome time through and through and I’m really sad it’s coming to an end. I want to thank Jeremy Shaw, the Team USA Scholarship, Andy Low, all the boys and girls at Ammonite Motorsport, all of our Team USA Scholarship supporters and partners, and all of my family and friends who have supported me and made this amazing opportunity possible.”

Story originally appeared on Racer