Well, it’s the time that always comes after an awesome trip – the time of reflection. I had a smooth trip back home to Hamilton, Ohio accompanied by my dad, Uncle Terry and my friend, Scott, whom I met a few years ago back in my karting days, who came out to support me. Being his first time out of the U.S., he had a great time and got a very solid experience of England and racing in the UK.
I’ve taken a few days to rest to get accustomed to my regular day-to-day life and I’m happy to be back home with my friends and family. Looking back, I have to say, that was the most amazing six weeks of my life and I already miss the excitement of our busy time in the UK, from our tours to Bath, London and Ireland to our experience at the Formula Ford Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy, touring four different F1 team factories and getting a day in a GB3 car. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my six weeks.
I’d like to start by talking a bit about my week at the Walter Hayes Trophy. It was a very wet five days of track time. In qualifying, the stewards made a very questionable call only allowing us one green-flag lap due to the weather and I qualified fifth. In my heat, the rain picked up and we had little to no visibility. Every corner I had to guess where I needed to brake, then after downshifting, I had to lift my fogging visor and pull down my fogging glasses to be able to see at all. Coupled with that I had cars all around me racing for positions. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life but incredibly fun, nonetheless. Moving onto the Semi-Final, I started in ninth and quickly made up six positions on the first lap, but a gradual engine problem saw me lose all of those positions and eventually the engine died, and my weekend ended early.
I said before I was even picked for the scholarship this year, that there would be a vast amount of learning experiences, and that was a massive understatement. This was my first experience living away from home, especially being almost 4000 miles away, which added a bit of uncertainty, since most of the time you are within driving distance of your parents if you ever need help with anything and we weren’t even within a day’s trip. Luckily, I had Ayrton [Houk] as a roommate, and we had [Ammonite Motorsport team principal] Andy [Low] to help the both of us. It was good to learn some life skills like cooking and learn just overall independence and taking care of all your belongings and keeping everything in order.
I learned so much during the 16 days we spent at five different circuits. On track, the biggest change from my previous experience was the tire difference. The Avon tire requires a good amount of slip angle, meaning to get good corner exits, you must have the rear end sliding, which took a while to get comfortable with and break the old habit of fully correcting the slides. This also means your driving style must be incredibly precise, which helps not only with raw speed but also helps a lot with the consistency of your driving lap after lap.
Another challenge was rising up to the skill level at which my competitors were at. Everyone within the top 10-15 was always on the absolute limit lap after lap and hardly ever made mistakes. Coupled with the lack of slipstream compared to the US F1600 cars, that meant overtakes needed to be made within the first two laps and you needed to be on it from the get-go. Comparing the aggression, generally in the US, you find that the aggression isn’t calculated and a lot of the time, you end up with incidents that should never happen whereas in the UK, they are more aggressive, but a lot smarter and you’ll see the pass completion ratio is a lot higher in the UK.
A change that suited me was the standing starts, I have always had a struggle with timing rolling starts but the standing starts are the same for everyone. Getting used to the RPMs was easy when I would compare them to musical notes. Like I said in one of my previous quotes, the best starts I’ve had, have all been by making the engine hit a certain note rather than a number, then all it is from there is to nail the clutch release which I understood after a bit of practice.
On the off-track side of things, I got my first experience with interviews, I made a lot of very important connections, and my social media skills and promotion have improved a lot. All of these learning experiences have played a crucial role in my development as a driver. Now the real work begins. My plan for the 2024 season is to move up to the slicks and wings categories, with the GB4 series in the UK or the USF2000 series in the US. I am working on finding partners and supporters, interested in helping me move up the motorsports ladder to my goal of becoming a professional racing driver.
To close out this blog, I’d like to give my utmost thanks to the people who made these six weeks possible, Jeremy Shaw, Andy Low, all of our Team USA Supporters, Ammonite Motorsport, and my friends and family.
Until next time,