Surviving Silverstone

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Tristan Nunez

Published on November 06, 2012 with No Comments

London, England (November 6, 2012) – My last blog was titled “whirlwind” because that’s what I felt like I was living in when I first arrived at Brands Hatch. Winning the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship then flying to England to represent Team USA for two race weekends, I felt like things just couldn’t get any better than that. But to my surprise, they did!!

Celebrating the win!
Jeff Bloxham photo.

I really did not have any grand expectations other than to do my best and to learn a lot. I was faced with many obstacles and was way out of my comfort zone. The most concerning obstacle was racing in the rain, and I was thrown into the wet conditions in the very first session. I was shocked how comfortable I felt in the wet! Before I left for England, everyone told me that I better pray for dry weather, but ironically I found myself praying for it to rain.

The rain testing gave me so much confidence going into the heat races, which allowed me to capitalize on the two wins at Brands Hatch. Things didn’t go my way there for the Final which was very disappointing because I started on pole and I could taste the victory. P2 got an advantage on the start and passed me going into Turn One (Paddock Hill Bend), and I was passed again going into Turn Two (Druid’s), which put me into P3. I finally got my chance to take back P2 but was turned down on which sent my flying into the gravel of Paddock corner. That sent me to the back of the field, and as I was beginning to make up positions, my engine let go and so did my hopes for winning the Formula Ford Festival.

Going into Silverstone, I knew that I had to keep my head up and focus on making the final and, most importantly, surviving it! This race was going to be a whole different story. There were three times the amount of competitors (120) and these competitors were all highly experienced. There were previous multi-winners as well as professional drivers in the mix. My goal was to get to the final.

Silverstone is a completely different track than Brands Hatch. It was easier to learn with much more high-speed running and allowed for close competition. Testing went well again for me. I was consistently in the top five in all of my testing sessions. I qualified fifth in my group, and came in fourth in my first heat. I forgot to mention that I was again in the same group as Ivor McCullough, a two-time Formula Ford Festival winner, Luke Cooper, Oliver White and a vast amount of other talent. To be in the Semi Finals was a relief and one step closer to my goal.

The day of the Semi Finals and Grand Final began with a monsoon!! They actually had bulldozers pushing the standing water off the track. The schedule was postponed for about two hours in hopes that the weather would clear.  It eventually did, and racing resumed. I was in the second Semi Final, which was a nice change because I was previously always in the first group. This allowed me to watch a little of the first Semi Final to get an idea of what to expect. The track conditions were wet and extremely slick. I started 10th and finished a solid fourth place, which lined me up for the final in P7.

My goal was almost achieved; all I needed to do was survive the mayhem of the Final! I lined up in P7 and got the best standing start out of the entire two weeks that I’ve been here. I was sixth after the first corner. I pushed hard to get to the front. About halfway into the race I was already in the third position.  As I began to reel in P1 and P2, I started to think that winning this prestigious race was a possibility. When Peter Dempsey (P1) and Joey Foster (P2) got tangled in their battle, I was able to slip by and take P1. At that moment, I saw a clear track with no water spray going into my visor and I felt like this victory was meant to be. Ivor McCullough saw it differently. He was the same guy that I made a last-minute pass on for the win in the Semi Final at Brands Hatch. He was not going to let me get away with it again so he dive-bombed me going into the last sector of the track, coming to see the white flag.

Wheel-to-wheel with Ivor McCullough.
Jeff Bloxham photo.

I was right on his tail going onto the front straightaway and I was able to get by him in Turn Three (Beckett’s) and soon after that I saw the checkered flag. However, it wasn’t a very enthusiastic wave like we have in America, so I wasn’t quite sure if the race was over. I took Turn One (Copse Corner) at normal race pace and it wasn’t until I saw the corner marshalls clapping with their hands in the air that I knew that this was for real. I had won the Walter Hayes Trophy Grand Final!!

It still hasn’t really sunk in yet, but now that my Facebook and Twitter have blown up with congrats, it’s starting to become more of a reality. There are so many people to thank for giving me this unique opportunity. I feel so blessed to be able to be a part of the elite  list of drivers that have come through the Team USA scholarship and to have my name engraved on the Walter Hayes Trophy. This has been an experience of a life time and one that I will never forget.

Tristan

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