Kyle Kirkwood: Up, Down, Up!

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Kyle Kirkwood

Published on November 09, 2016 with No Comments

LONDON, England — The Walter Hayes Trophy is over. Actually, I’m sad to know this is our last race here in the U.K…at least for now. My weekend was absolutely filled with big ups and downs. Fortunately for me, the event ended on a major high note.

Oliver and I were quick straight away in testing, and by the end of the first day we were running within three-tenths of the track record – without new tires or a draft, which is worth over a half-second most of the time. Our practice days continued to go well. We were fighting for the best time in every session and really never changed much on the cars, which goes to show how well Cliff Dempsey Racing has its program together. The first practice day was by far the best because from Wednesday morning until the heat race there was a driver who was dumping oil constantly on track. Saying that, I’m actually very fortunate to have had that practice, because the same driver was in my qualifying heat also…and the practice on how to drive in that condition was a key factor in the qualifying for my Heat race.

Leading the Heat race on Saturday (JeffBloxham.com)

After setting the third fastest time in qualifying, I jumped to the lead into the first corner and held it for a couple laps. I think my excitement got the best of me when I knew I had a great shot at winning. Ben Norton made a stellar pass on myself and Jordan Dempsey by splitting us going down into Brooklands. The very next lap I attempted to draft by him going into Brooklands and he was obviously watching his mirrors like a hawk. I tried to trick him to go wide to open a door on the inside and when I went for the inside pass he knew exactly what I was trying and caught me off guard when he shut the door. When I fell back behind him I was nearly touching his gearbox with my nose, and while I was still attempting to fall in behind I found myself in the braking zone with a very unsettled car. I locked up my right-front tire and clipped his right-rear tire just hard enough to turn his car around under braking. When he spun my left-front tire tore off his exhaust muffler, which slashed my tire and became stuck under my car. I felt really bad for Ben. Honestly, I should have just waited, but hindsight is 20-20. I limped home a distant 16th. I was really heart-broken and lost a bit of confidence when I realized the difficulty of the task that lay ahead of me if I was to make the Grand Final.

On the podium with Stephen Daly (left) and Scott Andrews (Jack Mitchell/JAM Motorsport Photography)

First up on Sunday was the “Progression Race” and all I had to do was finish a few spots ahead of where I started in ninth place. I jumped to fourth before the first corner, then took the lead before the first lap was over and went on to score my first win. That was a big boost to my confidence!

The Last Chance Race was next, just over an hour later, and this time I had to start 31st out of 36. I don’t know how I made it to third so quick, but I did. Actually I could have won that race but I wasn’t going to risk a crash knowing I was already in a transfer spot, so I settled for third behind Scott Andrews and Stephen Daly.

(Jack Mitchell/JAM Motorsport Photography).

I started 29th in the Semi-Final but didn’t get the best start because a driver spun out in front of me in Copse, which caused me to go way wide and killed my run towards Maggotts and Becketts. I then picked as many drivers off as possible and found myself in 12th before the 12-lap race was over, which was enough to qualify me for the Grand Final. So at least I had achieved my primary goal.

In the Final I got exactly what I was hoping for… rain! I knew wet conditions would help a lot for passing, considering I was starting 23rd. My start was absolutely the best I’ve ever had, and by the end of the first lap I was already in 11th! I then took positions slowly but consistently until the end of the race, despite only being able to see my braking reference and one rain light in front because of how much spray the Formula Ford cars were throwing up. Unknowingly, I ended up in the third position on the last lap of the race…but I couldn’t see my pit board because of the all the water! And on the last lap going into Brooklands I left the door wide open for Josh Fisher to pass. I realized he was a bit faster than me so figured I would follow his line and find out exactly why he was faster to make it easier to catch whomever was in front of us, and when I did that I then saw the checkered flag waving and realized the race was over.

Fighting through the field in the Final
(Jack Mitchell/JAM Motorsport Photography).

I came back to the pits expecting to have finished just inside the top 10, so I was very disappointed to find out as soon as I got out of the car that I had given up a podium spot without a fight. But honestly I was just happy to make the final and everyone was ecstatic with my drive, so I cheered up real quick! Everyone was saying “Kyle had the ‘drive of the race.’”

So I’m happy to say the weekend ended on a high note and now we’re back in London preparing to head back to reality!

Thank you, everyone, so much!

Kyle Kirkwood

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