William Ferguson: UK Reflections

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, William Ferguson

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Published on November 15, 2022 with No Comments

Motorsport seems much more popular in the UK.

PACIFICA, Calif. – The Team USA Scholarship program has been an incredible experience. I’m so thankful to have been able to race in England and drive around some legendary tracks, including Brands Hatch and Silverstone. European tracks seem to be just much smoother, faster and all around more enjoyable to drive! Off the track, It was interesting to see how popular motorsports is compared to the United States. The Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy both had substantial crowds and grandstands packed with spectators. Even our first race at Castle Combe had more spectators than you would see at most lower division race series in America.

Elliott Budzinski (center) and Thomas Schrage have been great teammates.

The last six weeks have been intense. We were constantly on the move, always doing something. I didn’t know Elliott or Thomas really at all before this whole thing. We were thrown into a completely different culture and forced to adapt and get to know one another. I think we got along pretty well and I was proud to be their teammate. One thing from this experience that I’m really grateful for is how much I learned about myself. Being away from all of my family and friends and being in a completely different environment, I learned what’s important to me.

The GB3 car has real power and a lot of grip (Lee Marshall).

Following the Formula Ford Festival Elliott, Thomas and I got to spend a week and half back in Milton Keynes. We had a great time getting to explore the surrounding area once again and even had dinner with Team Canada.  We were very privileged to go on tours of the Haas F1 facility as well as the McLaren Technology Center, Ilmor and Multimatic. Along with the tours, we got the opportunity to do a few laps in a GB3 car thanks to Douglas Motorsports. With only 15 laps each, we had to get up to speed quickly to experience the full potential of the car. It only took about three or four laps before I felt comfortable enough to start pushing the car. It was such a great feeling driving a car that has real power and a lot of grip. The braking footwork felt similar to the F4 car I drove in 2021, but the actual ability of the car was nothing like anything I’ve ever felt. I’m very much looking forward to racing something of this caliber in the future.

Our car has felt good in all conditions(Gary Hawkins).

Heading into the Walter Hayes Trophy, I was actually feeling really confident. I didn’t have the greatest weekend at the Festival but we had a strong pace the entire time and in every condition. I knew that if I put my head down early and got comfortable with the track we could have a really good result. Testing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday went really well. I was a bit off pace but we learned a lot through setup and what to do for any scenario of track conditions. I was in the second heat, and heading out for qualifying I was still feeling quite confident but only managed to grab sixth position. However, this was a perfect place to be, especially at a track like Silverstone National. With only a few corners, draft is a major part of a quick lap time and in wet conditions, anything can happen in the race.

Good race craft paid off with a third-place finish (JEP images).

My first race proved that point exactly. After the two leaders made contact in Turn One, on top of me getting a great launch off the line, I went from sixth to first by the exit of Copse Corner. I wasn’t going to lie to myself, I knew I didn’t have the pace to maintain the lead for very long. So calculating my chances, I decided it was best to not fight the two quickest guys and tried to stick with them as long as I could. For most of the race I had a train of cars behind me, but I knew if I just stayed calm and didn’t make any mistakes I could maintain a podium position. A car in front ended up going off the very slippery track on their own, and when the cars behind me started fighting each other, this gave me just enough room for a third-place finish. This was pretty much the exact opposite of the Festival; this time, we traded a little bit of pace for great race craft and a bit of luck.

The Semi Final was looking good until Lady Luck intervened.

After a great Saturday, I would start fifth for the Semi Final on Sunday morning. The initial start was delayed nearly five minutes and I could feel the anticipation from the drivers around me, waiting for the lights to go out. We ended up doing another green flag lap to warm up the tires and then we were off. I had another good start and maintained fifth position until the red flag came out on the back straight. There were a few cars parked on the front straight after an incident at the start. I suspected from such a delayed start that everyone would be on edge. Once the track was cleared, we gridded up for a second time and I had another great start. However, exiting Becketts, a car behind slid into my right rear and I spun around. Luckily the car was still intact, but that would be the end of our weekend as I wasn’t able to get far enough up the field to make it into the final.

The Ammonite team has done an amazing job.

It was a disappointing end to what was otherwise an amazing experience. Andy Low runs a great race team, and there is always such a great atmosphere under the Ammonite Motorsport tent. I’m so grateful for all of the hard work and everything Andy did for Elliott, Thomas and me. I’ve learned so much over the last six weeks, and I’m really looking forward to taking everything I’ve learned into next year. There’s a lot of work to be done over the off season but I’m excited to see what 2023 brings. It has been such a privilege to be a part of the Team USA Scholarship. What Jeremy and all of the supporters do for young drivers is just incredible. The three of us are now a part of a program that has produced decades of successful American racing drivers. Thank you to everyone who made these last six weeks possible. It was an honor to represent the USA and all of you while doing what I love most.

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