It feels like just yesterday I landed in Heathrow, but now here we are, ready to go for the 2021 Formula Ford Festival. The past three days have been action-packed, starting off on Wednesday when the Team USA Scholarship arranged a visit for me and my teammate, Max (Esterson), to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.
The McLaren visit was any racer’s dream, with cars on display ranging from Bruce McLaren’s first ever car (above) to Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 championship-winning Vodafone machine. Prost and Senna’s cars from the late ‘80s were on display, including the McLaren MP4/4, which won 15 out of 16 races in 1988. Every trophy the team has ever earned sat in one hallway, two of which were the first and second-place trophies from this year’s Italian Grand Prix. The assembly floor for their road cars was equally impressive, with at least 100 cars sitting in the space, some of them going in and out of “monsoon” or “dynamic” testing chambers. The combined worth of that entire section of factory was truly eye-watering.
From McLaren we headed straight to Brands Hatch, where testing began on Thursday morning. I was excited to arrive, as I had a good weekend in EuroNASCAR here in 2019 and very much enjoyed the circuit as well as the atmosphere. My excitement was further boosted by the arrival of my two superstar teammates, Jan Magnussen and Dennis Lind. I’m thrilled to be teaming with two accomplished professional racing drivers who have also both won the Festival in years past. Although they’re here for the enjoyment, I’ve sensed their competitiveness and motivation to be as fast as possible, and they’ve certainly been active and thoroughly involved in each and every debrief session. Working alongside them has been an experience I won’t soon forget.
Testing went well; I became more comfortable with the car each session and completed running in wet, dry, and mixed conditions. On Thursday, I knew I was getting a bit frustrated while not matching the pace I expected, as well as when I picked up a minor time penalty for exceeding track limits. I missed a shift and damaged the valves in the engine, necessitating a lengthy repair job from the Low Dempsey Racing boys, for which I am incredibly grateful. Friday was a much calmer day, starting each session with a blank sheet as the rainy weather made sure that no two sessions were the same. I became more comfortable as the day went on and ended the day with some good pace, which is great news heading into qualifying.
It looks as though most, if not all, of the weekend will be under rainy conditions, which should shake things up and favor some over others. You can tune into all the action on the live stream at. Also, timing and scoring is available at . My heat is at 7:45 Eastern time on Saturday, and the final race will be at 10:40 on Sunday. The quality of racing never disappoints at the Festival, so make sure you tune in!
– Andre Castro