WEST KINGSDOWN, England (October 25, 2015) – Team USA Scholarship drivers Dakota Dickerson, 18, from San Diego, Calif., and Michai Stephens, 23, from Evanston, Ill., were in the thick of the action during today’s 44th Formula Ford Festival, finishing third in their respective Semi Final races before claiming fifth (Dickerson) and seventh (Stephens) after a thrilling finale.
The action began under sunny skies this morning with a trio of 15-lap Semi Final races. Dickerson lined up fourth for his race but quickly moved his way into third where he stayed for the duration to chase Stephen Daly and Luke Williams home to the finish.
Just a few minutes later, an excellent start by Stephens from the outside of the front row saw him forge past pole-sitting Team Canada driver Michael Adams and claim the lead. His work was undone shortly afterward due to a red flag stoppage caused by a multi-car incident at Graham Hill Bend. Undeterred, Stephens repeated his feat at the restart to lead 2013 Festival winner Niall Murray, fellow Irishman Jake Byrne and Dutchman Melroy Heemskerk, after Adams unfortunately tangled with Oliver White at Druid’s. Stephens held on gloriously in the lead for four laps before slipping to third behind his vastly more experienced adversaries. All three were blanketed by less than a half-second at the finish, with Heemskerk and Noel Robinson also in close attendance.
The grid for the Final was established by finishing positions from each of the Semi Final races, with Dickerson lining up eighth and Stephens ninth. Both were jumped by Stuart Gough at the start but remained in contention as Northern Irishman Wayne Boyd made good his escape at the front of the field.
Dickerson and Stephens ran seventh and eighth on Lap 10, whereupon the Final was halted by a red flag after Murray’s engine expired, leaving a wide oil slick around much of the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
The race was restarted for a 10-lap dash to the checkered flag, with Boyd picking up where he left off and winning comfortably to reprise his 2008 success. Irishman Robert Barrable headed Gough in a tense battle for second, with Heemskerk, Dickerson, Daly and Stephens all blanketed by just 1.2 seconds.
“The racing was extremely hard with experienced racers breathing down my neck while still trying to pass the multiple cars in front of me,” related Dickerson. “With half the race to go, a competitor’s motor blew in front of me, which threw all of us for a loop. The restart was good, maintaining position, and then capitalizing on others’ mistakes brought a fifth position. I learned a tremendous amount during this race and can’t wait for Silverstone!”
“Wow, what a race,” added Stephens. “It was hard, fun, surprising and most of all memorable. Finishing within the top 10 made for a fantastic learning experience and optimistic approach heading to Silverstone! A massive thanks to the Team USA Scholarship and all its tremendous supporters for allowing us to come out here and race our hearts out!”