Dublin’s Niall Murray added yet anther chapter to an almost completely re-written Formula Ford history book today when he lifted the Walter Hayes Trophy in Silverstone, and with it, becoming the first ever driver to win the three blue-riband Formula Ford trophy race titles in one season – The Martin Donnelly Trophy in Kirkistown, Formula Ford Festival in Brands Hatch and now the Walter Hayes Trophy in Silverstone.
As has been the case on so many occasions this season, Murray’s weekend got off to a good start with Thursday and Friday’s pre-event testing. Regarded as one of the quickest drivers on circuit, this fact was confirmed on Saturday morning during qualifying, Niall topping the times by over three tenths of a second.
Starting the Heat three race from pole position, initially Murray made a typically strong getaway to lead the field and open a good margin over his rivals, before suddenly the Van Diemen RF99 appeared to lose pace. Slipping to second behind Wayne Boyd, Niall gradually start to reel in the race leader once more in the closing stages. In a drag race to the line, Murray missed out on the top spot by a slender nine hundredths of a second, all the more notable when after the race he confirmed his lack of pace was caused by a broken gear linkage, offering him only second and fourth gears for the second half of the race but he still managed to secure the fastest lap of the race.
Qualifying on row two for Sunday’s semi-final one, Niall knew a good start would be key to a clean run to his place on the grid for the grand final. With Boyd and Jordan Dempsey side by side into the first corner, Murray capitalised taking his normal line around the outside to complete his move for the lead into Becketts.
Within a couple of laps, Niall was building his lead while the intense battle for second played out behind him. It wasn’t long however before Boyd broke free and set about chasing down Murray’s race leading Van Diemen. Everything was under control out in front and despite the gap closing to almost two tenths of a second, Niall remained in front to win the race and put himself on provisional pole position for the grand final.
With the times from semi-final two turning out to be marginally slower, Murray indeed occupied the top spot for the final Formula Ford 1600 Trophy race of the year. Conditions at the British Grand Prix host venue were significantly different now compared to the rest of weekend, with heavy rain and sleet soaking the circuit during the two races leading up to the Grand Final. Undeterred, Murray got a lightning launch off the line to lead into the first corner despite a brief challenge on the inside from American driver Oliver Askew. With Murray sticking to the more suitable outside line, he was able to get a better exit out of Copse to lead at the end of lap one. From there, Niall simply showed what a class act he really is. Up against any opposition, in any weather conditions, both he and Race Engineer Bernard Dolan had that magic touch and over the course of the 15 laps, Murray built a lead of over eight seconds to take his third successive Formula Ford Trophy race title, in addition this year to his Triple Crown Championship title, BRSCC National Championship title, ticket to the Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout, Martin Donnelly Trophy and most recently, his second victory at the Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival.
Niall Murray – #5 Bernard Dolan Racing Van Diemen RF99:
“It still hasn’t sunk in! BRSCC British National Formula Ford 1600 Champion, Martin Donnelly Trophy, Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival and now the Walter Hayes Trophy! An amazing year and to become the first Kent-powered driver to ever win the Festival and Walter Hayes in the one year is just brilliant. I cannot thank Bernard & Sam Dolan and David Healy enough for doing such a great job all year and the sooner people realise Bernard is a genius with Formula Ford 1600 the better! Thanks to all my sponsors and everyone involved all year, without which all of this wouldn’t have been possible!”