Positive weekend for van der Watt
South Africa’s Julian van der Watt enjoyed mixed results in the weekends US Formula 1600 series triple-header at Mid-Ohio over the weekend. The South African Investchem Formula 1600 champion qualified thirteenth and drove up to fifth and eighth in the opening races Friday and Saturday before being punted out of fifth midway into Sunday’s final race, recovering and coming home fourteenth.
“Friday and Saturday were awesome,” Julian from Camps Bay, Cape Town recapped. “The weekend started well with fifth in practice, but we got the set-up a little wrong in qualifying and I started thirteenth for the first two races. “The car was so strong in the races though and I climbed up to fifth on Friday afternoon’s first race and finished eighth on Saturday, so I was really happy with that — both were awesome races!
Van der Watt enjoyed a great rookie season in the United States Formula 2000 championship in 2018, but he decided to take a step back to his old Formula 1600 stomping ground in an effort to further hone his driving skills. “We went to Silverstone looking to build up a little wet racing experience,” Julian pointed out. “I still can’t believe it, but we came back with a couple of wins in our heat and in the semi final and I started the final on pole position after not driving a Formula Ford for over a year.”
The world’s biggest Formula Ford event, the Walter Hayes Trophy is an annual once-off Formula Ford 1600 ‘World Final’ run at the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit late every year that attracts the best drivers from around the world, with the leading drivers out of six qualifying heats making it through to a pair of semi-finals, before the top 30 cars race the final. Julian started the weekend well with second on the grid for his heat following an incredibly close 10-minute session he had led most of the way.
From there, Julian overcome a race-long battle with UK rivals Tom McArthur and Ross Martin to move into the lead at the halfway mark of his heat, before warding off McArthur’s attentions for the win. That put Julian third on what proved a chaotic second semi final grid, before he cleared off in the lead on drying track. Van der Watt was delayed by backmarkers to allow Team USA driver Juke Craig to close him down before the Californian tried a move around the outside but spun, leaving Julian to the win.
“Sunday was looking good too — I started fifth and I was running fifth with the pace to possibly make it on to the podium, but Kaylen Frederick punted me into a spin at Turn Four just after the halfway mark and dropped down the pack. “Such a pity because that would have rounded off a great weekend so well, but that’s racing, as they say! “I need to thank Team Pelfrey for a brilliant car as always — it was a good weekend overall.
“We’ve moved back up to eighth in the overall championship and I am fifth among the rookies in spite of that patch of really bad luck in the middle of the season. “We have four races left to race — two more at Portland, Oregon end-August and the final two at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit late in September, so I have the chance to improve my championship lot — bring it on!”