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Team USA's Jake Craig: Taking the positives and looking ahead

5w ago

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The last few weeks have provided Team USA Scholarship participant Jake Craig with enough memories for a lifetime…and a wealth of experience as he pursues as career in auto racing.

In Jake's own words:

With my UK adventure now coming to an end I’m looking back and reflecting on what a great experience it has been. I have learned so much over this trip from racecraft, car setup, public speaking, writing and so much more. I had a great flight back home and I was excited to get back to the California weather and see my family!

I didn’t have the end result I wanted at the Walter Hayes Trophy this weekend but I was able to show great pace throughout the entire weekend. It was great racing on the Silverstone circuit. The way the races unfolds is the complete opposite to Brands Hatch. At Silverstone there are much longer straights and you’re able to use the slipstream a lot. In my opinion it makes the racing a lot more interesting when there is a big slipstream involved.

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Craig, Mullan learn from Walter Hayes Trophy experience

Craig second, Mullan fifth in Walter Hayes Trophy heat races

Craig, Mullan ready for Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone

In testing we experienced both dry and wet conditions. It was extremely beneficial getting some wet testing in given some of the racing was in wet conditions. Both Colin [Mullan] and I showed great pace throughout testing and I was confident heading into the race weekend.

Saturday consisted of qualifying in the morning and a Heat race later in the day. I was drawn in Heat Five, which had some extremely fast drivers, one of which was Joey Foster who won the Walter Hayes Trophy several times a few years ago. I was on pole for most of the session and then towards the end Rory Smith was able to knock me down to second. I hit some traffic at the end so that hurt my chances at getting a better lap in.

At this track, unlike Brands, off pole is on the inside, because the outside is the preferred racing line. I knew the inside was going to be a little tricky to get a good start, because it was very slippery especially since it had rained the night before. I slipped the clutch a little too fast so I wasn’t able to challenge Rory going into Turn 1 (Copse Corner). It was a constant battle all race between myself, Rory and Joey. I had multiple attempts at taking the lead but I just wasn’t able to make it happen and I finished my heat in second. It was still going to give me a great position for the semifinal, starting fourth.

Image by Jeff Bloxham

The weather forecast was calling for rain on Sunday, but when we arrived at the track it was surprisingly dry. But then as I was sitting in the assembly area for my Semi it just started to rain. My mechanics, Dave and Jason, both worked hard to change the setup on my car, to give me the best handling car they could for the conditions. I was able to get a good start and move up into third on the first lap. On the second lap I was attempting a pass for second but I had a big front lock-up. I was luckily able to keep it on the track but lost quite a few positions.

After that, I moved my brake bias a little more to the rear. From there I slowly made my way back up through the field to second with two laps to go. On the last lap I closed up on the leader, Julian Van der Watt, who has been racing this year in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in the U.S., and went for a pass on the outside of Turn 2 (Becketts). We came on the back straight side by side, but the leader was able to get a little bit of a better run and pinch me down to the inside in Turn 3 (Brooklands) where there wasn’t much grip. I had a spin which put me back to 11th and meant I would be starting the Final from 21st.

The track was still wet in the Final and I knew we still had a shot at a podium finish, because our car was mega quick. I was able to get a great start and pass three cars going into Turn 1. Then going into Turn 2 I went outside and braked super-late to pass another three cars. Unfortunately, going into Turn Three, a car got hit and spun and eventually rolled back and caught the left-rear corner of my car. The impact broke the A-arms and cracked my gearbox. It was very disappointing to have my weekend end like that, especially since we had been so fast.

I am taking all the positives from the weekend and from this entire trip. I came home a much better driver than when I arrived and that’s the important thing. I can’t wait to apply everything that I’ve learned to my future racing career.

Now that I’m home I can say that I’m absolutely exhausted! It’s always more difficult for me to get readjusted to the time zone at home than it is for me traveling east. I had a tricky first night sleeping, waking up at 1:30AM and then every hour after that until 5AM. Tonight I’m going to get some good Southern California Mexican food with my family and I can’t wait – I’ve missed my Mexican food!

I’m also now in full preparation mode for the SuperKarts! USA Super Nationals in Las Vegas. This week I’ll be building my kart and getting back to my day job at Tru Tech Racing Engines to get all the engines ready for the race. Following that I’ll be testing this weekend to get acclimated with a kart again.

From left to right: Colin Mullan, Nico Gruber, James Clarke and Craig in the Silverstone garage.

I can’t thank enough Jeremy Shaw for giving me this opportunity and all the Team USA Scholarship supporters that make this possible! I also owe a huge thank you to Cliff and Michelle Dempsey for hosting Colin and I this entire month and making it feel like home. Lastly, thank you to my coach James Theodore, mechanic Dave Hart and the rest of the Cliff Dempsey Racing crew.

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