Walter Hayes Trophy

Keith Donegan frustrated by ‘ridiculous’ penalty

Keith Donegan has labelled the penalty he received at the Walter Hayes Trophy for colliding with Niall Murray in the fourth heat “ridiculous”.

The 20-year-old, who finished runner-up at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, had led for much of Saturday’s fourth heat before coming under increased pressure from last year’s Britcover National Formula Ford 1600 with Avon Tyres champion and Festival and WHT winner Murray.

The pair ran side-by-side through Brooklands on the final lap of the Silverstone National circuit but made contact at Luffield, forcing both wide and allowing Team USA’s Jonathan Kotyk to slide into the lead.

While Donegan was able to outdrag Kotyk to the line, the stewards handed the Van Diemen driver a 3.3-second penalty, dropping him to fifth overall.

Donegan appealed the penalty on Saturday evening but the decision was upheld the following day, leaving the Irishman fuming.

“I’ve asked loads of people in the paddock their opinions, and almost all of them said it was 50-50,” said Donegan.

“The penalty was ridiculous and really unfair.

“I haven’t raced in Ireland for about 10 years now and the reason I moved to the UK was to avoid this sort of politics.

“We appealed but were shafted by the stewards.”

Murray also believed Donegan’s penalty was too severe, but made it clear he thought his fellow Irish countryman had been at fault in the wheel-banging move.

“I thought it was pretty harsh. What he did was wrong but they should have just put him behind me,” said Murray.

“It’s hard because Keith is in his first year of senior racing and first in Formula Ford and he doesn’t have that much experience.

“I had a word with him and told him: ‘look, nine times out of 10 you will not make the final if you keep on driving like that’.”

The penalty left Donegan 14th on the grid for his semi-final, and he could only progress to 11th before taking 16th in the final.

Murray’s WHT ended in a hefty crash with Sebastian Melrose on Sunday morning.

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