News Walter Hayes Trophy

Josh Smith warns rivals not to “count him out” after poor heat

Formula Ford Festival winner Josh Smith remains adamant he will be a Walter Hayes Trophy victory contender despite provisionally starting outside the top 10 for his semi-final.

Oldfield Motorsport Van Diemen driver Smith finished only fifth in Saturday’s sixth WHT heat, a gearchange error having compromised his straight-line speed.

“I downshifted too early into Becketts and after that, the engine just felt flat down the straights. People were jumping me in a straight line,” said Smith, who was racing Roger Orgee, Nico Gruber, Ollie White and Colin Mullan for the heat win.

“If people are driving by me in a straight line I can’t really do a lot about it, but I did the best with what I had.

“We’ll get the car back in the garage and see how it is, see if there’s actually anything wrong with it.

“I just think it might be a little bent valve, a cylinder down or something like that.

“I’ve had mega power for the past couple of weekends and in the flick of a switch it went from being a monster to very, very average.”

That result is provisionally set to put Smith 11th on the grid for semi-final two but despite his low grid slot, he expects to be able to reach at least second in his semi.

“I’m not upset at all. If we get it sorted out, there’s not really too many problems,” Smith added.

“I’d expect to see myself on the first two rows for the final. Overtaking’s not a problem.

“As long as my gear’s right, I’ll do my job. I wouldn’t be counting me out just because of a poor heat.”

Smith was not the only one of the pre-event favourites stymied by a gearshift error on Saturday.

National Championship runner-up Michael Eastwell also damaged his engine while leading the first heat.

The Kevin Mills Racing driver still finished second to Chris Middlehurst, which provisionally puts him fifth on the grid for semi-final one, with Josh Fisher having gone off just after passing him for second.

“My bad, really. I made a mistake, which I don’t do very often,” said Eastwell.

“Josh came past me on the last lap while I was stood still. I have another engine I can throw in, but we can probably just change the valves I hope on this. The other engine isn’t particularly good around here.”

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