Nunez Takes Dramatic Walter Hayes Trophy Victory
Tristan Nunez ended his 2012 racing season in much the same way he started it – with a victory. The American high school student took an impressive victory over the weekend at the Walter Hayes Trophy grand finale at Silverstone, just days after his 17th birthday.
The stunning victory at Silverstone for Nunez came days after he earned two race heat wins and two pole positions on the nine-turn Brands Hatch circuit at the 40th anniversary of the Formula Ford Festival. Prior to that, Nunez closed out his Cooper Tires Prototype Lites powered by Mazda rookie season with 11 wins, 12 poles, 13 top-five finishes and seven track records to take the Lites 1 championship with Performance Tech Motorsports.
The title earned Nunez a free entry from IMSA into the Prototype Challenge class for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón in 2013.
Nunez raced at Brands Hatch and Silverstone as part of the Team USA Scholarship program. It provides young American drivers the chance to gain experience and exposure through competition and networking with key contacts from all forms of motorsport.
The Boca Raton, Fla., native took to the Silverstone National circuit in his Cliff Dempsey Racing-prepared Ray GR08 machine for practice and qualifications. From that point, the 120-car field split into six eight-lap heat races followed by two semifinal rounds; Nunez placed fourth in his heat race and semifinal.
He started the 36-car final seventh on a damp circuit. After he moved to third after three laps, Nunez took the lead when front-runners Cliff Dempsey and Joey Foster tangled and went off with two laps left. Nunez exchanged the lead with Formula Ford Festival overall winner Ivor McCullough during the closing laps.
Nunez set the fastest lap of the race for good measure.
"I'm so in shock I can't believe it," said Nunez. "On the last lap McCullough got around me and I got a really good run coming out of the first corner. I just stuffed it in going into Turn 3. I made it stick but then that slowed everyone else down, and P3 (John Martin) was able to get around him and spread the gap a little bit. I saw the checkered flag in the corner and I thought, please throw it! And I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to slow down because I wasn't sure it was the checkered flag but then I saw everyone clapping and I thought. ‘OK, it's over!’”
Nunez and IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Platinum Cup champion Sean Johnston are the first drivers from IMSA’s development ladder to be nominated to the Team USA Scholarship program. Johnston is set to test a Formula 3 Dallara-Mercedes this week in south Wales.
Photos courtesy jeffbloxham.com.