|Kirkwood leads the Honnda powered field. Note the Halo on the FIA F3 spec machines|
Kyle Kirkwood of Jupiter, Florida, was back to his winning ways in the first two rounds of F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda racing at Road Atlanta Saturday and Sunday, adding two more victories to his already staggering win collection. The two-day checkered conquest marks ten total victories for the reigning F4 U.S. champion.
Global Racing Group pilots Baltazar Leguizamon of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Benjamin Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, supported Kirkwood on the podium in both rounds. Leguizamon placed second in Round 10 and third in Round 11 with Pedersen taking third on Saturday and second on Sunday morning.
“We were able to pull up an early lead and consolidate it," said Kirkwood. “Managing the gap allowed us to save tires for the last race."
In the opening race of the weekend, Kirkwood started on pole with Pedersen positioned on the clean side of the track in second for the F1-style standing start. A sluggish launch off the line from Kirkwood allowed Pedersen to pull ahead of the Abel Motorsports driver. As the two cars entered Turn 1, Pedersen lifted, giving Kirkwood the inch he needed to overtake from the inside exciting the turn. The pair went side-by-side into Turn 3, however, Pedersen’s No. 24 DirtFish Global Racing Group machine went wide, dropping two wheels off-track. The miscalculation not only knocked Pedersen out of first-place contention, it permitted his GRG teammate to seize second. The top-three spots remained the same for the duration of the session.
“We had a really good start, but looking back I should have kept more throttle into the turn and not lifted," Pedersen explained. “He carried that momentum up the track and I made a mistake in Turn 3 that cost me position. However we were able to set the second-fastest lap time of the session so I can start from P2 in Race 2."
Series newcomer Parker Locke of San Antonio and Jacob Abel Louisville, Kentucky, diced for position most of the round. Abel, who just entered the Championship last weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park, began the race in fourth and immediately pulled a gap from fifth-place Locke. However, as Abel’s tires started to fade, Locke’s car picked up speed. The two vied for position, until on the penultimate lap, Locke, drafted to the outside of Abel on the back straight entering Turn 10 for the overtake, placing fourth in his F3 Americas debut.
“The race was a lot of fun," Locke said. “We are working on getting comfortable with the car to push it to the limits, learning the downforce and getting used to the extra power. But we are extremely excited to come away with at fourth-place finish in my first ever F3 race as our goal this weekend was just to finish."
A single-vehicle off-track incident in Turn 1, ended John Paul Southern Jr.’s weekend due to damages sustained from contact with the barrier wall. As a precaution, the Ohio-native was transported to medical for a check-up, then released. Southern is expected to return for the next scheduled event at NOLA Motorsports Park.
Kirkwood’s start from his 10th consecutive pole-position was better than the day before, however, Pedersen’s jump off the stripe was still superior. Like the round before, the two challenged each other through the first few turns before Kirkwood shook the Global Racing Group driver, building a gap early in the race. Pedersen pulled away from his GRG teammate, however, lap after lap Leguizamon continued to gain speed until he was turning faster laps than Pedersen. Leguizamon approached the gearbox of Pedersen on the last lap. As the white flag dropped, Leguizamon, the master of drafting, went wide for one last attempt at taking second place. Pedersen defended the race line and Leguizamon settled for third.
“I was trying to push hard on Benjamin to pressure him like I did yesterday. My start wasn’t the best with some wheel spin so I lost some time there, but I think that with my car coming in at the end of the race we set the second-fastest lap time to start P2 for the final round," Leguizamon said. “The car is getting better and we are getting quicker. I’m in the same position as I was at New Jersey when we won, and I think we can really challenge Kyle for first today."
The F3 Americas Road Atlanta Sunday finale starts at 3:30 p.m. ET. Fans can follow LIVE T&S on F3Americas.com or by using the Race Monitor app.