Kyle Kirkwood ushered in a new chapter in North American racing by winning the inaugural F3 Americas Championship race on the 19-turn, 2.85-mile Pittsburgh International Race Complex.
Baltazar Leguizamon of Buenos Aires, Argentina, started on pole position after securing the fastest time in qualifying (1m33.647s) earlier in the day. Reining Formula 4 U.S. Championship and newly crowned USF2000 champion Kirkwood shared the front row.
Fast off the start, Leguizamon took the inside racing line. Kirkwood and Southern filed in behind the Argentinian rookie, however, second-row starter Peter Portante experienced some teething issues on his first career standing start. His carbon fiber No. 13 stalled on the takeoff, but the 2017 Formula Atlantic champion’s experience kicked in as the Importante Autosport driver quickly refired his engine and joined the field for the inaugural race.
Leguizamon and Kirkwood pulled away as the pair battled through the elevation changes. In an attempt to pass on the first lap in Turn 7, Kirkwood shunted off track, losing a valuable four seconds to Leguizamon.
The Abel Motorsports driver returned to the track on his own power. On the prowl, Kirkwood gained speed on every lap he turned until he closed the gap on Leguizamon. Mid-way through the 35-minute session, Kirkwood caught the race leader, but remained on Legizamon’s No 9 Motorola gearbox as the pair battled for position.
Using the momentum from Turn 3 and Leguizamon’s undertow, Kirkwood found his opening to pass. The two former F4 U.S. competitors went side-by-side into Turn 4 with Kirkwood on the outside. Kirkwood cut to the inside before entering Turn 5 to take the lead. While the duo would experience several other heated battles before the checkered, Kirkwood never forfeited position. Leguizamon’s tires started to lose in the final minutes of the race, allowing Kirkwood to further his lead. The Abel Motorsports’ driver crossed the stripe a full 5.514 seconds ahead of the Argentinian.
“Balta and I had some great battles,” Kirkwood said. “Pitt Race is a proper race track. The curbing is great, the surface is smooth, there’s plenty of run offs, elevation changes and high-speed corners. When combined together, it made it easier for me to catch Balta for some great racing.”
John Paul Southern Jr. improved times each lap to finish with the second-fastest time of the race in third. The Southern Motorsports driver will start off pole in Race 2 on Sunday beside Kirkwood. After the starting incident, Portante ran an otherwise brilliant race with his fastest lap only .838 seconds off Kirkwood’s quick-time.
The inaugural event will count as championship races. The top-eight drivers on the leaderboards at the end of the season will earn Super License points to aid in their racing career advancement with the winner adding 16 points to his/her license.
The F3 Americas final day starts Sunday morning with the finale in the afternoon. Fans can follow live timing and scoring on F3Americas.com.