Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport dominates F4 U.S. Pittsburgh weekend

Images by Gavin Baker

Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport dominates F4 U.S. Pittsburgh weekend

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport dominates F4 U.S. Pittsburgh weekend

By

Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport was in an element all of its own during the fourth Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda event held at Pittsburgh International Race Complex Aug. 3-5. The newly combined five-car squad topped the qualifying charts at the start of the weekend, clocking the top-four fastest laps, taking the top two steps in Round 10, a win in Round 11 and completely smashing the competition on Sunday with a complete podium sweep, marking the first time in F4 U.S. history that one team represented each step.

In Round 10, Jose Blanco of San Juan, Puerto, Rico, took the checkered for his second victory of the season followed by his Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport teammate Austin Kaszuba of Burleson, Texas, in second. Benjamin Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, rounded out the podium in third.

In an unprecedented qualifying session, the top four times were clocked by drivers on the same team. Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport pilots Arthur Leist, Joshua Car, and Kazuba’s times were separated by less than three tenths of a second, however, after infractions from practice sessions were applied to final results, Blanco was promoted to pole position with Kazuba starting P2 for the opening round. Jay Howard Driver Development drivers Teddy Wilson and Christian Rasmussen qualified in P6 and P9, but again after several infractions were applied to competitors throughout the field from qualifying and practices, their starting position shuffled to the second row. In total, 12 drivers, including points leader Dakota Dickerson were hit with infractions after qualifying. Most were from failure to respect designated flags.

Off the F1-style standing start, the 30-car field raced through the high-speed 19-turns into the high 2.85 elevation track. Dickerson had a lot of ground to make up from receiving a five-spot grid penalty in practice. Starting on the outside of Row 6 in 12th, Dickerson split traffic off the start, instantly gaining ground. Picking off competitors one by one, the DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports sophomore gained six positions. His charge to the front ended abruptly after one lap when Alliance Racing rookie Will Edwards spun exiting Turn 17, collecting series newcomer Robert Allaer. The incident caused a full course yellow. The new Honda Civic Type R prism-wrapped car emerged to pace the field as safety cars worked to extract the damaged Ligier JS F4 chassis.

Blanco defended his lead off the restart, building a sizeable gap over his Crosslink/Kiwi teammate in just two laps. The F4 U.S. rookie finished the opening race more than a second faster than second-place Kaszuba.

Off the rolling restart, Pedersen overtook Car for fourth. The calculated move ended up being more than just a points finish. Wilson crossed the stripe in third, but Pedersen was awarded the last podium position after Wilson’s onboard footage showed he jumped the start. The infraction resulted in a five-second in-race penalty for the JHDD rookie.

“Entering the test we had a really fast car. Adding the extra practice time here earlier in the week plus the practices on Friday really helped the team fine tune the car and helped me familiarize myself with a track I’ve never been to,” Blanco said. “The track crosses our platform really well. We have five drivers on our team, so it’s very helpful with data and sharing our experiences on the track. This win was a team effort and I am extremely happy to be up here.”

In Round 11, Car scored his maiden win.

“We’ve been working really hard all season, and all the efforts we’ve put in finally paid off,” said Car. “I just want to congratulate the team for such a great result. It’s so good for morale. We’re confident in ourselves now going into the next event. Thank you again to all my supporters, my team and to Wright Drilling & Exploration, Inc.”

Car started on pole for the weekend finale with teammate Leist sharing Row 1. Raven and Blanco lined up in Row 2 with Jack William Miller and Dickerson in Row 3. As the lights went out, all 30 F4 U.S. cars completed a successful F1-style standing start, however, before the first lap was complete the track went under red conditions with the safety car escorting the field back to the pits.

In an unaided incident, Miller spun entering Turn 4. The incident caused a domino effect throughout the field, collecting a number of competitors including Wilson, Conrad Clark, Cameron O’Connor, Dylan Tavella and Chris Archinaco. Hanna Zellers and Edwards were also involved in the incident, but both were able to return to the race. No drivers were injured.

Hot of the single-file restart, Car started to pull away from the field. On the gearbox of Raven, Blanco and the DEForce Racing driver passed Leist to take P2 and P3 on Lap 5. Lap after lap, the battle continued between Raven and Blanco, and on the third to last lap Blanco made his move on the British rookie, overtaking on the inside of the tight Turn 1. Leist sat back and watched the action between Blanco and Raven occur, patiently waiting to strike. After losing the battle to Blanco, Raven tried to hold off the Brazilian pilot but lost position in Turn 3 to Leist.

“I am really happy for the first podium of the year,” said Leist, who also won the Cameron Das Fast Qualifier Award presented by Worldeye. “The car was amazing all weekend. We didn’t get the results we were expecting in the first two rounds, but to end the weekend on the podium came at the right time. I just want to thank everyone for that and to all the guys for racing a clean race.”

Raven finished fourth, Dickerson took fifth, and Kaszuba, Benjamin Pedersen, Kent Vaccaro, Rasmussen, and series-newcomer Francisco “Kiko” Porto rounded out the top 10.

Round 12 was packed with action and heated battles. Once again, the Crosslink/Kiwi squad owned the front row with Blanco on pole and Kaszuba starting on the outside. Wilson and Car staggered behind them in Row 2 with Pedersen and Raven starting in Row 3.

Blanco, working hard to fend off Kaszuba, lost the battle for first to his teammate after the first lap. Car quick off the start, overtook Wilson for third, then his teammate Blanco for second. Charging from sixth, Raven stuck his blue, white and neon green No. 12 chassis into the mix, passing Wilson on the outside of the exit of Turn 19.

Blanco dropped to fourth and the battle for position between he and Wilson began. For three laps, the two diced around the 19-turn 2.85-mile course. The pair went side-by-side, fighting into Turn 3. Wilson won the battle for third, and subsequently, Blanco and Pedersen made incidental contact, which sent Blanco spinning and Pedersen shuffling to the back. Both drivers continued the race but out of points position.

Meanwhile, Kaszuba’s No. 34 LESA SRT Equipment Rental car experienced terminal understeer and lost pace at an exponential rate. The mechanical difficulties sent the third-year driver from first to fifth place.

“I felt like a sitting duck out there,” Kaszuba said. “Every lap the issue continued to get worse and worse, cars continued to pass me. I tried to put together what laps I could. After the race, the team found that I had a broken rear bar that was causing the understeer problems. With that said it was amazing that we held onto a fifth-place finish.”

As Kaszuba lost pace, Car took first. With minutes left on the 30-minute clock, double yellow flags emerged. The Honda Civic Type R safety car paced the field until the clock expired.

Car took the checkered with Raven in second. Wilson rounded out the podium in third.

The F4 U.S. Championship returns to action Sept. 14-16 at New Jersey Motorsports Park. For full results and photos visit F4USChampionship.com.

IndyCar Debrief

More SCCA / SportsCar Magazine