Kyle Kirkwood continued to dominate the F3 Americas Championship Powered Honda, remaining undefeated in the groundbreaking FIA-supported spec, cost-contained championship. Taking the checkered more than 10 seconds ahead of runner-up finisher Baltazar Leguizamon, the victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Saturday marked Kirkwood’s seventh consecutive win of the season. Kirkwood’s new Abel Motorsports teammate Jacob Abel completed the podium in third in his debut race.
“It was another straightforward day for the Abel Motorsports crew and me,” said Kirkwood. “We constantly keep making this Ligier JS F3 Americas Honda car better every session this year, and with Jacob joining the team, I believe our development will expedite at least twice as fast. All this year we’ve been a one car team and it feels amazing to have a teammate once again running in the same class. We still have a lot of progress available. I am really looking forward to see what level as a team we can get to.”
While Kirkwood led from lights to flag, the dogfight for third between Abel and John Paul Southern Jr. preserved the drama throughout the 35-minute session. Starting in third, Abel struggled on the standing start, allowing Southern to get the jump and make the pass in Turn 1.
“I had a rough start because I don’t have as much experience in the car. This was the first time I attempted a standing start with heat on the tires,” explained Abel, who made the move from F4 to F3 Americas in the last two weeks. “The F3 car has a lot more horsepower and bigger tires than the F4 car, so I have to modulate the power a little bit more in the F3 car than I have to in the F4 car. I was too focused on what rev I should be at and got a bad jump off the line, but it’s all part of the learning process moving up the ladder into a heavier, more powerful car.”
Southern passed Leguizamon for second leading into T2, but the Argentinian quickly repaid the favor and never conceded his second-place standing for the rest of the session. With Southern and Abel battling for the last podium position, the Global Racing Group driver created more than a nine second gap between the pair.
Southern led the series newcomer Abel around the 12-turn, 2.25-mile Thunderbolt circuit. Abel remained on Southern’s gearbox, looking for the perfect opportunity for the overtake. Attempting to pass in Turn 5, Southern defended his line, keeping Abel at bay for another lap. Nipping at Southern’s No. 61 Pitt Race machine, Abel tried three more overtake bids before successfully whipping his metallic red and black Abel Motorsports car to the outside of Southern for the pass. Trading places with Abel, Southern darted back and forth, giving everything his Honda Civic Type R engine had left.
On the closing lap, Southern made one last attempt at a podium finish. Using Abel’s slipstream, Southern thrashed his Ligier JS to the outside of Abel in Turn 1 to make the same pass he made for third on the opening lap. However, two of his Pirelli P Zero tires hit the curbing, sucking his car straight into the grass. Southern recovered but lost valuable time that he couldn’t recover to make a final push.
“All the racing today was very respectable,” Southern said. “It was unfortunate how it played out, but we had good pace especially since we had a mechanical issue in qualifying and practice. So this was our first real session and our times this race set us up for a good start for Race 2.”
In qualifying, Kirkwood set the bar for the F3 Americas NJMP Thunderbolt circuit qualifying track record at 1:12.89. Leguizamon and Southern’s best lap times were nearly identical, separated by only 16 hundredths of a second. Southern retired from the session after just six laps with mechanical issues.
Fans can view final race results and photo galleries at F3Americas.com.