Scenic and challenging Barber Motorsports Park was the perfect stage for the F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda season opener on Saturday, supporting the NTT IndyCar Series during the 10th anniversary of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Designed as the next step up from Formula 4 in Honda’s open-wheel championship progression, 13 Ligier JS F3 cars lined up for the first F1-style standing start of the season. Twenty laps later, series sophomore Benjamin Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, was first under the checkered flag after a race-long battle with his Global Racing Group teammate Dakota Dickerson, who took second. Returning team champions Abel Motorsports lead driver Jacob Abel wheeled the No. 51 Abel Construction car into an uncontested third-place finish to complete the podium.
“It was a very exciting race against Dakota,” Pedersen said. “We were neck and neck the entire race until the final lap. It’s great to get the first win of the season for Global Racing Group. We wanted to come out strong, and taking 1-2 in the opening round is a testament to how great the GRG program is.”
Starting on pole after stealing the fastest time in the final minutes of qualifying, Pedersen shared the front row with series rookie Mathias Soler-Obel, with Dickerson and Abel lined up in Row 2.
Soler-Obel stalled on the start, though, allowing Dickerson and Abel through into second and third.
Behind the leaders, Momentum Motorsports driver Shea Holbrook’s race ended early when a lap 3 miscue in Turn 5 left her car in the retaining wall.
“The minor mistake unfortunately caused us to retire the car,” said Holbrook, who was selected for the inaugural all-female F3 W Series team in Europe. “We made great progress with the No. 67 Lucas Oil car after taking delivery of it trackside on Wednesday, and are looking forward to making even more progress in Sunday’s race.”
On the restart, Pedersen and Dickerson pulled away from Abel, the pair of bright orange GRG machines battling wheel-to-wheel the entire 30 minutes — until the penultimate lap.
Putting serious pressure on Pedersen, Dickerson got loose in Turn 16 and wound up off-track. The reigning F4 U.S. champion recovered quickly, though, and still finished the race nearly seven seconds clear of Abel.
Pedersen, filling in for the team at this event after teammate Blake Upton suffered a minor injury in testing, took the checkered more than seven seconds clear of Dickerson.
“I tried to get around Benjamin throughout the race, but he didn’t make any mistakes,” said Dickerson. “A lot of this race was me learning how to deal with the aero-wash. Jumping from the F4 to the F3 car, there’s some differences in the Ligier JS F3 aero package and it’s a huge learning curve.
“All in all it was a good race, though, and great for Global Racing Group to get the first two spots on the podium.”
James Roe Jr. and Baltazar Leguizamon completed the top five, with Logan Cusson, Masters Cup driver Dominic Cicero, John Paul Southern Jr., Kent Vaccaro and Parker Locke rounding out the points positions.
Dickerson set fastest time in the race which earned him pole position for Round 2 on Sunday.