With overnight rain soaking the Barber Motorsports Park track, savvy tire management shaped the wet F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda weekend finale on Sunday.
As prelude to the afternoon IndyCar feature, Round 2 of the F3 Americas Championship was deemed a wet race, forcing the entire field of 13 cars to start on Hankook wet weather tires designed specifically for the Ligier JS F3 cars. As the track slowly dried, strategy played into F3 scholarship recipient Dakota Dickerson’s win over his Global Racing Group teammate Benjamin Pedersen and Kent Vaccaro.
“I must say that the Hankooks are some of the best wet tires I’ve used. Not only are they fast but they are very reliable, and I maintained speed the entire race,” said reigning F4 U.S. champion Dickerson, who started on pole after setting fast lap time in Saturday’s race.
“The rain stopped before we went out, but on our out lap, the track was still extremely slippery,” Dickerson continued. “We couldn’t have started on slicks, but by the fourth lap, the track had started to dry, and we ended up running three quarters of the race in dry conditions on wet-weather tires.
“The tires held up the entire race and even had grip left at the end.”
From his second-row start, Vaccaro ran with Dickerson and Race 1 winner Pedersen most of the race before slipping back into the clutches of fourth-place Jacob Abel. However, the Momentum Motorsports rookie held onto third, earning his first F3 Americas podium, the highest finish of his open-wheel career.
“I’ve had a lot of support … and to get this podium in our first event shows the effort that Momentum Motorsports has put into the program,” said Vaccaro. “Jacob Abel was pressuring me from behind and while I was trying to hold him off, Dakota and Benjamin started to pull away. A great race and a podium finish — we can’t wait for Road Atlanta.”
While all the F3 Americas cars were required to start on wets, the teams could decide when to call their driver in for a tire change. With variable track conditions, only Parker Locke, Logan Cusson, John Paul Southern Jr. and Dominic Cicero gambled on pitting for slicks to finish out the race. All four had waited and hoped for a full-course yellow, and, with under five minutes remaining in the 30m race, the four got their chance after a racing incident between Austin Kaszbua and Baltazar Leguizamon brought out the Honda Civic Type R safety car.
However, the race clock expired before the quartet of drivers could make a real charge. Cusson did set race fastest lap and finished tenth.
Her first race ended in the barriers, but W Series driver Shea Holbrook bounced back in Race 2, charging from 13th to sixth, an impressive drive that earned her the Sabelt Hard Charger Award.
“This [weekend] has been a great opportunity for me,” Holbrook said. “In the W Series, I’ll be racing against a lot of competitive females from around the world in the upcoming weeks. To be here in F3 Americas, learning more about the basics like aero washing in open wheel racing, is great.
“The Momentum Motorsports team was ready to go to stickered dries, but I think we made a good call to stay on the wets — especially good for my teammate Kent,” Holbrook added. “For me to start dead last and come back to sixth was a dream come true, and I am grateful.
The F3 Americas drivers have a short turn around before traveling to Road Atlanta April 18-20 to support F4 U.S. Championship Powered by Honda and Formula Race Promotions for a full formula race weekend.