Strong winds, spotty lightening and heavy rains, causing flash flooding reigned havoc in the Atlanta area during the first two F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda rounds at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta over the weekend. Sophomore F3 driver Jacob Abel dominated the variable track conditions, winning his first two professional races of his career.
“I’m elated after the win. The team did an amazing job getting the car put together,” said Abel who lead Round 3 from green to checkered. “We’ve been fast all weekend and starting off pole was good for us. We just drove on from there, trying to keep the lead. It wasn’t easy but we got it.”
Due to the taxing weather, F3 Americas officials were forced to cancel early morning qualifying on Friday, leaving the grid order for Round 3 to be based off championship results. With points leader Benjamin Pedersen competing abroad, Dakota Dickerson started pole position with Abel sharing the front row. However, on the first reconnaissance lap, Dickerson experienced mechanical issues, forcing his orange No. 72 Stress Engineering Management Global Racing Group car into the pits for a quick stop. Yielding his pole position to start 13th, the GRG crew quickly resolved the issue without Dickerson losing laps before the round went green.
Quick off the start, Abel jumped out front with rookie Mathias Soler-Obel right on his gearbox. The pair battled for the front, creating a near nine-second gap from James Roe Jr., Baltazar Leguizamon and Dominic Cicero, who were fighting for the final podium spot.
Meanwhile, after suffering a major blow to his starting position, Dickerson flew through the field, recovering eight positions, slotting in behind Roe, Leguizamon and Cicero.
About midway through the first session, a full course yellow emerged. Traveling full speed on his Hankook slicks, Soler-Obel skidded off track subsequently hitting a wet section on the circuit, ending his second-place run.
Off the restart, Global Racing Group teammates Roe, Leguizamon and Dickerson barreled into Turn 1 three-wide. A master of the draft, Leguizamon whipped his yellow and white No. 9 Motorola car to the outside, making a bold pass for second in Turn 1. Dickerson pulled back, watching the two dice back and forth, and with Roe’s focus on Leguizamon, Dickerson slotted in from the inside to take third before the checkered dropped.
“The GRG guys fixed my car very quickly at the beginning of the race and got me out on track without losing a lap,” said Dickerson. “However, this meant I had to start 13th, last on the grid. I was able to fight my way back up through the field and got up to fourth place before a full-course yellow came out. Then, after the re-start, I managed to gain another position before the checkered flag. It was a somewhat disappointing day, knowing the potential we had, but nevertheless, we got a podium and we snagged Fast Lap which meant pole for Round 4, all due to the fast actions of the team.”
With the GRG trio fixated on each other, Abel pulled away from the pack to take the checkered. Leguizamon claimed his first podium of the season in second with Dickerson driving from last to third, rounding out the podium.
“It was a good comeback for us after Barber,” said Leguizamon. “I know this track from last year which really helped me. I tried my best to get good results for the team. I am really thankful for the work we’ve accomplished on the car between the events. With everyone’s help we showed up with a great finish.”
Another round of early morning rains coated the 12-turn, 2.54-mile course before the second F3 Americas round at Road Atlanta on Saturday, creating a drama-filled round of standing changes. While the race was declared dry, several areas off the high elevation slopes retained water, none more than the entrance into the Esses. The first group to be collected by the damp high-speed turn was Abel, Leguizamon and Soler-Obel, who were leading the field behind polesitter Dickerson in second, third and fourth. Abel and Soler-Obel returned to the race on their own power, however, Leguizamon was bogged down in the gravel pit, awaiting safety crews to push him out. After receiving a small push, the young Argentinian continued the race before retiring later with mechanical issues.
In separate incidences on the same lap, Dickerson and Roe also flew into the gravel trap entering 10a. Rain began to fall again, adding additional challenges for the cars on Hankook slick tires. As the race progressed, Dickerson noticed a rear vibration continuously worsening which caused a secondary issue to appear. Dickerson suddenly lost steering input and moments later, ran off track in Turn 10a. The San Diego driver pitted for repairs, but unfortunately, this put him two laps behind the field after leading it by more than three seconds.
Roe also suffered the fate of the slick 10a. Incidental contact from behind sent Roe spinning into the Esses. Unlike the drivers before him, Roe was unable to recover from the incident, ending his podium-run.
“Such a disappointment, not only for me, but the team as a whole,” added Roe. “We were in position for another podium, the second of the weekend, and it was taken from me. Also, with a drying track and lap times getting quicker and quicker, I was unable to post a lap at real speed, forcing me to start near the back of the grid for the final race.”
The yellow stayed out as safety crews cleaned up debris, ending Round 4 under caution. After mending an off track excursion, Abel drove his No. 51 Abel Construction JS F3 across the line for his second victory of the weekend. Returning F3 driver Parker Locke finished second and rookie Austin Kaszuba claimed his first F3 podium in third.
“I can’t thank the guys at Velocity Racing Development enough for all the support this weekend,” said Locke. “I am hoping to be back for the next rounds to carry on our progress and aim for that top step.”
W Series driver Shea Holbrook and John Paul Southern Jr. finished the race with their best results so far this season in fourth and fifth.
Momentum Motorsport rookie Kent Vaccaro earned pole-position for the final 35-minute round of the weekend after turning the fastest lap of the session. For full results, team and driver information visit F3Americas.com