The F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda drivers battled more than each other at Virginia International Raceway on Saturday and Sunday morning. With extreme heat and high humidity, proper hydration and tire management were keys to success.
Danish-American driver Benjamin Pedersen dominated the opening two of three rounds of the Andy Scriven Memorial Race weekend, wheeling his No. 24 DirtFish Rally Global Racing Group Ligier to a pair of nearly uncontested victories in series Rounds 9 and 10.
Colombian Mathias Soler-Obel claimed his first two professional racing podiums with a pair of second-place finishes on both Saturday and Sunday morning.
Season championship leader Dakota Dickerson, meanwhile, finished third in Round 9 while Quinlan Lall fought to represent Momentum Motorsports on the podium, overtaking in Round 10, the first race on Sunday, to finish third.
Soler-Obel, Pedersen, Dakota (l to r) finished 2-1-3 on Saturday.
“Two for two already this weekend,” said Pedersen, who is fresh off a win and multiple podiums in the BRDC F3 Championship. “It has been pretty warm in England also, but it was hotter this visit to VIR than when we were here last year with F4. The Global Racing Group guys have put in a lot of work since Barber. I give them huge credit to the car development. Drivers like my teammate Dakota have helped with that, and I am impressed with what they’ve put together and how far that they have come.”Getting the jump off the F1-style standing start on second-place Dickerson, polewinner Pedersen worked on building a gap until a full-course caution halted his charge: Shea Holbrook and Megan Gilkes had made contact on track, which ended both their weekends.
On the restart, Pedersen made another blinding getaway. At the front, the two GRG drivers swapped fastest lap after fastest lap before Dickerson did a complete 360-spin out of the historically challenging Oak Tree turn, gifting second-place to Soler-Obel. With the pressure he faced early on in the round eased, Pedersen took the checkered flag, finishing a second and a half ahead of Soler-Obel.
“We he had the pace to win the race, but it was definitely difficult up there with Benjamin,” Dickerson said. “I was trying to be cautious on the brakes to take my teammate into consideration. I tried to go for it at Oak Tree and went in a little deeper than I should have. I spun and that’s when Mathias was able to advance. That mistake was costly because I really wanted to get a one-two podium for Global again.”
Sunday opened with another dominating performance from Pedersen. Starting on pole, Soler-Obel was slow off the line, allowing Dickerson, Pedersen and Lall to challenge from the lights. But fourth-place starter Pedersen took the risk of an outside line into Turn 1, seizing the lead and held on to the end of the 35-minute session.
After a brief yellow period, Soler-Obel battled a slowing Dickerson for second, and by the next lap took second-place, where he finished the round.
“I had few issues with the car on the initial start, but it started to feel better as the race went on,” said Velocity Racing Development driver Soler-Obel, who set the track record with a fast time of 1m44.015s on his way to a second-place finish. “Benjamin got another good start, but I started to close the gap on him before the white flag. I think if we had another couple laps I would have been right there challenging for the lead. We are going to make some minor changes to the car so I think next race will be better.”
Losing speed due to a damaged front wing, Dickerson tried to hold on to a top-three finish, but lost the battle to the faster Lall. In the black and yellow No. 49 Momentum Motorsports car, Lall crossed the line third, his second podium of the season.
“After the start it was about getting the car to temperature and finding a rhythm,” said Lall. “We started on new tires and after the restart I started to pull a gap from Dakota. From there, I knew I had to save tires for the next round since it would be hotter later in the day. So our goal was to just keep pace for a solid third-place finish.”
Global Racing Group rookie James Roe Jr. finished fifth with John Paul Southern Jr. sixth. Logan Cusson crossed the line seventh, and despite an off-track excursion, Blake Upton finished in the points, eighth. Experiencing some mechanical issues, Kent Vaccaro kept his Momentum Motorsports on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn course to add points for the team championship.
The F3 Americas drivers will have one more race (series Round 11) on Sunday afternoon.
For full results, photos and video updates on the Andy Scriven Memorial Race weekend visit F3Americas.com.