In a world-record breaking field full of international talent, it was three Americans that topped the podium at the United States Grand Prix on Saturday for the opening Formula 4 United States Championship powered by Honda round at Circuit of The Americas.
In front of the big crowd, Christian Bogle’s calm composure and track awareness during a green-white checkered shootout carried the Louisiana native to his first professional racing victory. Starting from 20th position, Christian Brooks dodged incidents and capitalized on restarts to finish the race in second place, while local driver Kory Enders represented the Lone Star state on the podium in third.
Bogle, whose best finish of his two-season F4 career is eighth place, started the race in 12th. Bogle drove cleanly through the field, entering the top-five late in the 10-lap session. The Jay Howard Driver Development pilot got a great restart for a last lap shootout with F4 champion elect Joshua Car and Michael d’Orlando.
Car and d’Orlando diced around every turn wheel to wheel, challenging for the point. Watching the action unfold in front of him, Bogle gambled with an unconventional strategy. Instead of engaging in the front row battle, Bogle backed off.
Keeping a manageable distance from Car and d’Orlando, Bogle put his red, white, blue and black No. 7 Lucas Oil / One Cure / CSU / Pelican machine wide to the outside, trying to avoid being collateral damage to the dueling pair. The decision to be patient paid off big as the race came to ahead for Car and d’Orlando. The two cars made contact, allowing Bogle to take first.
Four drivers lead the 25-minute session, but it was Bogle who finished it, crossing the stripe to take the checkered.
“I still can’t believe that I’m saying I won this race today, I’m just awestruck right now,” said a teary-eyed Bogle. “It’s just so hard to believe that a year ago I was so far off pace in the back of the grid here. The amount of progression I’ve had in just one year in the car is unbelievable.”
Jose Blanco started the race on pole after taking the Cameron Das Fast Qualifier Award presented by Druck in qualifying by 0.022s over Nicky Hays. Blanco got the jump off the line on Hays during the F1-syle standing start. But the Puerto Rican pilot wasn’t let off the hook that easily. A train of Ligier JS F4 cars filled his mirrors traveling up the 130-foot incline into Turn 1. Clustered within a group of six cars, incidental contact sent Hays wide entering the turn. The French F4 third-place champion recovered but lost the fight for podium contention, finishing the race in eighth place.
After losing a battle to Enders for the lead, Blanco’s charge to claim third place in the season-long championship fizzled as he and Porto, who is trying to lock up second place in the championship, made contact. The incident brought out a short caution period with three laps left in the race, which ended Porto’s day and sent Blanco to the back of the field.
Meanwhile, Brooks staring from Row 10 after suffering mechanical issues in qualifying, passed five and six cars at a time, creating his own safe passing zones on the 20-turn, 3.427-mile track. The yellow flags assisted in Brooks podium pursuit, but it was his rallycross background that prepared him for the bumpy track conditions and quick decision making. The second-place finish closed the gap in points that will now be decided in the season finale on Sunday.
“That was the hardest race of my life,” beamed Brooks. “Coming back from my mechanical issues in qualifying and having to start in 20th position, finishing on the podium seemed like it was out of reach. I put my head down, pushing every lap, there were so many close calls, and the whole team did so much work to get the car together for the race. I am so stoked that my teammate finished first, a one-two finish for Jay Howard, it’s unbelievable.”
Enders started strong and lead the race through two restarts, but after falling down the line on the last lap, the Austin native clawed his way back to the top for a third-place finish, his second consecutive podium result at COTA.
“That race was super intense,” said Enders. “We lead for a majority of the race. It was a lot to handle with three restarts. We just couldn’t keep it out front with the draft. It was pretty strong, especially on the back straight, but we had great pace and we are going to come back and win it tomorrow.”
Guilherme Peixoto and Chandler Horton rounded out the top five. Arthur Leist, Nolan Siegel, Hays, Aidan Yoder and Hayden Bowlsbey completed the top-10. The Indy-based JHDD team finished the day with four of its six drivers in finishing in points’ position.
The F4 U.S. Championship comes to a close on Sunday at 9:15 a.m. Central. For full race results visit F4USChampionship.com and follow live racing updates on Twitter @f4championship.