The action continued for the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda over the weekend as the series hosted an action-packed triple-header at Sebring International Raceway September 25-27.
The tricky historic circuit, known for its signature bumpy surface, got the best of some drivers and cars, shaking up podium results and championship standings.
HMD Motorsports rookie David Malukas shattered Linus Lundqvist’s perfect nine-win race season, with his maiden victory in the opening round on Saturday. But the podium absence only ignited a fire under the Swedish rookie as Lundqvist rallied on Sunday for a pair of wins.
Lundqvist qualified on pole following a risky approach to the session. Using a signature Global Racing Group strategy that has yet to played this season, Lundqvist stayed parked in pit lane for the first portion of the 35-minute qualifying session to save his Hankook tires from the rough Sebring surface. With about 25 minutes left on the clock, Lundqvist drove his No. 26 JULA/Paytrim/Stenhaga from the pitbox and went to work. On his final lap, the Global Racing Group rookie set his personal best lap with a time of 2m00.967s. He was the only driver to edge into the 2:00 minute mark with a 2m00.967sflyer.
Malukas shared the front row with Lundqvist in the No. 79 HMD Trucking/Turtle Plastics machine. With Andretti Autosport’s Danial Frost and reigning F4 U.S. champion Joshua Car in Row 2.
Lundqvist, Frost and Malukas diced throughout the first five circuits until the Sebring bumps bested Lundqvist’s car. While in the lead, the Swedish rookie’s engine latch popped off, slowing his momentum and allowing Malukas and Frost to sail by the thought-to be unbeatable driver.
Eventually losing his engine cover and struggling with power, Lundqvist dropped down the order, losing position to Car and Franzoni.
Frost and Malukas pulled an eight-second gap from the rest of the field before a full-course caution eliminated their progress.
On the restart, Malukas got the jump. Frost, who has raced against Malukas for the past two seasons in open wheels, tried to pressure Malukas into a mistake, but the HMD Motorsports pilot was flawless to the finish. Crossing the stripe just .809-seconds ahead of Frost, Malukas claimed his maiden FR Americas victory.
“It feels good to win, I am at loss for words,” said Malukas. “It was a tough race from start to finish. It was a tough break for Linus but a win is a win, and I am proud of the team. We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season. We tried to find every tenth we could, and it all paid off.”
The second-place classification was also Frost’s first podium result of the season.
“Congratulations to David, it was a great pass for him to take the win,” said Frost. “It’s satisfying to finally be up on the podium. The Andretti Autosport crew has been working in the down time to perfect the set up and we really had the speed today. Looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”
While both of them have had multiple tests at the Sebring facility, Saturday was Malukas and Frost’s first time competing at the renown track.
Franzoni finished third, his third podium visit of the season.
Car and Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports) rounded out the top five, while Lundqvist nursed his car across the line in sixth. Series newcomer Kyffin Simpson (HMD Motorsports), Dario Cangialosi (Global Racing Group), James Roe Jr. (Global Racing Group) and Logan Cusson (HMD Motorsports) finished in points-paying position.
“It was obviously disappointing to have my victory streak come to an end, but these things can happen in motorsport,” Lundqvist said. “It was looking so good, leading from pole and controlling the race, and we really should have won it.
“I came out of the Turn 7 hairpin on Lap 4 and felt something coming off the car. As I approached the next corner, I nearly crashed: there was just no grip. The team was able to tell me that my engine cover had come off, and in the end I’m really happy to even make it home in P6. We later found out a screw had broken.”
With the grid set for Race 2 based off the fastest lap from the previous round, Malukas found himself on pole with Lundqvist starting beside him. Franzoni and Car lined up in Row 2 with Simpson and Abel in Row 3.
Hot off the line, Abel advanced three positions, quickly slotting himself into third place, going wheel-to-wheel with Brazilian star Franzoni.
Malukas led from pole for five laps, padding a small gap between he and the pursuing orange No. 26. But, as Malkuas said after the race, “I did not respect the bumps.” He lost control and spun out of the lead, gifting the point to Lundqvist. Malukas continued, but lost valuable time and his chance at another victory.
The mistake was all that Lundqvist needed to control the race. An incident between Frost, Jordan Missig and Simpson brought out the red flag to stop the clock. All three drivers emerged unscathed but the damage to Missig and Frost’s chassis ended their weekend early, neither driver made the second race of the day. Simpson did not return, but did start Race 3 later that afternoon.
On the restart, Franzoni briefly challenged Lundqvist for the lead before Lundqvist cruised to the finish line more than three seconds ahead of the rest of the filed for his ninth win of the season.
Franzoni finished second. In his first podium finish of the season, Abel closed out the podium in third.
“It’s good to finally be back up on the podium,” said Abel. “We’ve been struggling this season. We had a lot of success at Sebring last year, we went back to those notes and the guys really pulled it together today.”
Cusson drove to a career-best result with a fourth-place finish while Malkuas recovered from his off course spin to round out the top five.
The final race of the weekend, Lundqvist started on point with Malukas and Franzoni lining up in second and third. On the opening lap, Car and Abel made incidental contact in Turn 7 that left Car stranded and sent Abel to the pits for a quick tire change. His Abel Motorsprots team exchanged the Hankook slick before Abel lost a lap, but he now had to work his way from the back of the field. The incident brought out the only yellow of the session to collect Car.
Following the restart, Lundqvist continued to pull away, taking the checkered nearly three seconds ahead of Franzoni. Lundqvist now leads the championship by 84 points over Malukas, and could respectively clinch the championship next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I am aware I could technically seal the championship next weekend, but I don’t like to think like that,” Lundqvist commented. “I will continue to take it one race at a time, and if we keep winning then the championship will follow. I won’t change my approach at all and hopefully we will be just as strong when we load off at Homestead.”
Franzoni ended his weekend with another second-place finish, his fifth podium of the season, but as far as performance goes, the FR Americas rookie said that he felt like the team left Sebring winners.
“I am very happy, not just because of the podium, but I really feel like this weekend was a win,” Franzoni said. “Everything we did this weekend was an improvement. What is nice is that on Newman Wachs we don’t have engineers, it’s just Brian, Marco — our mechanic — and me trying to figure things out as we go and make it happen. Linus (Lundqvist) didn’t make any mistakes, he did a great job, but I am so happy with what we did and what we accomplished, especially today.”
Malkuas celebrated his birthday with a third-place finish. Roe Jr. ended his weekend with his best result of the season in fourth, while Abel made an incredible recovery, rallying to a fifth -place finish.
Series newcomer for Velocity Racing Development Matt Round-Garrido struggled at the beginning of the weekend, but finished on strong note with a sixth-place result. The British open wheel pilot had positive feedback about the his first experience with the first North American Halo.
“I tested in the car a few times before the weekend but during our practices I tried to follow the drivers who knew the car to learn techniques from them,” explained Round-Garrido. “I adjusted easily to the Halo. Once I was the car I couldn’t even tell it was there.”
The FR Americas Championship Powered by Honda drivers have a quick turn around with another tripleheader weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway October 2-4, the first visit Roval configuration for the series. The weekend will be live streamed at FanRacing.Live.