Late yellow restart challenges Kirkwood’s lead
For the third time in its inaugural season, Kyle Kirkwood of Jupitar, Florida, swept an F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda event, this time at Road Atlanta during the Atlanta Fall Historics Weekend Sept. 21-23, increasing his victory tally to 11. While the Abel Motorsports driver carried his team across the finish line for three more victories, it wasn’t without constant pressure from the Global Racing Group squad.
In just his second event, Benjamin Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, remained seamless, claiming his sixth podium of the season, and Baltazar Leguizamon of Buenos Aires, Argentina, rounded out the podium in third.
“This was absolutely the best round of F3 so far this season,” Kirkwood said. “We’ve been consistently quick, but I don’t know how much quicker I could have gone that race even though we were pushing that entire round. They’re catching up every race, and the results get closer and closer. In this race, the only thing holding them back was aerowash and in places like COTA that won’t be a factor. So the competition is getting tighter between everyone which is good for the series, the sport and me as well. That’s the whole point of a feeder series and it’s awesome to see.”
For the third time in the weekend, Kirkwood sputtered on the start, allowing GRG drivers to challenge him into Turn 1. Pedersen and Leguizamon launched off the stripe, swarming Kirkwood. Pedersen cut to the inside line as Leguizamon flew to the outside, sandwiching Kirkwood in the middle, going three-wide into the first turn. Running out of track, Leguizamon lifted, filing into third, while Kirkwood and Pedersen battled for first.
As the field of Ligier JS F3 machines zoomed down the steep final turn of the technical Road Atlanta circuit, Kirkwood pulled ahead with Pedersen still on his gearbox and Leguizamon close behind. Lap after lap, the metallic red, black and white No. 8 Fastek Abel Motorsports car continued to build a gap as the GRG cars campaigned for the number two spot. Still pressuring his teammate, Leguizamon, who’s mastered the draft in the new F3 chassis, used Pedersen’s slipstream to make a pass midway through the race. Hungry for another win, the young Argentinian set his sights on Kirkwood.
Further down the field, series newcomer Parker Locke’s lap times couldn’t be matched, setting the fastest lap of the race (1:20.040). As he passed Jacob Abel of Louisville, Kentucky, for fourth, Locke developed enough speed to contest for podium position. As the San Antonio-native approached Pedersen for a high-speed overtake, he spun off into the sand trap, causing a yellow flag. The off-course incident ended the GRG rookie’s day, but the incredible run earned Locke the Sabelt Hard Charger Award.
“I learned a lot in my first weekend in the car,” Locke said. “Our goal was to use this weekend as a in-race test. We left two top-five finishes and set the fastest lap in the last race. Overall it was a good weekend and I’m ready to fight back harder at NOLA in just two weeks.”
Pedersen got the jump on the restart, immediately overtaking Leguizamon for second and nearly taking first from Kirkwood. For the duration of the finale, Kirkwood fended off Pedersen while Pedersen held off his teammate. Kirkwood finished the race first with Pedersen in second and Leguizamon in third. Abel finished the race fourth, keeping Abel Motorsports a top of season-long team championship points.
The F3 Americas Championship travels to the Big Easy for its penultimate event Oct. 12-14 at NOLA Motorsports Park before it wraps up its inaugural season at the United States Grand Prix supporting Formula 1 at Circuit of the Americas the following weekend. For full results and photos of the event, visit F3Americas.com.