Jacob Abel, Mathias Soler-Obel, Dakota Dickerson and John Paul Southern Jr. earn podiums at Sebring International Raceway
Battling extreme weather conditions that ranged from lightning storms, heavy rains to extreme heat and humidity, the F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda drivers overcame everything that mother nature threw at that them to put on a great season finale at the historic Sebring International Raceway Sept. 13-15. Danish-American Benjamin Pedersen capped off his season with his first career clean sweep, earning three huge wins that secured the F3 Americas Vice Championship.
In the opening round on Saturday, Jacob Abel (second) and Danish-Colombian Mathias Soler-Obel (third) shared the podium with Pedersen. In Race 2, champion elect Dakota Dickerson (second) and John Paul Southern Jr. (third) completed the top three with Pedersen standing on the highest step in first. Encore performances from Pedersen (first), Dickerson (second) and Abel (third) in the last race of the season set the final championship standings.
“What a fantastic way to finish off the year,” said Pedersen. “Global Racing Group sealed off first and second in the championship. Huge congrats to my teammate Dakota (Dickerson) for taking the championship. Really just happy for the team that we could pay them back for all the hard work they’ve put in for us all year. Big progress this weekend on the car and the last session really reflected that. I’m happy to get my first sweep of my career and look forward to celebrating with the team tonight at the banquet.”
In Race 1, Pedersen started on point after eclipsing Jacob Abel’s fastest lap in the closing stages of qualifying by eight thousandths of a second. Abel started off pole with Soler-Obel and Dickerson starting from Row 2. Southern and James Roe Jr. completed the top-six.
Pedersen went lights to checkers to claim his fifth win of the season. After a heated battle with Dickerson, Abel wheeled his No. 51 Abel Construction machine to a second-place finish, securing fastest lap of the session while setting a new track in-race record (2:01.200).
Off the F1-style standing start, Soler-Obel experienced mechanical issues that stalled his advantage in Race 2. After refiring his No. 14 Equidem Management car, Soler-Obel was on the move. In what might have devastated other drivers, Soler-Obel stayed calm and persistent, maneuvering his way through the 12-car field. Flying from last place, the Velocity Racing Development driver passed Southern in the last turn of the penultimate lap, salvaging his race to finish third.
Southern Jr. placed fourth, and after spinning out from second place, Dickerson recovered for a fifth-place finish.
“Not being able to start with everyone else, going all the way back to the grid, was tough,” said Soler-Obel. “There were a couple of times I fought a lot with a few drivers, like Dakota (Dickerson) who was defending pretty hard. On the last lap JP (Southern) was giving me a really hard race, but at the end we managed to finish on the podium.”
In Race 2, Abel started on pole with Pedersen, Dickerson and Soler-Obel staring behind him. Pedersen got the jump on Abel off the line to take P1 before entering the first turn. The pair dueled the entire session, pulling away from the rest of the pack. But, after overtaking for the lead in Turn 7 in the final stages of the race, Abel spun, gifting first back to Pedersen for his second win of the day, and ending Abel’s fight. Safety crews were dispatched to extract Abel, and the session ended under full course yellow conditions.
Dickerson crossed the stripe second and Southern worked his way from a fifth-place start to complete the podium in third.
“It was an eventful race on my part,” said Southern, who drives for the single-car effort of Southern Motorsports. “I was chasing Dakota (Dickerson) the first part of the race, and unfortunately mechanical failure started affecting my pace, setting me about a second off from Dakota’s pace. Then Mathias (Soler-Obel) was right there behind me at the end. The yellow flag really bailed us out, and I’m thankful that we could finish strong with a third-place finish.”
Pedersen ran away in the weekend finale. Starting off pole with Abel on point, Pedersen drove a near perfect race right from the start. It seemed like no one had anything left for the No. 24 DirtFish Rally Global Racing Group car on Sunday as he finished the final race of the season more than two seconds ahead of Dickerson in second and Abel in third.
Returning after an extended absence due to scheduling conflicts, Abel was the quickest driver on the 3.74-mile, 17-turn bumpy circuit all weekend, setting the fastest times in each of the three 35-minute rounds. Only participating in four of the six events, the Abel Motorsports driver’s performance at Sebring secured a fourth-place finish in the overall championship.
“There’s not doubt we had the pace this weekend, having fast laps for all the three races,” said Abel. “But it was bittersweet because we had a ton of pace but didn’t get that race win. We are still happy though. Huge thanks to all the Abel guys for coming out here with this not being the primary focus on the year and to still have that much pace. They really delivered for me.”
For the third time this season, Blake Upton received the Sabelt Hard Charger Award for completing the most overtakes to improve his finishing position with eight total passes for the weekend. The Global Racing Group rookie also completed the most passes of the season with 40 total.
“I can’t thank the Global Racing Group guys enough,” said Upton. “They’ve given me a great car and this season has been great learning the Ligier JS F3 and new courses. F3 is a big step from F4 and I am glad that we finished the season with a positive.”
Clinching the championship three rounds early with the hallmark of his season being consistency, the reigning F4 U.S. champion Dickerson was competitive all weekend, but the third-generation racer had other plans at Sebring International Raceway. Dickerson used the final event of the season to raise more than $5,000 for Nowzad Rescue. The organization helps reunite companion animals with American soldiers that they have formed a bond with while on deployment in Afghanistan. His iconic Global Racing Group orange livery was outfitted with dozens of black and white paws with the pets’ names of the donors from all over the world.
“We have a fanatic charity that we’ve supported all year, particularly this weekend, Nozad Rescue,” said Dickerson. “They basically rescue animals off the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, they have an animal shelter in Kabul and then they reunite the soldiers with the animals that they created a bond with overseas. So what we are doing is for $10 people could have their pets’ names on the car with a paw print. It’s got a lot of traction. We had donors from all over the world, Japan, Brazil, Spain, UK, Canada and obviously the U.S. and all kinds of animals too, cats, dogs, a turtle, snake, donkey, bird. It’s really cool to see how diverse it is and to tie the charity in with racing, a completely different facet to what they do, is so enjoyable.”
At the end of the weekend, the overall championship was decided. Dickerson finished the season with 269 points, five wins, six more top-three finishes and four top-10 results. As a part-time season driver for Global Racing Group, Pedersen made each of his 10 rounds count, winning the most races of any driver of the season with seven victories, two more top-three results and a top-10 finish to take the 2019 Vice Championship with 210 points. Soler-Obel (161 points) edged out Abel by seven points with a win, four more podium visits and six top-10 results.
The field for the second F3 Americas season grew to a total of 18 drivers from all over the world competing throughout the season with three F4 U.S. graduates taking the highest honors in the championship.
For full results, post-race photos and race weekend highlight videos visit F3Americas.com.