The F4 U.S. Championship has seen significant growth in car count this year – grids have been at or just over 30 cars of the Onroak Automotive Crawford F4-16s with Honda power from a Civic Type-R – but has not really had a marquee event with which to showcase that grid to a bigger audience.
Joining the U.S. Grand Prix weekend in October, however, is massive news for the SCCA Pro Racing-sanctioned burgeoning championship, and gives the series a spotlight it otherwise doesn’t have this year.
This will be F4’s second bow at Circuit of The Americas in as many months later this year. They’ll be on the FIA World Endurance Championship weekend in September about a month before, with this event now on the F1 weekend becoming the new season finale.
On the F1 weekend, F4 will have one practice, one qualifying session and two races which will be held in between F1 practice and qualifying sessions.
“The addition of the F4 U.S. Championship to the USA Grand Prix weekend signifies our place as one of the primary destinations for young drivers who have karting or other racing experience and wish to refine those skills, both on- and off-track,” said SCCA Pro Racing Vice President Steve Oseth.
“This series is only in its second season, and has seen significant growth as we are expecting 35 cars at our finale. We are thankful that Formula One Management Limited has afforded us the opportunity to bring our series and announce our second champion at the F1 event.”
Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Development, added: “Last year’s successful inaugural F4 U.S. Championship season demonstrated the need for a competitive and affordable open-wheel development series. Honda and HPD are pleased to participate in the amazing growth in the 2017 season, and joining the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at COTA shows the growing prestige of the F4 Championship.”
“This a huge accomplishment for SCCA Pro to get the final race of the F4 U.S. Championship race at the USA Grand Prix,” General Manager of Onroak Automotive North America Max Crawford said. “The FIA has promoted F4 as a stepping stone to Formula 1, and this is a great opportunity for the F4 drivers to race in front of the F1 teams.”
The move also makes sense given the Pirelli tire connection; both F1 and F4 run on Pirelli tires.
“As the successful sole supplier of tires to both the F1 Championship and F4 U.S. Championship, Pirelli is glad to see current and future motorsports champions join together at this event,” said Rafael Navarro, Pirelli Tire North America Vice President of Communications and Media Relations.
Team USA Scholarship recipient Kyle Kirkwood swept the series’ most recent race event at Indianapolis this past weekend.
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.