Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Devin Wojcik’s under-the-radar solid first year in USF2000

Leave a comment

The preponderance of rookies contending for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title meant inevitably, some other rookies got overlooked during the 2017 season in the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder.

Oliver Askew and Rinus Veekay battled for the title down to the final round in Watkins Glen, and fellow rookies Kaylen Frederick and Calvin Ming grabbed opportunistic podium finishes more often than not. In eighth place this season was the fifth-best rookie of the year in Devin Wojcik, a driver who outperformed the minimal expectations in a deep field.

The 17-year-old out of Fayetteville, New York overachieved during the year driving for Gregg and Brent Borland’s Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based ArmsUp Motorsports.

The family-run team at ArmsUp has a fun-loving atmosphere and a propensity for punching above its weight – Victor Franzoni did so significantly in 2016 cast against Cape Motorsports’ pair of Anthony Martin and Parker Thompson – and Wojcik did well in a similar-type dynamic this year.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

With either fellow novice driver Bruna Tomaselli or on-again, off-again MRTI driver Alex Baron in the second car, Wojcik didn’t have a steady second driver to interact with or learn from, and learned as he went throughout his first full season in the new Tatuus USF-17.

A one-off opportunity in the old Van Diemen chassis with ArmsUp in 2016 at the team’s home race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. led to the full 2017 campaign and as Wojcik explained, that yearlong development helped him grow as a driver.

“Ever since I got into Skip Barber – I started doing well there, in the Winter series – they started coming into contact with me,” Wojcik told NBC Sports. “I did a test there, and then they got me in a car for a one-off. So, I had a good relationship with them going into the 2017 season.

“So, we went here to the Chris Griffis (test) shortly after I signed with them for the season. We did fairly well here. We knew we had a big road ahead of us. We had to basically develop this car, and honestly we were having a little trouble with that. It was basically my first time talking to an engineer, and trying to do that communication was a bit tricky. But, I was able to figure it out with the help of (driver coach) Barry Waddell, he helped me a lot there.”

What Wojcik lacked in outright pace he made up for with cleanliness and consistency. A roller-coaster first three weekends in St. Petersburg, Barber and Indianapolis produced only one top-10 (an impressive seventh in St. Petersburg race two) and two DNFs, but from Road America onwards he finished between sixth and 11th in seven of the eight remaining races, with the field usually pushing if not exceeding 20 cars. For his passing efforts, Wojcik was awarded the Tilton Hard Charger Award in USF2000 at year’s end.

Cast against the two or three-car mights from Cape, Pabst Racing, Exclusive Autosport and Team Pelfrey, Wojcik was doing a highly respectable job, because he was beating at least one driver from each of those teams on a regular basis.

Wojcik rated his performances on street courses his best this year, as beyond the seventh in St. Pete he had his best weekend in Toronto, ending eighth and sixth. ArmsUp’s street course setup, engineered by veteran John Walko, carried over well from the old car, which Franzoni won with in Toronto in 2016.

“I had a huge amount of passes at Barber. And obviously the two street races, I performed my best at,” Wojcik said. “I had the sixth, seventh and eighth, so those were my finishes there. Those are my favorites; I love duking it out in the streets.”

Wojcik was at the Griffis test last month to meet with teams in lieu of not driving. He thanked Waddell for his vast contact list and allowing him to meet as many people as he did. A second season in USF2000 is the goal regardless, and he said he’d like to grow with ArmsUp if possible.

Where Wojcik excels outside the cockpit is as a soon-to-be Eagle Scout, having been in the Boy Scouts since he was a kid. There is some Boy Scouts involvement in IndyCar, via the Boy Scouts of America’s longtime partnership with Dale Coyne Racing.

“I’ve been in Boy Scouts since I was a very little kid – since elementary school,” he said. “I’ve come up through the ranks there. I’m about to get my Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank in Scouting, so it’s a really big accomplishment. I’m looking forward to obtaining (it) this Fall, it’s a really big thing for me.”

“Overall we have a good platform to build off of for a second year of USF2000, and hopefully (will) go for a championship. That would be the best-case scenario.”

IMSA: Heavy news week leading into Thanksgiving holiday

Photo courtesy of IMSA
Leave a comment

After the weekend and before the Thanksgiving holiday this week, IMSA has rolled out a number of announcements itself, while IMSA could be set for further announcements in the weeks to come starting next week.

Here’s a roundup:

QUALIFYING AT ROAR SET FOR PIT POSITIONS, GARAGES AT ROLEX 24

Here are key notes from IMSA’s Monday release about how Sunday at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 will take on a greater significance:

  • The pit boxes and garages each team will use during the Rolex 24 will now be allocated based on fastest qualifying times set during Sunday’s third and final day of the Roar. Each of the three WeatherTech Championship classes – Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will have a 15-minute qualifying session on Sunday, Jan. 7.
  • The fastest-qualifying Prototype will receive the first pit box on pit lane starting at pit-in and also will be assigned to the first garage in the Prototype section of the WeatherTech Championship garage. The fastest GTD car will receive the second pit box on pit lane and the first garage in the GTD section, with the fastest GTLM car receiving the third pit box and the first garage in the GTLM section.
  • New for 2018 – P and GTLM will pit together under a full course yellow. Therefore, to give class separation in the pits, P and GTLM teams are assigned pit boxes to ensure they are separated by a GTD Team.

This, coupled with the addition of the first IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda one-hour, 45-minute race with two drivers, will make this a more shaken up Roar.

REGS, REGS, GET YOUR REGS

IMSA has released the Sporting and Technical Regulations for 2018 this week. The aforementioned note about P and GTLM teams pitting together is a change from P and Prototype Challenge (PC) class cars pitting together, with GTLM and GTD together as it was this year.

Restart procedures changed will see P cars moved to the lead ahead of GT cars; this created confusion at times throughout 2017 as sometimes another class leader in PC, GTLM or GTD had been the first car behind a pace car.

Each team will be limited to one car change in-season only, subject to “force majeure.”

On the off chance a driver is racing in two cars, his or her maximum drive time will be counted cumulatively between the two cars.

There are other tweaks, of course, but most are largely procedural or within the fine print.

RATINGS REVEALED

The good news with IMSA going down from four classes to three for 2018 is that only one designated pro-am class remains in the form of GT Daytona, which requires at least one Silver (or Bronze) full-season driver alongside the designated pro. Those sneaky “Super Silvers” remain an invaluable asset for using his or her results to their benefit.

The FIA released the initial driver ratings for 2018 this week with a few changes, some young pros going up from Silver to Gold and others getting their request to get downgraded from Gold to Silver approved. Drivers have a couple weeks to appeal if they so desire.

Here’s your friendly reminder of what drivers can be in what GTD cars for the first two races at Daytona and Sebring:

  • Daytona (5 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) or five (5) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.
  • Sebring (4 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.

MAZDA KEEPS ON TESTING, CLOSES ON ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Los Angeles Auto Show, held after Thanksgiving, is a likely landing spot for Mazda Team Joest to reveal, officially, its revised “Evo” version of the Mazda RT24-P and its driver lineup for the 2018 season. While most of the Prototype class lineups (DPi and LMP2-spec cars) have been revealed, Mazda’s has been an exception. In the interim, not long after its Daytona test late last month, they’ve also been testing at Sebring.

FROM SPACE CENTER TO DOWN UNDER

Jordan Taylor undertook testing of a different kind not long ago at, of all places, the Kennedy Space Center. One of this year’s Prototype class champions was undertaking a straight line test in his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Taylor being Taylor, the moment couldn’t pass without him winning at social media (see third tweet).

Taylor goes from down a long runway to down under, visiting his first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race this weekend at its season finale in Newcastle.

‘MAKING OF A CHAMPION’ PIECES ROLL OUT

The fourth installment of IMSA’s “making of a champion” series highlights Jordan Taylor, who co-drove with brother Ricky to the Prototype class championship this year. These two are part of four done by IMSA so far, along with Pato O’Ward (PC) and Christina Nielsen (GTD). More should follow in the coming weeks.

SPEAKING OF CHAMPS, HINDMAN, AGOSTINI, PRESTIGE WIN LAMBORGHINI WORLD FINAL

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final was held last weekend at the Imola circuit in Italy and the American Prestige Performance team won the World Final overall, with co-drivers Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini.

The World Final brings together teams from North America, Europe and Asia that campaign the spec Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 in Super Trofeo regional competition. Hindman and Agostini got the weekend off on the right foot by winning the North American championship first, then followed it up at the World Final itself to topple all other domestic and international entries.

You might remember we profiled Hindman last month, as the 22-year-old’s star in the sports car world is clearly on the rise.

Somehow, someway, at the end of the day today we received the title 2017 Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Champions. Race 2 was not perfect and much more nerve racking than we would have hoped but fortunately in the end the job was done. I am honored to be sharing this with @rickyagostini as well as the entire @prestigeperfctr @waynetaylorracing team and I thank them for their incredible effort all year. With this result, we are the first ever American team to win the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Championship overall. 3/4 overall wins along with the Super Trofeo North America and World titles marks the end of a successful 2017 campaign. Back to reality tomorrow. Thank you all for following us along on this incredible journey.

A post shared by Trent Hindman (@trenthindman) on