Kyle Kirkwood: Stretching the Lead

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Kyle Kirkwood

Published on August 18, 2017 with No Comments

JUPITER, Fla. — You really never know what you are going to get when you go to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. This year the weather was the strangest I have ever seen at a raceway. The practice day (Friday) was dry the entire time and quite hot and humid. The first race day (Saturday) was dry and overcast in the morning, with rain in late morning, then it switched to sunny, then back to raining, and to end the day off it was cold and windy. This made for a very strange and stress-filled day for myself and the Cape Motorsports crew. To add on top of the flurry, Sunday’s weather was absolutely perfect.

Mid-Ohio is the track that I have the most experience at out of the list of venues on this year’s F4 U.S. Championship powered by Honda, so we had a good feeling we would be fast right out of the gate. Sure enough, we started the weekend strong. We were quickest on the test day by multiple tenths, and in the official practice we were almost a half-second clear of the field. Then we expected the rest of the competition to close the gap throughout the practices. Gratefully, we were able to maintain our gap, or grow it throughout the sessions!

In qualifying, we set off to be the first group on track. With that being said, the track was very dirty and lap times were getting faster and faster as the session went on. It was truly a struggle trying to set myself up for a clear gap for the last two laps, because I knew that was the only time frame everyone would have to go quickest. Fortunately, I got the gap I needed and pulled off a stellar lap 0.639 ahead of second place.

Race One was eventful, to say the least! The track surface was absolutely soaked prior to the race. But then the sun came out with a vengeance just as the grid closed and no changes were allowed to the cars. The track was drying fast but it remained seemingly much too wet for dry tires. Seven out of 31 drivers opted for slick tires, and three of those seven spun on the pace lap! Our start time was delayed to recover the spun cars and the advantage was now in the hands of everyone on slicks. In the beginning, the rain tires were still quicker, but that faded quickly around halfway, and towards the end of the race we were close to five seconds off the pace and our much too hot and worn rain tires were almost remolding into slicks. So, yes, everyone who was on slicks, or changed during the cautions, ended up passing us at the end of the race. I was a little fortunate to finish eighth.

Race Two was very different, and actually too wet to dry up since it was later in the day, cold and very overcast. We started 10th – with the grid set by lap times from the opening race – but by the middle of the back straight on the opening lap I was already in the lead! I believe six cars spun in front of me and with the rest of the drivers I passed, I had picked a line with more grip due to the experience I had from last year in the wet. Because of the multiple cautions, the field only ran two full green flag laps, and on the last lap under green I made a minor error out of Turn One and ended up getting passed into Turn Two. This was very unfortunate since the yellows came out again just as I was attempting to re-pass on the back straight. So we ended with a stout second-place finish. Considering we had started 10th, that wasn’t too bad.

Race Three was by far the most straight-forward of the weekend. The weather was perfect and, considering our pace in the practices and qualifying, we knew we would be fast once again in the dry. The only point I had to defend was into Turn Two on the opening lap. I was then able to consistently stretch our lead by about three tenths every lap. Even though there were a couple cautions, I was able to take advantage of my Cape Motorsports car’s pace in Turn One and maintain a comfortable gap at restarts to win the final race of the event with a new lap record.

Although we had a few unfortunate encounters, we still had an amazing weekend, stretching our points lead from 31 points to 75. Now I have had a couple days to relax before preparing for our next event at Virginia International Raceway. I’ll be sure to keep you ALL posted on anything and everything interesting!

Thank you,
Kyle

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