Jonathan Kotyk: A Weekend to Remember

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Jonathan Kotyk

Published on October 25, 2017 with No Comments

CORBY, England –  As we have returned to Cliff and Michelle Dempsey’s house, Aaron and I look back on our Formula Ford Festival experience. It’s been great! Brands Hatch is a unique 1.2-mile track featuring five corners lapping in the clockwise direction, and each corner has its own characteristics like the daunting Paddock Hill Bend, which features a downhill, decreasing radius right, and Surtees, which is a flat-out chicane. Even though cars can complete the lap in just over 50 seconds, Brands Hatch is one of those circuits that requires precision and speed to be at the front of the field.

Our week in the English County of Kent saw practice Wednesday through Friday, followed by a qualifying and a heat race Saturday, with a semi and main event Sunday. The biggest factor for Aaron and me was the weather. It was on and off rain with a cool chill in the air. This made for an interesting weekend because the track was constantly changing. The majority of the practice runs were wet, while qualifying and the heat were in an in-between wet/dry condition. Then on Sunday the track was fully dry. One unique feature of the Avon tire that we run on is that it is a semi slick, so we use the same tire in the wet and in the dry. Being a bias-ply tire it is more forgiving tire versus a radial, which Aaron and I are accustomed to.

As Friday came, we continued to find speed dropping our time with each lap. This was important because we were going up against 76 of the top Formula Ford drivers in the world and each tenth we could find meant we would start closer to the front in the final. When Friday practice ended, we were both confident in our speed and were looking forward to Saturday.

The sky was overcast when we arrived at the track. When time got closer to qualifying the heavens opened up and the rain began to fall. There were three groups for qualifying. I was in Group 2 and Aaron was in Group 3. When it was my time the track was slightly damp but there was a dry line. I made an early pit stop to make an adjustment to improve our speed in the 15-minute session, but mother nature caught us out. When I re-entered the track, it began to rain so I missed out setting a fast lap, ending up in 10th position. Following my run Aaron was out on a wet track and was able to bring home a fourth-place result in his group.

The Heat races later in the afternoon were held on a slick, damp track. I was able to finish eighth and Aaron brought home an 11th-place result. This placed us into the first semi-final on Sunday, with myself in 12th on the grid and Aaron starting 16th.

With Sunday upon us we were going to need a good result if we were going to make it into the 28-car main event. The Semi Final race was only 15 laps but we kept our heads down and worked our way through traffic. At the end of it, we were able to break into the top 10 with Aaron finishing 10th and myself finishing ninth. The good news was we were into the main event, which was a 20-lap sprint race to the finish among the top 28 qualifiers.

Aaron and I lined up 18th and 16th on the grid, and when the lights went out the race was on. The start saw a fury of cars spreading out jockeying for position. After the first couple of corners cars began to file in line but it wasn’t long until the Safety Car was deployed following a couple of separate incidents. Once the wrecked cars were removed from the circuit it was back to racing, and Aaron and I began working our way up the field. I was able to make it up to 10th position by just after halfway and was making the push for ninth but ran out of time. When the checkered flag waved I was running 11th with Aaron bringing home a 13th-place finish.

Overall it was a strong result for the both of us, and we showed good pace in each session. This will be a good preparation as we return to Donington for a practice day on Thursday and the Walter Hayes Trophy the following weekend at Silverstone.

We want to personally thank Jeremy Shaw and all of the Team USA Scholarship supporters, including SAFEisFAST.com and the Road Racing Drivers Club, Doug Mockett & Company Inc., Cooper Tires, Mazda Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, RaceCraft1, Honda Performance Development, Molecule Sport, Pitfit Training, Andersen Promotions, Hyspeed LLC, Penske Racing, CXC Simulations, Cliff Dempsey Racing, Dyson Racing, Lucas Oil School of Racing, Sparco, Bell Helmets, Technology & Business Law Advisors LLC, and Styled Aesthetic for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Jonathan

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