Dakota Dickerson: A Flying Start

Written by Team USA. Posted in Dakota Dickerson, Driver Blogs, Feature

Published on May 02, 2019 with No Comments

LEXINGTON, Ohio – It’s been a crazy start to the racing season for us and as we approach the greatest month of racing, I thought it would be a good time to recap the start of the season. As many of you know, we are pursuing a full championship in the F3 Americas Championship powered by Honda with Global Racing Group this year. The opportunity to race in F3 was provided to us through a scholarship valued at nearly $230,000 for winning the F4 United States Championship powered by Honda.

Prior to the first event of the year, I was fortunate enough to spend a couple days in the car with Ligier Automotive and felt comfortable transitioning into the higher aero, higher power car. The turbocharged Honda engine puts out nearly double the power of the F4 engine and the Ligier chassis has an incredible amount of grip supported by the new Hankook tires relative to last year’s Pirelli tires. The week leading up to the first event was spent with the team where I got acquainted with my once fiercest F4 rivals. They made me feel at home quickly and we worked well with each other right out of the gate.

The first event of the year saw us racing during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama as a support series for the NTT IndyCar Series event. It’s always an exciting time during the season opener, but to have it coupled with INDYCAR made it even more distinct. Out of the gate, the whole team showed great pace. I believe all four of our cars were in the top five. Come qualifying, a mix of red flags hindered our quick laps which meant we started third in the first race with my teammate, Ben Pedersen, on the pole. I got a good enough start to get up to second place, albeit spinning the tires a good 20 feet down the road. From then on it was a matter of trying to pressure Ben into a mistake. This was essentially my first race dealing with significant aero wash and I clearly had much to learn. Nevertheless, it was a great experience and an awesome 1-2 finish for the team.

The second race was very tricky in the sense that it was pouring rain about two hours prior to the start of the race, but sunny when we were on the pre-grid. As the track was still wet and cold, the series deemed the race a “wet race” and all of us started on wet tires. From the get-go we knew we had to manage the tire life if no full course cautions came out. Sure enough, the race remained green throughout the entire race up until the last five minutes. Our Hankook tires held in there and it was another 1-2 finish for the team except we took the win while Ben was right on our tail. It was certainly a confidence inspiring weekend for not only me but for everyone at Global Racing Group. To make the weekend even better, one of our sponsors, Stress Engineering Services, made the long trek from Houston, Texas, so I was super pumped to put on a good race for them.

Following the first two rounds of F3 Americas was a weekend I always look forward to. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is the closest IndyCar race to my hometown and one of the first pro races I attended as a young race fan. It’s also on the same weekend as the RRDC dinner that benefits Team USA Scholarship and SAFEisFAST.com. And in particularly this year, it was a perfect opportunity for me to spend the weekend with our new sponsor, Doug Mockett and Co.

Doug Mockett is a gracious supporter of up and coming drivers like Spencer Pigot, Colton Herta and now us as well! The company is based near Long Beach and each year Doug has a beautiful suite on the track so his employees and guests can watch the racing up close! I spent Thursday night at the RRDC dinner with racing legends, drivers, old and new friends, and so many others involved in the sport. Jeremy Shaw and Tamy Valkosky always do such a fantastic job with this event and there really is no better way to kick off the race weekend for me. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were filled with fast cars, sunlight and being envious of those behind the wheel! What did you think of that last lap maneuver between Rahal and Dixon?

To finalize a fantastic month of racing, rounds 3-5 of F3 Americas took place at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The weather is always daunting at Road Atlanta in spring and sure enough it didn’t disappoint. For the two days of testing, the track remained dry and we knew we had really good pace for quali and race day. Come time to qualify though, the majority of the track was under water with winds ripping holes in tents and lightning flashing in the background. In the afternoon the weather finally subsided and the track personnel got to work with drying and putting the track to rights (in some areas the gravel trap had washed onto the racing surface). Everyone did a fantastic job and we were able to get the first race of the weekend under way.

Per the F3 rules, when qualifying is cancelled the starting grid is determined by championship points which put us on pole! Unfortunately, as we were on our first of two pace laps to take the standing start, I experienced an issue where we lost a significant amount of power. I radioed into the team and said it felt like I had an F4 engine in the back of the car. Low and behold the intake to the turbo had popped up. The team reconnected it and I was back on track. As the competitors were lining up for the standing start, I pulled back into the pits as I was required to start from the pits for making a change before taking the green. Luckily for us, the start was aborted because of a car out of position. This meant the field would take another pace lap. While we still had to start from last, it at least meant I could start to attack and move up the field from the green flag. After the first lap, I found myself in seventh. By the time a mid-race yellow came out, we were in fourth, right behind my teammates, Baltazar Leguizamon and James Roe Jr., and I managed to get around James before the checkered came out. While it wasn’t the result we wanted, it was a great recovery by everyone on the team.

We grabbed fast lap in Race 1 which put us on pole for Race 2. From the start of the race we never looked back maintaining a solid gap to P2. Unfortunately, a very bad vibration worsened over the course of the race. It got so bad that it eventually caused us to lose steering input and as a result, I went off in Turn 10 and had to pit to re-tighten the bolts. We exited the pits a lap down in 10th place. Through sheer perseverance and excellent strategy/communication by the team, we ended the race finishing sixth. Again, not the results we wanted but these are the races you reflect on at the end of a championship and realize just how important those extra points were when it would’ve been easier to just call the race over.

The third race of the weekend we were determined to get the win that eluded us in the first two. We started second on the grid and got a jump on pole position. From there we built a large gap to second place and just managed the pace of the race leading from flag to flag. It felt so good because we were finally able to show the pace that we had all weekend and reward the guys for all their hard work. As it stands, we are only one point off the points leader and will be working hard prior to the next races in Pittsburgh to make sure we regain the points lead.

As I hinted in my social media post last week, I have some really exciting news to share with everyone. While I was at the Long Beach Grand Prix, I got a phone call from MLT Motorsports. They presented me with the opportunity to drive with Dylan Murray in their Ligier JSP3 in the IMSA Prototype Challenge race at Mid-Ohio. I am very excited to announce that I will be racing this week during the Acura Sports Car Challenge this weekend. It has been a few months since I’ve had the pleasure of getting back into Ligier’s LMP3 car and I am so stoked to drive it again! I can’t thank everyone at MLT, Dr. Mike Thompson, and team manager Eric VanBibber enough.

You can follow this weekend’s progress and all our future events on our social media pages (FB-@DakotaDickersonRacing; Insta/Twitter- @DickersonRacing). I really appreciate everyone who has been following our journey thus far.

Dakota Dickerson

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