Qualifying went smoothly and I ran clean laps without traffic for the full 15-minutes. I really improved my driving in this session and corrected some of my errors from practice. This helped me qualify in Pole Position for Race 1. From our morning practice sessions to the afternoon qualifying, the track and ambient temperatures rose causing our Formula Mazda slow down with the engines making less power and tires struggling with the increasingly greasy track. My qualifying time was a 1:58.701 which was 0.6s ahead ahead of Ayrton Triolo in P2. Ayrton is a 16-year old Formula Ford and kart racer from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada.
My plan for the race was to lead into the first corner and then push hard to build a gap on the field in the opening laps. Maddox was the only driver who could match my pace today, but he was starting back in 5th place. I knew if I could build up a gap while he fought through traffic, I would have a good shot at the win. At the start, Ayrton in P2 got a jump on me and led into turn 1. I was able to get by him in turn 11 on lap 1 and take the lead. I then put the hammer down and worked hard to build up a lead on the field. Behind me on lap 2, two drivers got together in turn 9 and then Maddox started to get open track after he moved up to P2. After the first 2 laps, I had built up a 3 sec. lead, but then Maddox started to slowly reel me in and finally caught me on Lap 6. We battled for the next three laps swapping position several times on the long drag strip straightaway. The key moment of the race came on lap 8 as Maddox and I approached a lapped car. I decided to make an aggressive pass on the lapped car in turn14 because I knew Maddox would not be able to follow me past the lapper. This strategy worked and helped me to build a 1 sec gap that I was able to hold onto for the final few laps. In the end, I crossed the finish line 0.214s ahead of Matt Maddox and almost 35s ahead of 3rd place.
In-Car Video from the Formula Mazda Race Today
Today's race was my first wheel-to-wheel race in anything other than a kart so I was very pleased with the result. Despite picking up the win, I made plenty of mistakes that I can learn from to improve my race driving, racecraft, and race starts. Tomorrow, we have one practice session, one qualifying session, and two 20-min. races. I have several different corners that I know I can make up significant time in and will be experimenting more with left-foot braking, so it should be a fun battle tomorrow with Maddox and Ayrton.