Aaron Jeansonne: Ups and Downs
SULPHUR, La. – My first race weekend in a proper “slicks and wings” race car was definitely an experience this past weekend at Road Atlanta. As announced very shortly before the weekend, I’ve joined Primus Racing for the 2018 Formula Race Promotions F2000 Championship. With limited testing in an F2000 car – less than three days in my teammate Simon Sikes’ car – and it being my first time driving “my” No. 64 machine (because it had been in the previous driver’s shop for many months and we were unable to have it delivered until the Friday when we arrived at the track), I had to keep expectations in check. However, that didn’t mean the team and I weren’t ready to give it our all.
With most events on the 2018 FRP calendar comprising three-day race weekends, this one was compressed into two. Day one, Saturday, was gorgeous, perfect for racing, and we were challenged with two practice sessions and qualifying for race one. Unfortunately, none of us were able to get many productive laps in first practice, due to some red flags, so practice two was my first time to really see what we had! Out of 16 cars, I was able to set the fifth fastest time in practice and afterwards place myself seventh on the grid for the first race. I reckon this wasn’t too bad for our first time on track against very seasoned and fast competitors.
The weather on Sunday was quite diverse. With lots of heavy rain in the forecast, we were all trying to predict when it would arrive to determine our strategy throughout the day. It appeared as if it was going to rain for race one, but we didn’t experience a single drop. It was still a disappointing race for us, though. Less than halfway through, we had a suspension issue that took us out of the running prematurely. Fortunately, on the other hand, we had been finding improvements up to that point.
The team did an outstanding job to get the car repaired in time for qualifying for race two, while at the same time making sure Simon’s car was ready with only a two-man crew. Then came some more surprises. As soon as we lined up for qualifying, rain began to come down. We proceeded to do the first few laps with slicks before coming in to put rain tires on. With this being my very first experience with rain tires, I honestly couldn’t have imagined they had so much grip on a soaking wet track. I found loads of time with each lap and resulted in another seventh-place starting position. Only this time, I knew there was much more potential we hadn’t shown.
With my teammate Simon having lots more experience than me, particularly in the wet, he did a great job capturing the lead early in the race and walking away with it. It was a great team victory. And on my end, we had risen from seventh to fourth early on in the race, and had great pace to potentially have a great complete team result, but I found the conditions so unbelievably tough. I literally couldn’t see an inch in front of me. The standing water was insane, with pouring rain and cars in front and behind. Unfortunately, I made a mistake going through the downhill esses and hydroplaned over some standing water, which ended my race early after slapping the wall, giving me two “DNFs” for the weekend. Luckily, I had a very good Bell Helmet protecting my noggin, so I escaped the impact with no injury.
The season is long, and I believe we had shown a lot of potential and improvement throughout the weekend, so we are all pushing hard for the next one. Shout-out to our engineer Derich Cutshaw, mechanic “The” Nick Denny as we call him, and F4 driver Jordan Dempsey for giving Simon and I all of his advice. Thanks also to team founder and co-owner Jon Baytos for doing all he could to have me on the team this season. I wish he could’ve been there this weekend but we are looking forward to working together soon.
So my first weekend with my new team was eventful, and had its ups and downs, but that’s part of racing. Next on the FRP calendar is a circuit I’ve always dreamed of racing on – Watkins Glen International Raceway May 11-13. I’ve watched races there on TV and have played very many video games on this course throughout my life, so this will be a milestone for me. I am also very excited to have SAFEisFAST back on board with us this season. The online tutorials with advice from many top drivers have helped me very much with my steep learning curve thus far, and definitely helped with my approach to the rain racing this past weekend. Can’t thank them enough.
Thanks for keeping up, everyone. Until next time,