As I return from my race at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), I am very pleased with the results and the amount that I was able to learn and grow over the short time period. I entered the weekend with absolutely zero seat time in the car and only 5 total formula car races in my history. The car was completed the day before we packed up and began the trip down to the track to begin rounds 1 & 2 of the 2011 F1600 Series.
I hopped in the car for the first time to head out for Thursday’s practice session. There were five 30 minute practice sessions throughout the day, four of which we attended. Myself and my team, consisting of my father John, my mother Rochelle, and two mechanics Todd Hankinson and Eric Strickler spent the day working through any bugs which may restrict me from performing at the top of my ability. We were able to work through a gearbox issue which was inherited with the older technology gearbox. After spending the practice day on tweaking the car I was only able to lay down 10 laps.
I then went on to the second day which consisted of two 30 minute “shakedown” practices. In practice I was able to finally lay down some laps until I ran into a serious battery issue. Luckily, by the end of the second practice session we were able to completely figure out the problem and by doing that, securing a reliable car for the qualifying and race sessions in the following two days.
Saturday marked the true beginning of the series and the time to perform. I entered qualifying for race one with high hopes for spectacular results to place myself in a good position in the points running. I wound up qualifying 9th out of 28 entries. I was satisfied with this result however, I knew I could run with the top guys. In the race I pushed until the last lap and I was able to move up to finish in 6th place. All of the top drivers in this series have the ability to drive smoothly, quickly, and race cleanly wheel-to-wheel for laps at a time!
I entered the second round as sixth in points. Qualifying began, and I was determined to set a podium-worthy time! To my disappointment, I pushed it a bit to hard in the Oak Tree corner which led to me spinning off into the wet grass. After I got back out I pushed to my full potential on my out lap, since time was almost out, to place me 10th on the grid for race two. In the race I had a great start moving up 3 spots on lap one. As the laps clocked down I moved up to a secure 4th, followed by 3rd, then 2nd. Unfortunately, in the hope to catch the leader while keeping the two hungry drivers behind me in their position, I spun as I entered the Oak Tree corner. In my attempt to avoid the other drivers I mashed the throttle to move the car farther off line, stalling it in the process. As the car would not re-fire, I took a DNF for a race with the potential for a win.
Overall, the F1600 series has so far proven to me to be a fantastic professional series which I wish to grow off of to a higher level of racing in the next few years. This weekend was a superb learning experience despite the final results. I entered the weekend with little formula car experience and zero seat time in the current car. I have learned that we have a powerful team, a fast car, a developing rookie driver, and great promise for the rest of the series!
- Colin Thompson