Watkins Glen, NY - Jim Goughary paced F1600 Friday practice at Watkins Glen in a Piper/Honda, with a lap of 1:58.554 in a very quick early-AM session ahead of Bill Valet, Forrest Hull, championship points leader Tim Kautz, all in Ford-powered cars, and Colin Thompson, in a Swift/Honda.
“We had a draft on that lap and were also on new tires for the morning session,” commented Jim Goughary, who won the first race in Series history in April at VIR. “We changed gears yesterday which helped a lot; we’ve also put in a much shorter first for the start.”
Positions second through sixth were separated by about three tenths of a second. Forrest Hull is making his Series debut in a Van Diemen/Ford. Hull is starting his first year of college in August at Princeton for engineering.
The existing track record at Watkins Glen for Formula F cars is 1:59.862, set in 2009 on a non-spec tires.
The first six cars in the AM session were under the track record on the Series spec Hoosier tires.
Hours later, times were still close but not as quick. On a greasy race track at 3:00 p.m., Tim Kautz set fastest time at 1:89.974. Goughary was second quick ahead of Valet, Hull and Ryan Leach, making it four Fords and one Honda, Goughary, in the top-five.
Mike Scanlan was sixth on the time sheets, followed by Leach’s Cape Motorsorts with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate, Shannon McIntosh. Caitlin Johnston was eighth quick. Art Foster and Dan Pyanowski completed the top ten.
John Robinson, who was in the hunt for wins at VIR, taking home two second place trophies, did not have a working transponder for the day’s sessions.
Series officials weren’t taking any changes on Friday at Watkins Glen, utilizing a radar gun at the entrance to the bus stop chicane, comparing top-end speeds of both Honda and Ford entries.
The Thursday test day at the venue had high-winds pushing cars down the back stretch, prompting some competitors to consider gear changes.
Teenage rookie Colin Thompson is on the hunt for a podium this weekend.
“We want at least one podium finish to stay in the run for the championship,” said Thompson, who drives a Swift DB6/Honda.
The aspiring racer overcame a Thursday incident that saw a rear wheel fail through the corner. The team found more cracks in almost all of its wheels following morning practice, and is currently trying to fix them, missing the afternoon session.
“I have used up my mistake for the season and cannot afford another,” he added. The mistake referring to a late-race spin and stall at VIR.
“My slip up at VIR was caused by my lack of knowledge of the limits of the Oak Tree corner. As I was under pressure to catch the leader in two laps, I pushed myself to find those limits
“I have to make sure I stay on track and really take my time to work through every move I make. Rookie mistakes are common in drivers with a similar experience level as myself so I have to push myself to restrain from those mistakes.
“Therefore, my biggest challenge (besides the wheel issue) is clearly the task of pushing myself to be a better driver then what my experience level provides me. I need to search for the limits of the track during practice so that I know where to place the car for the race.”
Thompson added that he was sure he is ready for Watkins Glen, having an “intensive training” program on an iRacing simulator.
Bill Valet: More Race Craft
Bill Valet is coming off two strong podium runs at VIR and sits fourth in the F1600 points standings, running in the top five in both sessions on Friday at Watkins Glen.
“I just can’t stress enough how much I learned in the Saturday race at VIR,” said Valet. “I've never been surrounded by so many capable cars and drivers, and it took me by surprise. Even though I finished third, I honestly got schooled by the more experienced drivers.
“My race craft improved immensely and I'm hoping to take advantage of this at the Glen where there are more places to pass than VIR,” Valet continued. “Making your car as wide as possible while staying within the rules will be the key, as I don't think anyone will be running away with the race. It will be a tough battle with multiple cars and it will really put my new knowledge to the test.”
Chris Keller In
Former National Formula F Champion Chris Keller will take over the #33 for Saturday’s race in place of veteran Len Amato, who will return on Sunday.
Keller was third quick in the Van Diemen/Honda during a sparsely-attended Thursday testing session. He backed that up by going sixth quick in Friday’s morning practice session despite an engine misfire which has since been correct.
The team is being supported by John Walko Racing, already making substantial gear and spring changes to the car. Keller, a former Formula F National Champion, is expecting to be in the hunt for Saturday’s race win.