Elkhart Lake, WI – F1600 Formula F Championship Series drivers and teams swept the podium at the 2011 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Elkhart Lake, Road America, with Lewis Cooper III, Bill Valet, and Tim Kautz taking gold, silver, and bronze in one of the most competitive races of the Championship week in Wisconsin.
Cooper, driving for Polestar Racing Group - F2000 and F1600 veterans - started from pole in the No. 0 Van Diemen/Ford around the 14-turn road course, with a lap a second up on last year’s Formula F track record, set by F1600 front-runner Tim Kautz in his Piper/Ford.
For Valet and Kautz, however, it was a bit of a comeback week following the F1600 doubleheader at Lime Rock the weekend leading into the Runoffs.
Both drivers had DNFs at Lime Rock Park sent their cars straight to Wisconsin without any chance to fix the problems that hampered their efforts in Connecticut prior to arriving at Road America.
Valet spent the entire week of qualifying chasing a ghost, with the engine cutting out in high-speed corners, said the team. By Thursday qualifying, the crew had finally fixed the nagging problem, attributing it most likely to a faulty fuel pump. With no testing, Valet put his No. 83 Swift/Ford a respectable fifth on the grid.
For Kautz, the defending National Champion, qualifying was just as unproductive as the team labored through three engine swaps before finally turning meaningful laps on Thursday qualifying. With the engine troubles finally resolved, Kautz used his one qualifying session to set his No. 88 Piper/Ford in a disappointed 11th.
On raceway, Wisconsin weather turned cold and damp, but the track would stay dry for the 13-lap event.
Cooper’s car emerged on the false grid with Avon radial tires on all four corners of the car.
According to the team, the ultra skinny and high camber radials gave the perfect combination of straight line speed and consistently fast laps, a perfect combination for the historic four mile road course known for its long straights and high speeds.
Kautz and Valet, meanwhile, turned to the F1600 Series spec Hoosier tires, which surprised many.
With the drop of the green, Cooper flew out to a sizeable advantage on the field, with Kautz quickly charging through the cars standing between him and the title contenders, reminiscent of his heroic F1600 Series drive at Watkins Glen earlier in the year.
By mid race, attrition had left Cooper out alone in front with an insurmountable lead, while Valet and Kautz ran third and fourth behind a distant Cliff Johnson.
Working together, Kautz and Valet caught and passed Johnson for second and third before turning on each other to battle for the second step on the podium.
The familiar foes swapped positions multiple times, Putting down times under the existing lap record on the Hoosier spec tires.
Racing clean and hard as they had all year, the drivers thrilled the crowd with nose to tail racing before Valet was able to pass Kautz going into turn one on the final lap, and kept the defending Champion behind him.
Kautz and Valet renew their rivalry Oct. 14-16 when the F1600 Formula F Championship Series heads to Watkins Glen International Raceway for the season finale.
With drops factored in, Kautz leads Valet by just 13 points and the championship is up for grabs. Follow all the action at www.F1600Series.com and @F1600Series on Twitter.