Friday Notebook: Road Atlanta
News, notes and quotes from around the paddock during Formula Race Promotion's Series opening weekend at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia.
It has been a full two years since Max Mallinen made his pro racing start, which came in the Swan Motorsports Spectrum/Honda in F1600 at Road Atlanta.
Mallinen now returns to F1600 with a deeper resume, including two SCCA Championships, laps led at the Runoffs and a number of competitive F1600 drives north of the border in Canada.
"You know, I have a lot more experiences in the car," said Mallinen. "Two years ago it was my very first race and it was my first pro race. Now I have two Championships under my belt and have a lot more experience working with data and the car overall."
Norman in Atlantic
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Norman backed up his pace from Formula Race Promotions winter exhibition, running the fastest time of the day in the Atlantic Championship Series.
The K-Hill driver said a consistent weekend of lap times would be key to continuing his success.
"I think the key is to stay consistent and run constant 1:16 and 1:17 second laps. Keith (Grant) is right there with me," said Norman. "It'll be interesting to see what happens in qualifying. He was running fast times yesterday (testing) so we have to keep on pushing."
Norman raced at Road Atlanta recently in an SCCA event, noting the change in temperature leading to a faster pace.
"The air is different, we are half a second faster than two weekends ago," he said. "Turn one is faster, the engine is running better in the cooler weather. I've been practicing on my simulator a lot since then and I think that made the difference coming in here."
Series Fast Six
Formula Race Promotions has held a fast-six meeting before race starts for the last few seasons. The meeting sees race officials go over start procedures with the top six qualifiers. New for 2016, however, is the adjustment to the rules of a six gird-position penalty if a driver misses the meeting.
Race organizers will also be keeping a closer eye on radio monitoring, as all teams are required to monitor the Series announcement radio frequency.
Among the cars under last season's qualifying 1 pole time in F2000 was John McCusker, in the No. 1 Dotworks Racing Van Diemen. After a few seasons of competitive F2000 racing, McCusker could be poised to mount a Championship challenge in 2016.
"I'm surprised how fast we are going," said McCusker. "In the Van Diemen we are gradually getting faster and faster. I'm excited for the race. We'll see how Sam stacks up against us but I'm really looking forward to qualifying. I have a nice new bead seat in the car and the team is doing a great job prepping the car. Road Atlanta is my track, love it."
Making her F1600 pro debut this weekend is Laura Hayes, for Raceworks. Hayes is also running a program in the FV class in SCCA's Eastern Conference.
"I started racing at eight years old in Quarter Midgets and then moved onto karting," said Hayes. "We came to a point where my family needed to decide whether to go the open wheel route, or oval racing. Financially, midgets and sprint cars, and eventually late model stock cars made the most sense. After I graduated high school in 2008, I was a driver in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, VA racing a late model stock car.
"Sponsorship was hard to come by after 2009, so I had to take a break from racing for a number of years. But in the last few years, SCCA's Formula Vee class has allowed me to get behind the wheel again at an affordable price. Seat time is seat time, and I think driving the Vee has helped me pick up the FF quickly in just the couple of times I've driven the car. I won the FV Eastern Championship in 2015 and won the Sebring races this year."