Season in Review: Tyler O'Connor
Tyler O'Connor charged to second in the 2018 F1600 Championship Series title-chase, with a late season surge for K-Hill Motorsports. Read about this young American's 21-race F1600 season in his own words:
Looking back on the year, Road Atlanta is an event that will always stand out. Being the first race of the season, there really weren't any expectations and I was very relaxed heading into the weekend. My mechanics Stefan and Rick gave me a car that was on rails from the first lap of practice.
On Saturday we were fastest in both practices, and ended the day by capturing the first pole position of the season. Sunday's triple header was challenging, with a dry race early in the morning and two rain races in the afternoon. Picking up two wins and a second place in the same day was an incredible feeling. The success was even more satisfying given I had never driven in the rain before.
Our season was defined by how well we could fight back from a number of setbacks. After the first weekend, we seemed to have a target on our back for the remainder of the year. A number of promising results were negated by contact or unlikely mechanical issues. Recovering from those poor results was mentally tough. We had an opportunity to make up some ground after a strong start at Summit Point.
Unfortunately my mistakes in race two, followed by a DNF due to an engine failure in race three dropped us down to third in points. With nearly a full race deficit in points heading into the final weekend, I felt like most people had counted us out. I am proud of the way we ended the year, scoring 149 of 159 points on offer, and nearly stealing the championship.
My favorite event was the weekend at Watkins Glen. I really enjoyed driving the track, but more importantly it was awesome to have my family there with me to celebrate my Birthday. I am thankful to have amazing support from my family, and I would not be where I am without them.
This year taught me how to deal with adversity more than anything. I did not appreciate how well the first event at Road Atlanta was until I had a difficult stretch of races throughout the summer. It was an uphill battle starting with the first race at Watkins Glen, and going to the final race in New Jersey. I entered the final three races relaxed, and knowing I didn't have anything to lose. With a 46 point deficit at the beginning of the weekend, I needed every point I could get. Qualifying was crucial to get a fast lap early in the draft before the tires started to wear as the sun came out. I was able to benefit from hitting my marks, and being pulled around in a three car draft to get the pole and three bonus points.
Saturday's race was a good start; finishing second and gaining a few more points. Race two on Sunday morning was without a doubt the best of my season. I was battling up front the whole race, and used an unorthodox last lap pass to get the win. Race three that afternoon was more of the same. I was wheel to wheel with the top three for the majority of the race, and was able to take advantage of a battle for second to establish a three second margin of victory. We ended the year similar to how we started, and did everything we could possibly do to try and win the championship. Ultimately it was only ten points short.
My advice for drivers next year would be to explore all of your options. Find a team and situation that you are comfortable with. It is important to value the opinion of others, but at the end of the day it is your career. Test with as many teams as you can before making a decision. Sometimes you don't know what you're missing until it's too late...
Thank you to everyone at Formula Race Promotions, my parents, family/friends/supporters for an unforgettable 2018. I am not sure what the future holds just yet, but I will be applying the lessons learned this year as I work hard over the next couple of months and into the future.