At the Virginia International Raceway paddock there could be no doubt that the level of the game in F1600 had come up a number of notches. Bryan Herta Autosport was fielding Brandon Newey and Canadian Garrett Grist. RobertoLoreno from Brazil was on board with Quantum. And the Cape Brothers even had a high school kid from Finland.
But the real eye-opener was not the international flavor, it was the action. Looking down the hill at VIR toward the daunting Hog Pen segment, it appeared that “the kids” were hurling their mounts around like disposable bumper cars. Surely this couldn’t last. It lasted all season. And in the end, the Finnish driver in an Australian chassis narrowly edged an American driver in a French chassis in the very last race of the season. From the blazing heat and high winds of New Jersey to the snow, hail and frost of Watkins Glen, it was a remarkable season.
Matias Koykka was a high school student studying in America. He hooked up with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racingand was startlingly fast from the onset. “It's hard to become a professional racing driver anywhere in the world, but America seemed like the best place to head to. I tested with the Capes last year and right away we were able to work together really well,” said Matias. He won the first race by a nose in a four way dash to the flag. But in race two Bandon Newey narrowly edged his Mygale teammate, Garret Grist while Koykka DNF’d and the game was on.
The F1600 series expanded this year and ran two races per weekend at VIR, Lime Rock, New Jersey Motorsports Park, Mid-Ohio, Summit Point, and Watkins Glen. And while Jeremy Greiner’s Ski Motorsports Citation held the third slot consistently throughout most of the year, Koykka and Newey went back and forth as points leaders. Koykka won four races and took an incredible seven poles. Newey also won four races but ultimately came up just seven points short in the championship chase. Newey said, “The biggest thing I learned this year is the better you can make your car, the better you look. It was disappointing to miss out on the championship when they took out the two drops, but it was a great year nonetheless.”
With Newey leading at mid-season New Jersey saw the arrival of factory Spectrum driver Shae Davies who took the series by storm winning both races in a scorching hot weekend that featured canopy eating winds at night. At Mid-Ohio Colin Thompson, who ran only selected events, took the win in the race of the year that featured five drivers under the age of 22 in a high speed conga line. In race two Davies won again, his third win in four races.
The pot boiled over at Summit Point when Davies hit Newey from behind on the last lap and knocked him out of the lead. Koykka inherited the win and the series points lead and all involved were summoned to the series trailer. In the monsoon the following day Summit regular Grenier had a lock on the win only to be taken off by a lapped car. Newey rebounded from his own spin to win and retake the points lead.
At the Glen finale it was even up: Newey took pole, while Koykka won Saturday. Then Koykka took pole while Newey won Sunday with Koykka turning in a calculating drive to fourth to prevail by seven points as Champion. Both young men deserved to win but there’s only one crown and Koykka prevailed with a hot hand and a cool head.“It was a great year; the learning curve was steep as there was plenty to learn about the suspension and racing with bigger cars and tracks. I'm looking forward to hopefully throw in the wings next season,” said the Champ.
In addition to securing third overall in the championship in his self-constructed Citation, Jeremy Grenier was the recipient of the first David Loring award. “The award recognizes Jeremy as a hard core, old school racer who builds, maintains and transports his own car. He did all that and drove the car, too, on a very limited budget,” said series Managing Director, Mike Rand.Garrett Grist was 4th overall even with age restrictions keeping him from the Glen. But he made up for that by being selected to compete in England as part of the Team Canada Scholarship competition. Three-time National FV Champion Steve Oseth had nine top ten finishes with his DBM Racing Citation to tie Grist for 4th overall. Oseth took 4th at both New Jersey and Summit Point.