Jose Blanco scores second F4 U.S. victory, shares podium with Austin Kaszuba and Benjamin Pedersen
The first day of the Keystone Speedfest for the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda on Saturday proved to be difficult for the top championship contenders, opening the door for the Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport pilots sitting just outside the top-five in points to start closing the championship gap.
In Round 10, Jose Blanco of San Juan, Puerto, Rico, took the checkered for his second victory of the season followed by his Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport teammate Austin Kaszuba of Burleson, Texas, in second. Benjamin Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, rounded out the podium in third
“Entering the test we had a really fast car. Adding the extra practice time here earlier in the week plus the practices on Friday really helped the team fine tune the car and helped me familiarize myself with a track I’ve never been to,” Blanco said. “The track crosses our platform really well. We have five drivers on our team, so it’s very helpful with data and sharing our experiences on the track. This win was a team effort and I am extremely happy to be up here.”
In an unprecedented qualifying session, the top-4 times were clocked by drivers on the same team. Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport pilots Arthur Leist of New Hamburgo, Brazil, Blanco, Joshua Car of Sydney, Australia, and Kazuba’s times were separated by less than 3 tenths of a second, however, after infractions from practice sessions were applied to final results, Blanco was promoted to pole-position with Kazuba starting P2 for the opening round. Jay Howard Driver Development drivers Teddy Wilson of Holbeach, England, and Christian Rasmussen of Copenhagen, Denmark, respectively, qualified in P6 and P9, but again after several infractions were applied to competitors throughout the field from qualifying and practices, their starting position shuffled to the second row. In total, 12 drivers, including points’ leader Dakota Dickerson of San Diego, were hit with infractions after qualifying. Most were from failure to respect designated flags.
Off the F1-style standing start, the 30-car field raced through the high-speed 19-turns into the high 2.85 elevation track. Dickerson had a lot of ground to make up from receiving a 5-spot grid penalty in practice. Starting on the outside of Row 6 in 12th, Dickerson split traffic off the start, instantly gaining ground. Picking off competitors one by one, the DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports sophomore gained six positions. His charge to the front ended abruptly after one lap when Alliance Racing rookie Will Edwards of Greenwood, Indiana, spun exiting Turn 17, collecting series new-comer Robert Allaer of Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. The incident caused a full course yellow. The new Honda Civic Type R prism-wrapped car emerged to pace the field as safety cars worked to extract the damaged Ligier JS F4 chassis.
Off the rolling restart, Pedersen, overtook Car for fourth. The calculated move ended up being more than just a points’ finish. Wilson crossed the stripe in third, but Pedersen was awarded the last podium position after Wilson’s onboard footage showed he jumped the start. The infraction resulted in a five-second in-race penalty for the JHDD rookie.
“I’m super happy with a third-place finish in the first race,” said Pedersen. “We started P5 and made up the positions with limited laps. I am very happy with that. Plus, we were able to finish in front of our competition for the overall drivers’ championship, so we are closer to regaining our points lead again. Overall, very happy with results.”
Blanco defended his lead off the restart, building a sizeable gap over his Crosslink/Kiwi teammate in just two laps. The F4 U.S. rookie finished the opening race more than a second faster than second-place Kaszuba.
“I think I was the only competitor on the field who was happy to see the double yellows come out. On the opening lap I felt my brakes lose a bit of pressure. If we went the entire race green I would have had to pit,” Kaszuba said. “The team has worked so hard this season putting a great car underneath me. It’s been a consistent season of top-10 finishes, and I am glad we finally broke through to finish on the podium. It’s going to be tough to sleep.”
Car finished Round 10 in fourth, Rasmussen, Dickerson, Leist, Wilson, Conrad Clark of Taupo, New Zealand, and in his F4 U.S. debut Francisco “Kiko” Porto of Recife, Brazil, completed the Top-10.
Further down the field, Jacob Abel of Louisville, Kentucky, Chandler Horton of Zionsville, Indiana, Oliver Clarke of King’s Lynn, England, and Jack William Miller of Westfield, Indiana also had an exceptional race. In just three laps of green flag racing, Abel managed to advance nine positions, while Miller, Clarke and Horton all rallied for an eight-spot gain each.
The inaugural Keystone Speedfest at Pittsburgh International Race Complex Aug. 3-5 included a fleet of cars from the TransAm Series (TA, TA3, TA4), F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda and Formula Race Promotions’ F1600, F2000 and Formula Atlantic Championships. Full race results can be viewed at F4USChampionship.com