New names etched on the podium in opening rounds at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
The Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda drivers kept Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course fans on the edge of their seats Friday with a pair of intense races that included battles from the front to the back of the 23-car field.
In the opening all green round, Brazilian Kiko Porto crossed the stripe first, wheeling his No. 12 Petromega DEForce Racing machine to his third victory of the season. Joshua Car from Sydney, Australia, finished just two tenths of a second behind Porto in second and Nicky Hays of Huntington Beach, California, took third for his first podium of the season.
In the afternoon 30-minute race, Car went lights to flag, notching out his fourth win of the season. Hays climbed to second while Brazilian rookie Guilherme Peixoto drove his way to a third-place finish, his best result in F4 so far this year.
“Today was the hardest race of my life,” said Porto with a huge smile after winning Round 10. “It was hard work to pass Gui (Peixoto), but after that I defended. I lead like 20 laps of the race and the cars behind me were so fast. It was an incredible race.”
The Brazilian DEForce Racing duo of Peixoto and Porto owned the front row for Round 10. Peixoto started on pole for the first time after laying down the quickest time (1:27.554) in qualifying to take the Fastest Qualifier Award presented by Druck. Jay Howard Driver Development sophomore Wyatt Brichacek had his best career start, lining up in third. with Velocity Racing Development series newcomer Michael d'Orlando, who joined F4 at VIR, completing Row 2. Hays and Arthur Leist rounded out Row 3 for the F1-style standing start.
Both DEForce Racing drivers were quick off the line. Dueling for first-place position, Peixoto and Porto gained more than a two-second lead over Brichacek and Hays, now in fourth, before losing momentum While the Brazilians were battling for position in the Carousel, Hays and a freight train of Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport drivers Leist and Joshua Car got by Brichacek to close the gap on first.
On old tires, Peixoto’s endurance started to fade and by Lap 8, Porto took the lead. But, his battle wasn’t even close to over. Pressuring from behind, Hays and Car at times went three-wide with Porto on the back straight. Porto calmly defended his line to keep the lead.
Hays, in second, attempted to pass for first, attacking Porto from the outside, but his efforts were unfruitful. After his tires hit the dirty part of the track, Hays’ No. 51 Winfield Racing School DC Autosport car got loose underneath him. While Hays was regaining control, Car slid into second.
“It is the sort of race that you train for,” said Car, who charged from a seventh-place start to finish second. “This race was just epic, and the best race I’ve ever driven. We had to be so accurate with the car here. Mid-Ohio is a real drivers’ track and you get to use all of your skills here. I got up to second with about five laps to go and tried to take second, but Kiko was fast in all the right places today and drove a great race.”
On holiday from the French F4, Hays added a state-side podium to his 2019 results, finishing third in only his second race weekend with the F4 U.S. Championship.
“I have to say this was one of the best races I have ever had even though I didn’t win. It was really super cool, really hard and really fair racing out there today,” said Hays after his first race competition on the Mid-Ohio circuit. “I will look at the video and probably yell at myself for throwing away a win but the team and l will look at it and see how we can attack to be on the top step later today.”
Peixoto and Leist rounded out the top five. While Brichacek, d’Orlando, Christian Brooks and Jose Blanco finished sixth through ninth. Christian Bogle finished with his best results of the season in 10th, earning his first career points in F4.
Car in the No. 9 Wright Drilling & Exploration Oil & Gas Partner Opportunities started on pole for Round 11 after getting the fastest lap in the previous race. At the start, Car was immediately under pressure from Hays, Peixoto, Brichacek and Porto.
A full course yellow dropped early in the round, grouping the cars back up again. On the restart, Car sped away but couldn’t stop the chasing pack of Hays, Peixoto and Brooks, who cut through the field from eighth place to fourth in just two laps, from closing the gap.
With some relief to Car with two minutes left in the session, a full course yellow emerged to bring out the Honda Civic Type R pace car to end the race under yellow.
In the end, Car did a brilliant job under immense pressure to hold off Hays and Peixoto’s hunt for position and added to his championship points lead. Hays took second, and Peixoto finished with his best result of his rookie F4 career, in third.
“I am very happy about my first podium,” said Peixoto. “We still have some improvement and I think we can improve more for second place or even a win. This race was very good, a big fight between me, Josh, and Nicky. All race I tried to pass Nicky and give pressure but he did not make any mistakes. The car was perfect and had new tires. I tried to win but a third place and my first podium was good start.”
Brooks and Brichacek completed the top five. In just his second F4 race ever, Liam Snyder placed sixth, earning his first championship points, with Blanco, Ryan MacDermid, Porto and Chandler Horton finishing the top 10.
Zoey Edenholm and Josh Bethune had the drives of the race. Both drivers started in the back of the gridding order in 21st and 20th. They made up half of the field to finish 12th (Edenholm) and 13th (Bethune).
The F4 U.S. Championship Powered by Honda finale at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course starts before the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 10:40 a.m. ET. For full results, event photos and post-race video updates, visit F4USChampionship.com.