Ed. Note: As part of our ongoing pursuit to help support and promote today’s up-and-coming junior formula drivers we have offered F1600 Formula F Championship winner Aaron Telitz the opportunity to blog about his experience [including a pole position and race win] at Road Atlanta. Enjoy.
After struggling with the setup at the F1600 season opener at VIR I came into Road Atlanta much more prepared for the technical side of racing. I called my engineer before we even got to the track to go over the baseline setup. I wanted to make sure I understood where we were starting off and to go over easy changes to help the balance of the car one way or another.
The biggest learning curve for me in making the transition from Skip Barber cars to an F1600 car has been understanding the dynamics of the car. In Skip Barber I just got into the car and drove as hard as I could, not worrying about the setup. That is not the case in F1600 or in any other race car I will drive in my career. I always tell people, “As a race car driver the easiest part of my job is driving the car,” and the further along I get in my career the more truth there is in that statement.
When the first practice session came around we hit the ground running and ended up P3 in a short session due to red flags. After making a few changes we improved our lap time and position on the time charts in the second session. We didn’t have much time between sessions so it was very important to give good concise feedback so my engineer and mechanic could get going on changes right away. After another small change we improved our lap time again for session three but were still P2 on the chart. We made one final change to the car, put new sticker Hoosier Tires on and went out for qualifying.
I used my drafting experience from road racing karts and Skip Barber cars to get the most out of my car and ended up qualifying first! I was very happy to get my first pole of the year and to get my team (WISKO) their first pole position as well. After a debrief with my engineer Colin and driver coach Steve Welk, we made a few final changes to the car and headed out for dinner.
In Friday morning warm-up I tested the changes we made the night before to make sure we went in the right direction.
The race lineup changed a bit on the grid, Adrian [Strarrantino] had to start at the back due to showing up late to the grid. So Jake [Eidson] was starting alongside of me. When the green flag flew it was a drag race down to turn one. Jake went a little too hard into turn one and ended up sliding off the track. This gave me a decent lead and I focused on just driving away. But, on lap three I made a mistake all on my own in turn five which sent me spinning. I was able to avoid the sand trap and continued in 14th.
I focused on driving as hard as I could to catch up. Luckily, about halfway, there was a full-course caution which bunched everyone back up. I had made it up to 8th by then and was ready to make some moves forward as soon at the green came back out. Sure enough on the first lap of racing after the caution I was up to 5th. Once I made it up to the lead group it was all about getting in the right position for the last lap.
I led a lap just to see if I could win from first. Eventually I decided 2nd or 3rd was the best place to be on the last lap. On the last lap I was in 3rd coming out of turn 7 behind Steve Bamford and Adrian. I got a great draft down the back straight and was able to out-brake Steve and Adrian into Turn 10. It is an awesome feeling to be leading down the hill to the finish line at Road Atlanta. I crossed the line with one hand on the wheel and the other fist pumping. It is always a great feeling to win especially when it is the first win of the season. The podium celebration was super fun; I need a bit more practice at spraying champagne though.
After winning on Friday I was ready to repeat my results on Saturday. I qualified P2 behind Jake. When the green flew I slotted in behind Jake, hoping to stay in line and put a gap on the rest of the field. However, in the opening three laps nothing but chaos ensued. I went from 2nd to 1st on the first lap. Then from 1st to 3rd, back to 1st, then back to 5th, all on the second lap. On the third lap Adrian and Paul were running P2 and P3 when they made contact in turn one. This allowed Jake to put a gap on the rest of us. Steve and I tried to run Jake down, but we couldn’t close the gap. On the last lap Steve got by me down the back stretch and I made a late move to get passed him in turn 10. I crossed the line in 2nd putting a good end to a great race weekend.
I was very happy with my results from the weekend. I got my first pole and my first win! It was also a great start to the Mother’s Day weekend as my mom was able to come to this race! She is my biggest fan and I was so glad she was able to watch me win my first F1600 race.
The championship race is now very close. I’m not sure who is leading in points between Jake Adrian and myself, but I know it’s close! I am very excited for the rest of the season. The momentum that was gained at Road Atlanta I plan to build on as we head to Lime Rock in a couple weeks for the next race!