Friday practice concluded last night and over 250 drivers now have to put up or shut up. Saturday will bring higher temperatures into the mid 80’s and track time will now count towards season championships. We were able to walk the paddock and talk-shop with some drivers and team owners and these points were the main topics of discussion...
Even though the tire is different this year as competitors move to the SKUSA branded Evinco tire, the tire wear is very similar to last year at this event. Competitors are getting, maybe, 3 laps out of a brand new set until they fall off a half-second or more. Drivers who elected to go with new rubber for the final practice session on Friday were outpacing the used tires pretty comfortably in best time column.
How this affects Qualifying is going to be interesting. Are drivers going to wait until the last five minutes or so because of the importance on those three laps, or will it not matter? There’s also the issue with full classes and not much room to get open track. If you happen to get stuck behind a slower driver for a partial lap or entire lap, you risk wasting a lot of time that your tires don’t have.
Kirkwood fast out of the box
It was a hot news item two weeks ago when Kyle Kirkwood chose to depart from OGP and head to PSL Karting. The move was likely sparked by simply wanting to race higher competition than what OGP was competing in. Nonetheless, ‘Woody’ is on the mark this weekend as we all expected. Although not topping the charts on Friday, he was consistently in the top 5 or 7 and shows great poise behind the wheel.
Kirkwood’s lack of movement on the wheel in these high grip corner is going to prove the difference if he gets out front this weekend. He should have that extra bit in the tires that others may not have and that’s something we’re keeping an eye on.
Counter-clockwise may yield some crazy races
SKUSA brought the decision to race PKRA in the counter-clockwise direction, a direction some competitors are skeptical of. In this direction, some are saying it’s almost impossible to pass with maybe 1 or 2 spots to make a move. This lack of passing opportunities could lead to some extra accidents and a fiery opening lap.
With starts going to be conducted on the back straightaway that leads into an almost 90-degree left kink that’s flat-out, followed a few hundred feet by another left handed 180-degree decreasing radius corner, the outside row will have their hands full.
Musgrave and Nekeel top the charts in their final sessions
As we mentioned, new tires was the only way to the top of the charts and we saw just a handful of drivers go out with used rubber. The two guys who led the premier categories were Billy Musgrave (MRC/Praga) in S1 and Stepanova Nekeel (RPM/Tony Kart) in X30 Senior. Both of their runs were quick and precise, as Nekeel only went three laps and Musgrave four before they pulled in, as these were most likely mock-qualifying runs. Again, we can’t put enough emphasis on how quickly the track wears out the tire and getting a lap in within your first three circuits will be crucial to these drivers’ qualifying run.