The 2018 Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series took its much anticipated first green flag of the season last weekend as teams and drivers converged on Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Races 1, 2 and 3 were on the docket as the first of six championship rounds began with a test day on Friday before qualifying and race one Saturday, and doubleheader action on Sunday. Eleven rookies and a field of 25 were greeted by perfect weather for the launch of the campaign, and if the opener is any indication, we are in store for a great season of F1600 racing!
Fifteen-year-old newcomer Marco Kacic (EA/Spectrum/Honda) topped the time sheets from the first qualifying session of the season, securing pole position for Race 1 ahead of teammate Kellen Ritter and karting star Jake Craig (BGR/Piper/Honda). The trio would each factor in the race story later in the day, but for very different reasons.
Racing was tight at the front of the pack early on as the high-qualifying trio were joined by Kacic’s teammates Matthew Taskinen and Luke Kohlbecker in the fight for podium positions. The battle was then reduced to three after Turn 9 contact led to minor off-track excursions for both Kacic and Craig completing lap four, and things soon got much worse for Kacic. With the timed race just reaching its halfway point, the red flag went up as Kacic’s car caught fire and he was forced to retire at Mosport’s famed Moss Corner! That meant the order was set with Taskinen winning from Ritter and Kohlbecker – an Exclusive Autosport sweep of the podium!
Kevin Kapelke (Van Diemen/Ford) had a stellar debut kicking off his first full F1600 season, winning the B Class race for cars built prior to 1995. Graham Lobban (Van Diemen/Honda) was second with James Lindsay (Van Diemen/Ford) completing the podium. Logan Cusson (BGR/Piper/Honda) was the Hard Charger of the race after gaining seven positions to score a top-ten finish and the Cove Dentistry ‘Master Performance’ of the race went to Duncan Murdoch for turning a lap in 1:30.462. While he had to settle for 9th in the final classification, Craig did have the fastest race lap Saturday afternoon which secured pole for Race 2 Sunday morning.
The sun was shining on the paddock as the teams lined up for the first of a doubleheader, a race that would once again be interrupted. Craig and Ritter were on the front row of the grid but Taskinen wasted no time getting back to the spot he held a day earlier and led across the line the first time by. He and Craig then began an epic dual for the lead that saw them swap the position every time at the line before a caution flag gave drivers a three-lap respite. Craig then took advantage of the restart and assumed the point when racing resumed, but Taskinen had it back a lap later and was able to cruise to victory as the caution flag was up when time expired. Craig was second in line at the time, once again setting the fastest lap in the field, while Ritter ran the distance in third to earn his second-consecutive podium finish. The B Class podium was a repeat performance with Kapelke crossing the line a solid three seconds ahead of Lobban and Lindsay. Keith Lobban produced the Cove Dentistry ‘Master Performance’ of the race in climbing 8 positions from P20. Kacic was unable to start Sunday owing to damage from his Saturday retirement.
Craig and Ritter once again made up the front row for the third and final race of the weekend, one that would finally see the field go green-to-checker without incident. It became clear early on that the same trio would repeat on the podium, but the order was very much up in the air. Each led at points during the first half, while it became a battle between the Exclusive Autosport teammates in the second. Ritter was the first to take the Last Lap Board but Taskinen and Craig each found a way past on the final tour creating the last of nine lead changes in the race. It was a repeat podium from the morning run: Ritter third, Craig second and Taskinen on the top step completing a clean sweep of the action from round one. Kapelke did the same in B Class, once again crossing ahead of Graham Lobban and Lindsay. The Cove Dentistry ‘Master Performance’ of the race went to Danby Crowder for his lap of 1:29.998 seconds.
Next up for the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series is The VARAC Vintage Grand Prix at CTMP on Father’s Day weekend. Bring out your dads, husbands and kids to see the closest open-wheel racing in Canada! Visit the CTMP website for tickets and we’ll see you at the races!
Photo by Diane Dale