The Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series celebrated its season on November 13th as drivers and teams assembled for one final time in 2021. The recently concluded six-event schedule brought the usual mix of veterans and rookies to the paddock, with 38 different cars taking to the track. Posts in the coming weeks will highlight those recognized on Saturday night, then all eyes will turn to a new season ahead.
For the first time in three years a rookie took the overall A class championship, and Nick Gilkes did it in style with Britain West Motorsport. He gained an on-track education through the first half of the schedule while scoring a win and eight podiums, then totally dominated the second half in winning six of nine starts, including all three runs at the season-ending event. All told he had seventeen podium finishes from eighteen starts, and his 435 points put him in a class by himself.
Second overall was Brian Graham Racing veteran Jonathan Woolridge, a driver back for his third season of F1600 racing. He arrived in style by winning the season-opening race and was a dominant driver at Calabogie Motorsports Park where he scored a pair of wins on Sunday. Woolridge scored wins at three events, and after producing six podium finishes in the first half of the schedule, he added another five in the back half to climb to P2 and 385 points in the championship at the final round.
Sam Baker was third in the championship and was the star of the first two rounds for certain. After crossing P3 at the opening race, he won both starts on Sunday to take the championship lead. Then, at round two, he went even better as he was P2 in the first start of the weekend before notching up another pair of wins to give him four from the first six starts! His first visit to Calabogie then put him on a back foot, before he produced four more podium results in the second half of the schedule to finish at 318.
Eight different drivers were on the A class podium over the course of the season, with six recording series’ wins: Nick Gilkes (7), Jonathan Woolridge (4), Sam Baker (4), Jack Polito, Jake Cowden and Megan Gilkes.
The B class order in the 2021 Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series saw Connor Clubine lead the way, as the Britain West Motorsport driver totally dominated the schedule. He owned the top step of the podium in every start but one through five rounds, and in that one he was racing toward an outright podium when he retired! It was fourteen wins from fifteen starts overall, and so great was the advantage he built that Clubine swapped cars for the A class at the finale, scoring a podium in his first start there as well!
That class move decision left the top step of the podium wide open at the final event, and into the void came Steve Bodrug, sweeping the weekend in his own right! Bodrug had produced a pair of podium results at each of his previous four events, with five runner-up finishes alongside three P3 results as well. With the three wins at round six he matched the best championship finish of his career: third overall at 290 points.
In between the pair was Dylan McPherson, a rookie to the series making his first F1600 starts. Quickly up to speed the teenager finished 7-5-3 at the opening event, and he repeated on the podium at rounds two and three as he came to grips with his new car. He was definitely up to speed in the back half of the campaign, as he climbed the podium steps in eight of nine starts, and in the other finished fourth! After seven runner-up finishes and four times in third led to 319 points, a first career win can’t be far away.
Our great partners at MK Technologies Inc. graciously support three end-of-year awards in the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series, recognizing drivers that may or may not be making regular appearances on post-race podiums in either the A or B class during the season.
The first noted this year was the MK Technologies Hard Charger, with an award that recognizes a driver that demonstrates determination and races hard every time he or she hits the track. Connor Clubine did just that, and perhaps no weekend demonstrated his drive and determination better than the BEMC Late Summer Trophy Races. After missing qualifying due to radiator issues, he started dead last and P23 for Race 1. In a run that only had four laps under green, he advanced all the way to eleventh! In Race 2 he climbed three more spots as he got in among the A class cars, and in Race 3 he achieved P5, his best Race 3 finishing position at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in a B class car all season! He was always meticulous in his preparation and determined once the green flag waved.
Next up was the MK Technologies Sportsmanship Award, an award used to recognize a driver that demonstrates outstanding character both on and off the track. Kari Salo has done just that since arriving in the F1600 paddock a year ago, and he has quickly become a well known and well respected competitor. He races fair, visits around the paddock and is always willing to help other competitors or officials during a race weekend. He remains upbeat through the highs and lows of a race season, speaks highly of his peers and admires the young drivers for their talent and maturity. The Series’ very own Flying Finn demonstrates qualities that every driver should aspire to possess, and he’s been a great addition to the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship.
Then there was the MK Technologies Most Improved Driver Award, recognition usually reserved for a new driver to the Series. This year was no different, and although Avery Baker has had some seat time in a variety of cars, this season in the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship was his first full racing campaign. He set to the task with an engineer’s mind, and as he gained knowledge and seat time throughout the year, he dropped time on the clock. He improved over five seconds from qualifying to Race 3 on opening weekend alone, and took another five seconds off that time at the second event. Over four more seconds came off the clock in his third round at CTMP, and he very nearly cut another two full seconds at his fourth! At the finale he clocked a 1:33.889 in Race 1, giving him a season-long race lap improvement of 11.335 seconds!
Two years ago Rust-Oleum Canada increased its support of the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series and the Rust-Oleum Most Poles Award was named to recognize their contribution. Pole position is gained two different ways in the series, first from a proper timed qualifying session prior to Race 1, then using the fastest race lap to create the grid for races 2 and 3 which follow over the course of a weekend. Five different drivers started a race from the point in 2021: Sam Baker, Jake Cowden, Nick Gilkes, Jack Polito and Jonathan Woolridge.
Gilkes dominated timed qualifying as he was fastest in four of six timed sessions, while Woolridge was the fastest driver in Race 1 on three of six occasions. Each of the five aforementioned drivers set fastest lap in Race 2, with Gilkes being the only driver to do it twice. All told he earned seven pole positions from eighteen opportunities to win the award, followed by Woolridge (4), Cowden (3), Baker (2) and Polito (2). Following tradition, the prize for his accomplishment was a Bulova watch. Bulova is the chosen brand to recognize and honour the highly competitive 1970’s Bulova F1600 series.
Already noted as the Series’ Champion, Gilkes was also named the A class Rookie-of-the-Year. He started the year from pole position, and if not for a run across the grass while fighting for the lead at race six, he would have finished on the podium in all eighteen races of the season! He won seven, placed second seven times and placed third three times. Just an incredible rookie season.
The B class Rookie-of-the-Year also had a standout campaign, as Dylan McPherson just got better and better as he accumulated track time in F1600. That said, he was on the podium at the first, second and third race events of the season, then truly found his groove in the second half. At event four he finished 2-4-2, then he never missed the podium again in going six for six in the last two events for eleven podiums overall.
The Master class in the series also had a driver recognized at the year-end social, with the MiR Raceline USA Masters Award. A number of drivers in the 45-and-up Master class had performances noted throughout the year as Cove Dentistry rewarded three outstanding Master class performances at each event, and Dean Baker received the year-end MiR Raceline USA Masters Award after finishing seventh overall in the A class. He finished on the podium twice during the season, and finished fourth twice, fifth twice, sixth twice, seventh twice and eighth twice! Baker had thirteen top-ten results on his way to 155 points, and was the top Masters’ finisher ten times with the fastest Masters’ lap fourteen times.
Up next in the award roll is the Spirit of Gord Lowe Award. A long-time road and motorcycle racer who passed away on New Year’s Day over a decade ago, Lowe had an infectious personality and was a bright light in the paddock for decades. In 2008, his son Aaron designed and created the cherished award and his wife, Karen, declared it be presented, along with one of her photographs, to the driver that best exemplifies the spirit, sportsmanship and passion that was Gord, regardless of car class or point standing.
The recipient this year wasn’t behind the wheel, but is just as well known in the paddock as any driver could be and is surely a man Gord would tip his hat to: Steve Lindsay, a former racer himself and now helping hand and biggest fan to his son, James. At the track Steve displays an enthusiasm and passion for racing that is unmatched. He is never far away from those needing assistance, whether it’s an official, a competitor in the paddock or a young driver in need of an encouraging word. His paddock spot is always welcoming, tales are always being told and his infectious laugh can surely be heard in Turn 5!
The night wrapped up with the BEMC Bob McCallum Award. Two years ago, the British Empire Motor Club initiated an award to recognize and honour Bob McCallum, a past club president who epitomized the values of the club with regard to positive promotion, participation and sportsmanship.
A member of the F1600 paddock beginning in the 1970’s, McCallum was a master craftsman, and he designed and built his own race car from the ground up, continuing to engineer it throughout his career in order to remain competitive season after season. He was also a friend to all that would lend a helping hand to anyone in the paddock, and many will remember him from scales and tech right up to the final BEMC race in 2018.
The recipient of the Bob McCallum Award is determined by drivers in the series, with a voting process to recognize a driver that keeps their car well maintained, mechanically sound, and demonstrating an obvious pride of ownership. This is the third year that the drivers have voted on the Bob McCallum Award, and as has become custom, Bob’s wife Anne and daughter Amy joined the year-end festivities to present the special award at the end of the night.
Nine drivers were nominated, but this year’s recipient was a standout amongst his peers in receiving a majority of the votes: Connor Wagland.
Congratulations to all the award recipients and a huge thank you to everyone who makes racing possible!
As the holiday season approaches already our attention is turning to the 2022 season! With six triple headers set to go at three different tracks it is sure to be another great year!