SHARON, Conn. – Matias Koykka showed up at Virginia Int’l Raceway to start the 2012 F1600 Formula F Championship Series season with a relatively unknown name and resume.
That didn’t stop him, however, as he immediately drove to a victory for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing in the Spectrum/Honda.
The 17-year-old‘s United States project began almost a year earlier, when he moved to Ohio from Finland for high school with his sights set on a racing career.
Koykka would end the season with a Championship on top of four race wins, but it was a hard-fought campaign for the first-year F1600 driver.
“I started testing with Cape Motorsports in 2011, and we were looking to race in the States,” said Kokkya. “F1600 seemed like the best option as the team already had the Spectrum ready.”
That chassis, of course, imported from Australia, came with a long list of Formula F success across the globe.
Prior to his F1600 season, Koykka had done his fair share of karting, driving for the CRG karting factory team, finishing second in the Junior World Karting Championship. In addition, he won the Finnish Championship in 2009.
“I did one Formula F race in Finland too,” added Koykka. “I only had 40 laps in the car before that, and in qualifying the battery died. We started all three races that weekend from the back of the field; I won the second race and finished second in the final race.”
Then came his season in F1600, and Koykka explained that after the Thursday test day at VIR, he knew he was going to be fast over the 12-race, six-weekend 2012 season.
“There’s no point going anywhere if you don’t believe you have the chance to win,” he said.
The Spectrum was fast in qualifying, with Koykka beating a Mygale/Honda from the Herta camp by a tenth for the pole.
“The race was a big draft battle,” he continued. “I wasn’t able to make a gap, so I was just trying to keep myself ahead of Garett Girst and keep it cool.”
That was enough for a nail-biting victory in Virginia, but in race two, Koykka ended up with a DNF, while battling up front.
“I lost valuable points there, and during the first half of the year, there were a lot of moments when we lost points,” Koykka noted, adding that after VIR, he assumed it would be a battle with both Herta Mygales for the year.
Lime Rock would follow a similar script, with Koykka winning race one, but crashing on the last lap of race two. Brandon Newey would win the second race, making it two wins on the year, and emerging as Koykka’s title rival.
Weeks later in New Jersey, a teammate appeared alongside Koykka, as Australian Shae Davies flew in as a factory Spectrum driver and rocketed to two wins at Thunderbolt.
“Shae is a very fast and experienced driver, so he gave me a measuring point,” explained Koykka. “Of course, it helped that there was another car to take points away from the competitors.”
New Jersey marked a low point in the season for the entire Series, with what appeared to be a tornado ripping through the paddock and destroying awning after awning on Friday night, and leaving few teams with any shade in blistering heat.
Saturday followed with Koykka making an embarrassing mistake and shutting off his Spectrum by accident while leading the race.
“I was leading with a comfortable margin, but managed to shut down the engine,” he said.“That had never happened before, nor did it ever happen again. Getting sixth place points didn’t really satisfy, especially as it seemed we had the win handed to us.”
After that, however, the season was a smooth calculation for Koykka, finishing strongly at Mid-Ohio and winning at Summit Point to set up another win at Watkins Glen in the season-finale weekend before a fourth place drive sealed his Championship.
“To win the Championship you have to be consistent and keep scoring the valuable points,” Koykka said. “DNF’s will be costly in a close battle.”
Koykka, who described his driving style as smooth and well-suited for fast tracks such as Watkins Glen, said that incoming drivers for F1600 need to be ready for close racing.