ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Tim Kautz, of Geneva, Ill., held off the defending National Champion Lewis Cooper, of Grosse Pointe, Mich., to earn his second-career Formula F crown at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America.
Russell Ruedisueli, of Rochester Hills, Mich., finished third.
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Kautz started from the Gumout pole in the No. 88 Braeburn/Two Dogg/Hoosier/Euroquipe and was immediately under assault from Cooper in the No. 0 Martini/Voss Water Van Diemen RF00 Ford. In fact, Cooper took the early lead and led the first three laps before Kautz took the lead on lap 4. From there, both drivers swapped the top spot several times for the next couple of laps.
On lap nine, the race got even more interesting. With the Kautz and Cooper engaged in a battle for the lead, the leaders came over the hill in Turn Two to find Wesley Cunningham’s No. 22 Over Fifty/MSR Houston/Honda/Hoosier Swift DB-6 Honda sitting sideways across the track. Both drivers missed the car as safety crews were on site to move the car to a safer location.
“I didn’t know it [Cunningham’s car] was there, and that was one of the times I was glad to be second,” Cooper said. “I did force my way by once after we drove by that just in case we had an opportunity to get to the line and see a pace car. That didn’t really play out that way. The corner workers and everybody did a great job of letting us know something was going on, and keeping it tight to the side and getting cars out of the way to let us race.”
Kautz had a less than one second lead heading into the final lap and held off Cooper for over the final 14 corners to capture the title by 0.077-second. Kautz’s victory gave Honda its first win in Formula F.
“I was hoping that the two of us could make it a two-car battle toward the end,” Kautz said. “About lap six or seven, the front tires started going away. So I had to make a bar adjustment and stiffen up the rear end to get the car to turn in. The car was loose to say the least. I had to slow down my entry speeds to keep the car under me.
“I don’t know how many times the lead changed, but it was a lot. It was just whoever got the better run out of that corner was going to get the better run down the straightaway and be in the lead at the next corner. It was a great race, and frankly, with the way that the tires went I was surprised to be able to pull it off. The competition was a lot of fun. I was fortunate to get by him in turn five in that last lap and hold him off.”
“The first three laps or so, it just felt like it was better to stay in line and not mess around with Tim too much,” Cooper said. “Just stay in line and see if we can turn it into a two car race and have some fun. That’s kind of how it played out after lap three or four.”
“It was just a lot of fun. I had the best seat in the house. He drove a heck of a race. It was just a lot of fun and I figured the way it was playing out it was going to be a drag race out of 14 and, I don’t know – six feet, five feet, maybe?”
Cooper turned the Hawk Performance fast race lap with a 2:21.435.
Ruedisueli started fifth in the No. 20 Good Year Tires Van Diemen 99 Ford and steadily worked his way up to finish third. His finish gave him his first-ever Formula F National Championship podium finish. His previous career-best was fourth last year.
“We got bottled up in five on the first lap and kind of got gapped from the leaders,” Ruedisueli said. “Then it was just keeping my head down and keep hammering away at the lap times and being consistent. I think fourth place was right there the whole time. We went back and forth, back and forth. He [Shippert] got by me over in Canada [Corner], and I think I got him by maybe a foot at the finish. It was that close the whole race. It was clean. It was fun. I haven’t had that much fun at a National race like this in a long time, it was great.”
Ethan Shippert, of Petaluma, Calif., finished fourth in the No. 55 Shippert Racing/Lucky Strike Van Diemen RF97k V.3. Reid Hazelton, of Burlington, Wis., finished fifth in the No. 01 Hoosier/Farley Engines/LMI/Averril.