Kimball Takes Historic Victory in Zandvoort Charlie Kimball became the first American in history to win an F3 Euroseries race when he won Race 2 this past weekend at the Zandvoort circuit in The Netherlands. In Race 1, he overcame a ...
Kimball Takes Historic Victory in Zandvoort
Charlie Kimball became the first American in history to win an F3 Euroseries race when he won Race 2 this past weekend at the Zandvoort circuit in The Netherlands. In Race 1, he overcame a disastrous qualifying position of 17th to move up to 11th. Then before the start of Race 2, Kimball and his crew predicted the circuit would dry out quickly and made the bold decision to start on slick tires, allowing him to charge through the field for the win. Kimball is not only the first American to win a Euroseries race, but the win was the first victory for the Signature F3 Team in 2006.
The race weekend at Zandvoort began in promising fashion with Free Practice going well for the 21-year-old. His time in the hour long session put him 8th, even though his best lap was hindered by traffic. Kimball's practice form, however, failed to translate to results in the qualifying session as the team decided to make a small set-up change which adversely affected the car's handling. In windy cool conditions, the American could only manage a 17th qualifying position being unable to extract the most from the new tires.
"Qualifying is our only real problem now," Kimball said afterwards. "We have the practice pace and I have shown that I have no problems holding my own in race conditions. Now I will just have to make the most of every opportunity this weekend and hope for some points."
The Californian's comments about race conditions couldn't have been closer to the truth as he rocketed away from the start line. His start moved him immediately up to 14th place gaining him 3 positions by the end of the first lap. He then passed Kazuki Nakajima and teammate Tim Sandtler to move up to 12th. He quickly closed up to the back of Peter Elkmann and in the process set the fastest lap of the race up to that point. As soon as he closed within .5 a second, Kimball lost downforce and could never mount a challenge for the position, even though he was clearly quicker. He finished the race in 11th when Sebastien Buemi threw away a fourth place finish.
Kimball was pleased with the progress, "At Zandvoort, it is nearly impossible to pass, so moving up 6 places is a huge success. Also, my fastest lap is within a few tenths of the leading times. In the last six races, I have moved up at least 4 places each time- an impressive feat in a series and on circuits where people say you cannot pass!"
Kimball's finish in Race 1 would be crucial to his result in Race 2. After torrential rain that only stopped 30 minutes before the start of Race 2, most all the grid started the race on rain tires. After the reconnaissance lap, Kimball and his team made the call to switch to slicks and change the car towards a dry set-up. The American knew the first few laps would be very tricky and he would have to be patient for the racing line to dry out. After another great start Kimball moved into 7th. With the track drying but still wet, he lost 14 seconds to the leaders in the first five laps while carefully finding the grip. Then he began to close the gap and by lap 7, he had moved up to 5th place. As the circuit dried dramatically, assisted by gale force wind, Kimball's speed advantage became apparent as he took the lead on lap 8 and stretched the gap over the rest of the field to 41 seconds. He was kept honest by the hard charging Sebastian Vettel, BMW Formula 1's newest test driver. However Kimball was not about to make a mistake and crossed the finish line nearly a full second ahead of Vettel. Kimball was then 25 seconds clear of the next slick-shod car of Nakajima in third.
"What a race!" Kimball enthused afterwards. "Tire selection was very difficult call to make especially as it was so damp for the first laps. The wind and all the cars dried it very quickly though and it became apparent I just had to be smart and not make any mistakes. It is gratifying for both the team and for me because we have both worked so hard all year. Winning is worth all effort!"
Kimball will now go testing at the famous Le Mans circuit to work on qualifying as well as develop the car. Then the American aims to carry his winning form to the Grand Prix circuit of Barcelona, 22- 24 September, 2006.