Kimball Wins, Millen Third In First Of Three Races At Ruapuna Park
Christchurch, New Zealand (January 24, 2004) -- Charlie Kimball stormed to a magnificent victory this evening in the first of three Talley's International Formula Ford Challenge Series races at Ruapuna Park Raceway. Kimball, who qualified fourth, took the lead from polesitter Tim Edgell in opportunistic style midway through the 10-lap race (which started a little after 7 p.m. in gloriously sunny conditions) and quickly asserted his superiority before taking the checkered flag 1.608 seconds ahead of his rival. Team USA Scholarship teammate Ryan Millen posted a similarly strong charge to finish the race tucked underneath Edgell's gearbox in third place.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Kimball, 18, from Camarillo, Calif. "There's nothing like a win! I did it five times last year [four times in U.S. Formula Ford 2000 Zetec competition and once in the British Formula Ford Zetec Winter Series] and it's great to get a first win so early this year. I fully intend to carry this momentum forward through the season."
Kimball didn't make life easy for himself by making a poor getaway from the standing start and losing a couple of positions on the run to the first corner. But he profited from a first-corner melee to jump up into third place. He then made a fine pass on Chris Pither to move into second before homing in on Edgell.
"I made a horrible start," admitted Kimball. "I just had way too many revs and got a lot of wheelspin. I think I was sixth into the first corner.
"I made a run on Pither and braked really late into the complex and just squeezed through. I could see Tim [Edgell] making a bit of a break. I knew I could catch him up in the infield but I knew I was going to struggle to hold him on the straight."
Kimball, though, closed quickly onto the tail of the leader, establishing a new lap record of 1m 29.792s as he did so, then used the draft to excellent effect on the front straightaway before sweeping past just before the braking area for Turn One.
"I have to give [Edgell] credit," said Kimball. "He raced me hard but it was clean. I have to thank him for giving me some running room."
Kimball then paced the race to the checkers: "It was good to get out front, make a gap and then turn some fast laps when I needed to [in order to make the lead secure]," he said.
Millen also was charging hard. He had made a stunning start from fifth on the grid -- all the top five qualifiers had bettered Jason Richards' existing track record of 1m 30.090s -- only to find himself pushed wide at the first corner, which cost him four positions. From seventh, Millen picked up one place when the unfortunate Andy Knight suffered a broken wheel on the first lap. He then made short work of Ben Crighton, Marc Doran and Pither (who was hobbled by a misfiring engine) before setting his sights on Edgell
Millen, 19, f rom Newport Beach, Calif., turned a best lap just 0.019 seconds shy of Kimball's new standard as he homed in on the series point leader, but Edgell kept all the doors firmly closed and held on to second place by a scant 0.262 seconds.
"That damn blue car is so wide," joked an excited Millen. "Hey, who knows what might have happened if I hadn't got caught up in that mess at the first corner.... Still, I'm very happy. It's an excellent result, especially as most of the series has been a disaster for me. I've had the pace but I haven't been able to put it together; and today I managed to put it together. That was fun!"
One of the first to congratulate Kimball and Millen was teammate Joe D'Agostino, who has been restricted to the sidelines after suffering a broken left arm in a crash last week at Teretonga Raceway.
"I'm kind of bummed not to be driving, of course," said D'Agostino, 18, from Plantation, Fla. "I'd love to have been out there, but to be perfectly honest, watching Ryan and Charlie, I felt really proud. They both did an awesome job."
"It's so great to have Joe here," said Kimball. "I wanted to get the lap record for him because he'd been really quick here when we tested. I knew he was going to kick me if I didn't do it. So for my own safety, I'm glad I got the record."
The final two races -- one of 12 laps duration and the other 18 laps -- will take place on Sunday afternoon. The grid for the first race already has been set, with Kimball taking advantage of a draft from teammate Millen to post a sensational lap at 1m 29.373s -- almost three-quarters of a second inside the old record. Edgell posted the second fastest lap, marginally ahead of Jayant Singh and Millen, although the results have not been finalized pending an inquiry into the possibility that Edgell's time might have been set after the checkered flag had been shown.
Grid positions for the 18-lap finale will be established according to championship positions at that time.
The seven-race International series boasts a host of prizes, including test drives in a Barber Dodge Pro Series car, a Star Mazda car and a Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Van Diemen, plus a free race weekend in the SCCA Formula Russell Championship Presented by Yokohama. All the prize rides will take place in the United States. The series is currently led by Tim Edgell, who holds a 24-point margin, 120 to 96, over fellow New Zealander Chris Pither. Kimball's victory today and his pole for tomorrow's first race vaults him to third in the table, just six markers shy of Pither. With 32 points on offer for each race win, plus bonus points available for pole and fastest lap in each race, the series is still wide open.
Qualifying results for Race One:
1. Tim Edgell (NZ), Van Diemen RF03, 1m 29.735s
2. Chris Pither (NZ), Spectrum 07, 1m 29.849s
3. Andy Knight (NZ), Van Diemen/Stealth RF94, 1m 29.849s
4. Charlie Kimball (USA), Van Diemen/Stealth RF94, 1m 29.898s
5. Ryan Millen (USA), Van Diemen/Stealth RF94, 1m 29.983s
6. Marc Doran (NZ), Van Diemen/Stealth RF94, 1m 30.247s.
Results for Race One (10 laps):
1. Kimball, 15m 09.671s, 84.192mph
2. Edgell, 15m 11.279s
3. Millen, 15m 11.541s
4. Doran, 15m 18.387s
5. Ben Crighton (NZ), Van Diemen/Stealth RF94, 15m 19.612s
6. Richard Reid (NZ), Van Diemen/Stealth RF94, 15m 25.233s.
Fastest lap: Kimball, 1m 29.792s, 85.699mph (new record).
Current championship points after five of seven races:
1. Edgell, 120
2. Pither, 96
3. Kimball, 90
4. Kenny Smith, 75
5. Knight, 73
6. Simon Gamble & Doran, 56