Norwegian-born driver also had fast time.
First-ever victories for both Ayla Agren and Augie Lerch ensured an almost perfect weekend for Team Pelfrey when the competitive F1600 Championship Series paid its annual visit to the challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in rural Ohio. Compounding the team’s joy, Garth Rickards maintained his championship points lead with a pair of top-four finishes, while Nikita Lastochkin also made a visit to the podium.
Team Pelfrey’s quartet of striking yellow-and-black Mygale-Honda F1600 cars began the weekend’s official proceedings in style as 20-year-old Norwegian-born Agren (in photo from a previous event) posted the fastest time during Saturday’s qualifying session, followed by teammates Rickards and Lerch.
Lastochkin had to be content with eighth on the starting grid but soon began to work his way forward as Agren and Rickards separated themselves from the pack and began a race-long battle for the win. At one stage Agren managed to extend a slight margin over her rival as both of them strove for their first F1600 triumph, but Rickards closed in again toward the checkered flag before finishing just 0.188 seconds in arrears.
The battle for third was even more intense and ended with a perfect 1-2-3-4 sweep for Team Pelfrey as Lastochkin edged Lerch for the final podium place, with Jack Mitchell Jr. and Evan Mehan also in close attendance.
Qualifying for Sunday’s race continued the trend although on this occasion it was another Mygale-Honda driver, Sam Chastain, who claimed the pole position, narrowly ahead of Agren, Rickards, Lastochkin and Lerch.
Positions changed almost constantly during a thrilling encounter on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, soon after taking the lead, Lastoshkin’s hopes of victory ended early when he tangled with Chastain at the Keyhole turn with just three laps remaining. Lerch, 17, from Tucson, Ariz., took full advantage, slipping through into the lead and taking the victory over Mitchell, Agren, Rickards and a recovering Chastain. All five were blanketed by just over one second.
Rickards, 21, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., maintained his championship lead after eight of 14 races, although Agren has closed to within just three points, 304-301, as the series heads next to the Pittsburgh International Race Complex for two more races on August 2-3.
“It was a great weekend for the team. It shows that hard work and all of their efforts have paid off," Agren said. "I was very happy with the win and the third-place finish this weekend, and overall we scored fantastic points for the championship. I must thank all of the guys in the team and my partners who helped make all of this happen.”