Jim Russell F3 Winter Series 2014-15

Following the stunningly successful reintroduction of the renowned Jim Russell F3 Racing Series in 2014, the inaugural Jim Russell F3 Winter Series proved equally popular, with a full field of open-wheel racers taking on the challenge of both Sonoma Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

 

Click on a race below to view its report, result, and gallery:

 

Race 1 – Sonoma Raceway (December 13, 2014)
Race 2 – Sonoma Raceway (December 14, 2014)
Race 3 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (January 17, 2015)
Race 4 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (January 18, 2015)
Race 5 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (February 21, 2015)
Race 6 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (February 22, 2015)
Series Summary – Final Championship Standings

Race 1 – Sonoma Raceway (December 13, 2014)

 

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When slots for the Jim Russell F3 Winter Series by Simraceway were sold out within three days, we knew this was going to be an exciting “off-season” for the Simraceway Performance Driving Center-run event.

 

034A new influx of drivers was met by the northern California “storm of the decade” in the week leading up to the race weekend, making it difficult for them to become properly acquainted with the Lola SRW F3. The tech team was kept busy fixing a couple of missteps by the rookies, but all cars were present, shiny and accounted for on the morning of the first race.

 

Unfortunately the weather was still having fun at the drivers’ expense and it was only after a lengthy fog delay that the weekend finally got underway.

 

023Lining up at the sharp end of the grid were first-time pole-sitter John Jastremski and 2014 Summer Series champion Chase Murray. Row 2, meanwhile, saw Brian Frank in P3 and new kid Pat Daly in an impressive fourth. On the warm-up lap, however, Daly was to throw that all away with a spin and stall at turn 7. He would start the race from the back.

 

The green flag dropped and the waiting was finally over. Apparently keen to make up for all the sitting around, the entire field stormed up the hill two abreast, and stayed like that right up to turn 4. However, with the initial adrenaline rush over, race craft kicked back in and all cars fell into line for the remainder of lap 1—with all wheels attached!

 

Jastremski and Chase made a quick getaway and started to stretch away from the field, Behind them, Frank—looking comfortable for now—was chased by Wahl, Schauerman, Shirley, Tuttle, McGuire et al. Lap 3 saw “Mr. Excitement”, Gus Doppes, doing his best John Deere impersonation as he took to the mud (formerly grass) at 9a—an error that would see him fall to the back.

 

At the other end of the field, Jastremski was becoming acutely aware of the pursuing Murray and made sure he kept to the middle of the track on the approach to the best passing area in turn 7. This, however, handed the Texan the advantage of greater exit speed through the “esses” and down to turn 9. Unfortunately for Murray, this was a much more difficult place to overtake and he just couldn’t get that extra couple of feet he needed to make sure the pass was a clean one.

 

Roy Block was ably demonstrating the art of overtaking further back down the field as he successfully moved up two places in quick succession in his thrilling mid-pack battle with McGuire, Daly and Shields.

 

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In the battle for third, some chinks in Brian Frank’s armor began to emerge as a couple of lock-ups allowed Quentin Wahl to start a charge and fight him for that last podium slot. Lap 11 brought the only retirements of the day as Erickson Shirley and Doug Tuttle came together at turn 7. A punctured tire and a couple of bent tie-rods ensured the #14 and #19 would not be returning to the track.

 

Wahl eventually managed to get into P3 but, while he held that position all the way to the flag, Frank ensured it was a less-than-comfortable ride! Murray and Jastremski also continued their battle to the end, with a couple of side-by-side moments in turn 9 electrifying the watching crowd. However “JJ” was always able to keep his car in the right place to keep Chase from completing his attack and took those all-important maximum points from the race.

 

050The tensest moments of the race happened further back down the field where Roy Block was attempting to hold off a charging Pat Daly. With Block never one to give up a fight easily, this proved a mesmerising contest. At one stage, Daly got a great run out of turn 11 and pulled alongside Block’s #23. Roy was, for once, caught unawares and the two cars banged wheels as Roy tried to move back to the right to set up for turn 1.

 

Both drivers ended up making it through the race, despite their battle damage. Daly did finally get past Block on the penultimate lap but, unfortunately for both drivers, penalties were later applied due to the series’ no-touch rule and the pair ended up in ninth and tenth. Hats off also to Ross Jaffe who won the “hard charger” award for his efforts in coming from way back to finish in sixth place.

 

A fine local Anchor Steam Christmas Ale was presented to the top three on the podium as the Simraceway tech team started their night prep for Sunday’s race 2.

 

Results
Driver Qualifying Lap TimeFinishing Position
16 - John Jastremski1.39.8101
7 - Chase Murray1.40.0592
8 - Quentin Wahl1.42.5533
12 - Brian Frank1.41.3804
3 - John Schauerman1.42.3425
18 - Ross Jaffe1.43.9006
4 - Jim McGuire1.43.4677
15 - William Shields1.46.0068
6 - Pat Daly1.41.6249
23 - Roy Block1.44.00410
9 - Gus Doppes1.49.05511
5 - Roy Strandberg1.47.78812
14 - Erickson Shirley1.42.44413
19 - Doug Tuttle1.43.59014

 

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Race 2 – Sonoma Raceway (December 14, 2014)

 

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Race 2 of the Jim Russell F3 Winter Series by Simraceway saw a whole different side of Mother Nature as the drivers were treated to a clear and dry (well, dry-ish!) Sonoma Raceway.

 

Another tight qualifying battle saw the top two, John Jastremski and Chase Murray, fight it out for the entire session—both risking taking the edge of their Pirelli slicks for the race but seeing that P1 start as an important part of standing taller on the podium at the end of the day. Unfortunately an error at turn 2 late in practice meant that Roy Strandberg could not finish off his weekend, but some good strides in competitiveness will give him something positive to build from as the Winter Series continues at Laguna Seca in the New Year.

 

10846096_532557450214641_2281897194469989919_nOn the whole, the grid line-up for race 2 proved a familiar picture, with JJ and Chase followed on row 2 by Brian Frank. However, Ross Jaffe, new to the series, took his race form from round 1 into qualifying for round 2 and was rewarded with a starting spot alongside Frank.

 

At the green flag, everyone steamed up to turn 1, but the notorious turn 2 escapades were to play a big role in the finishing order as pole man Jastremski got it all wrong and came a cropper, spinning to the outside and relinquishing the lead to the “Texas Tornado”, Chase Murray.

 

The pirouetting #16 caused issues for the cars in its wake, with Hammer Nutrition’s Brian Frank also spinning as he tried to avoid making contact with Jaffe. Although Jastremski and Frank would get moving again—just in time to avoid a first appearance by the Simraceway RS4 pace car—it was obvious that two of the top three starters were already out-of-contention for the race’s major honors.

 

020So Chase Murray made hay while the sun (kind of) shone and opened a big gap over Ross Jaffe. John “don’t squeeze the” Schauerman would also demonstrate his pace, quickly running Jaffe down to take second place by lap 4. Some great battles now started to emerge, with many eyes fixed on the epic race-long tussle between Jim McGuire and Roy Block. Block is never an easy man to get past at the best of times, and with McGuire always up for a fight, this rivalry made for an entertaining duel.

 

Rediscovering his form after an uncharacteristic performance in race 1, Doug Tuttle managed to grab third place from Jaffe on lap 7. Despite a spirited attempt to chase down John Schauerman for second, however, he was to run out of laps and would settle for the final podium spot.  Another fun battle was the race for fifth place, with Erickson Shirley, Gus Doppes, Pat Daly and Quentin Wahl fighting tooth-and-nail lap after lap. Shirley withstood the pressure to win out in the end, while Doppes made it easy for Daly and Wahl by heading into the mud in turn 9 for the third time during the weekend.

 

The eminently watchable recovery runs of Jastremski and Frank would add yet more sparkle to an engrossing race. In the end, Jastremski was able to reel the pack in, finishing a creditable tenth. Frank, meanwhile, pulled off the “pass of the weekend” as he closed on the dog-fighting Roy Block and Jim McGuire into turn 9. McGuire had Block all set up for a pass but as both were pinching on the right-side of the road, the charging Frank saw a gap on the outside. After passing McGuire, he made a move on Block as they turned in for the tight chicane. The pass didn’t materialize, however, and despite coming out of the chicane with good momentum, two further stabs at the Argentinean saw Frank come up just short on the finish line (view the action below).

 

 

So more merriment ensued on the podium as the Christmas Ale was raised to the ever-darkening skies above. With big storms either side of the weekend, everyone was relieved to get some good, hard, dry running in and very much looking forward to a new track—and a new challenge—for January’s rounds 3 and 4, which would take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

 

Results
Driver Qualifying Lap TimeFinishing Position
7 - Chase Murray1.39.7691
3 - John Schauerman1.41.1062
19 - Doug Tuttle1.41.3233
18 - Ross Jaffe1.41.0884
14 - Erickson Shirley1.42.0585
6 - Pat Daly1.42.0746
8 - Quentin Wahl1.43.1877
15 - William Shields1.42.9518
9 - Gus Doppes1.42.0989
16 - John Jastremski1.39.50810
23 - Roy Block1.44.01811
12 - Brian Frank1.40.22412
4 - Jim McGuire1.43.99113

 

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Race 3 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (January 17, 2015)

 

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The third race in the Jim Russell F3 Winter Series by Simraceway would provide drivers with a very different test to December’s Round 2 at Sonoma Raceway. The inaugural “away” race for the Lola F3 cars—and the first in many years for a Jim Russell Championship event—would be held at the world-famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

 

Mazda Raceway Laguna SecaA glorious weekend welcomed racers and Simraceway crew alike to the 11-turn, 2.238-mile track. From Zanardi to Andretti, Laguna Seca and its iconic “Corkscrew” has provided the backdrop for many an epic open-wheel battle, and it was now the turn of our drivers to make their own contributions to the track’s glittering history.

 

There were no surprises up front as the 2014 Jim Russell F3 Racing Series champion, Chase Murray put it on pole in commanding style—a full second ahead of the field. Ryan Garcia had a torrid time in practice, putting it off the road on two occasions. However, he got it together despite his lack of running time and used his prior track knowledge to line up alongside the speedy Texan. Filling out the second row were Pat Daly and Doug Tuttle, and they were followed by past winners Kevin Woods and Brian Frank.

 

10922844_10152989872153396_4172827447954666426_nThe air of anticipation was palpable as a full grid prepared to spring into action.

 

As it rounded turn 10, the pace car pulled off and Chase was in no mood to let anyone else get a sniff of the lead. The pole sitter made a great getaway to hold P1 into turn 2, as did Frank, who pulled himself up into fourth. A clean start saw the rest of the field maintain their qualifying positions as they got to know Laguna for the first time under green flag racing.

 

The pace car was forced to return to the track on lap 4 as Bill Shields lost it on the exit of the difficult turn 6 and found himself beached in the gravel trap. Four laps of caution followed, with Shields having to retire due to suspension damage after making it back to the pit lane.

 

On Lap 9 the green flag dropped again and John Schauerman pounced to take tenth place from Steve Campbell. However all eyes were on the sharp end of the field as a three-way tussle broke out between Pat Daly, Doug Tuttle, and “Mr. Excitement”, Brian Frank.

 

Over the last few laps the trio ran nose to tail through Laguna Seca’s incredible blend of sweeping turns and elevations. Daly started to struggle with his downshifts and Tuttle smelled blood—in keeping with the rest of this adrenaline-pumping series, an exciting finish was on the cards!

 

On the last lap, Tuttle went for the inside pass into turn 5. Daly left room but held him close, shortening his radius. The two went side-by-side through 5 with Daly gaining just enough of an advantage up the hill that Tuttle had to back out at the turn-in for 6.

 

10891897_10152992293933396_6997978442781948279_nBrian Frank took advantage of Tuttle’s slower pace through 6 and passed him up the hill to the Corkscrew. Frank then set his sights on Daly. A good run out of turn 11 took him almost alongside his rival but Daly did just enough to hold on for the final podium spot.

 

So Chase Murray continued his winning ways as he saluted the Simraceway crew with a nice little weave down the front straight, Ryan Garcia kept in on the road for second, and Pat Daly survived Frank’s late challenge to finish in third spot. The series’ first visit to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca had truly lived up to the traditions of Jim Russell Championship racing and the drivers were already looking forward to their next outing at the legendary track.

 

Results
Driver Finishing Position
19 - Chase Murray1
20 - Ryan Garcia2
05 - Pat Daly3
04 - Brian Frank4
08 - Doug Tuttle5
13 - Kevin Woods6
03 - Quentin Wahl7
15 - Roy Block8
18 - Gus Doppes9
11 - John Schauerman10
14 - Jim McGuire11

 

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Race 4 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (January 18, 2015)

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Race 4 of the Jim Russell F3 Winter Series by Simraceway—the second round held at the magical Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca—saw Summer Series champion Chase Murray hold off Ryan Garcia to pick up his third consecutive victory, boosting his chances of adding another title to his collection with only two races remaining. However, the always-competitive Brian Frank’s third-place finish, which cemented his position at the sharp end of the Championship standings, provided the Texan with a stark warning that he wouldn’t be given an easy ride when the Series returned to the track in February.

 

Results
Driver Qualifying Lap TimeFinishing Position
19 - Chase Murray1:27.6791
20 - Ryan Garcia1:27.8722
04 - Brian Frank1:28.2563
05 - Pat Daly1:28.4064
13 - Kevin Woods1:29.3595
03 - Quentin Wahl1:30.1396
07 - Bill Shields1:29.4487
18 - Gus Doppes1:30.4158
15 - Roy Block1:30.6449
11 - John Schauerman1:31.43610
14 - Jim McGuire1:34.36211
12 - Steve Campbell1:30.69912
08 - Doug Tuttle1:28.08113
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Race 5 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (February 21, 2015)

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The final two rounds of the Jim Russell F3 Winter Series by Simraceway were greeted by more beautiful weather in Monterrey. Many lessons had been learned since the previous month’s visit to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the multitude of upgrades developed by the Simraceway technical staff, allied with the drivers’ increased familiarity with the famous old track, brought a significant drop in times from January’s rounds.

 

1Lining up in first place was Kevin Woods, whose mighty effort in the Lola SRW F3 saw him post a time of 1:24.128—a new lap record for the car by a margin of over 3.5 seconds! Alongside him at the front of the grid was Championship leader and winner of the previous two rounds held at Laguna Seca, Chase Murray. The next six drivers qualified within a second of each other, with Brian Frank—a strong finisher in the last round—inside row 2.

 

As the race got underway, Kevin Woods got the jump on Chase Murray going into turn 2, with Brian Frank cleanly in third, and John Schauerman fourth. Quentin Wahl’s monster start saw him make up three places before turn 6, pushing him up to fifth.

 

Determined to get his spot back from Wahl, Bill Shields made several attempts to pass him. However this would leave him vulnerable to Doug Tuttle behind. Now in seventh place, Tuttle had a run on Shields out of turn 5 and attempted to take him on the inside into turn 6. Unable to make it work, however, he was himself picked off by Pat Daly.

 

10978685_565034726966913_6017612925195514528_nBy lap 7, with the action intensifying throughout the field, Chase Murray was closing on leader Kevin Woods. Determined to get a run up the hill out of turn 5, he dropped a wheel on the exit. The rough shoulders bit his car and he was sucked in, losing control and coming to a stop between turns 5 and 6. He was able to rejoin the race, but only in 8th place.

 

What had now become a fourth-place battle saw Shields still pressuring Wahl on every lap. On lap 9 he had a look down the inside into turn 2 but Wahl shut the door, forcing Shields to catch some curbing.

 

Steve Campbell had a spin into turn 5 on the tenth lap and was unable to continue. Jim McGuire also spun, this time entering turn 2, but was more fortunate than his opponent. The safety car was released and a full-course caution allowed the field to come back together while Campbell’s car was cleared.

 

IMG_2795On the restart, with only minutes remaining in the race, Woods got a great jump to cement his lead and take the checkered flag. After a clean race, Brian Frank finished second with John Schauerman third. Quentin Wahl’s and Bill Shields’ battle for fourth continued to the end, with Wahl surviving their many exciting skirmishes. Pat Daly fought hard but was unable to hold off the recovering Murray, who claimed sixth spot right at the end.

 

Results
Driver Qualifying Lap TimeFinishing Position
05 - Kevin Woods1.24.1281
18 - Brian Frank1.27.1912
15 - John Schauerman1.27.3023
03 - Quentin Wahl1.28.0424
23 - Bill Shields1.27.5425
08 - Chase Murray1.24.5066
07 - Pat Daly1.27.8467
06 - Doug Tuttle1.27.8208
09 - Gus Doppes1.30.3679
20 - Jim McGuire1.29.57210
04 - Roy Strandberg1.32.43211
19 - Steve Campbell1.29.45112
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Race 6 – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (February 22, 2015)

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Round 6—the final race of the Jim Russell F3 Winter Series by Simraceway—saw Kevin Woods claim his second pole position on the trot. With fellow front-runner Chase Murray unable to attend the second race of the weekend, top Championship contender Brian Frank got to see an open track ahead for the green flag in P2.

 

IMG_2868The battle for third on the grid was very close. Third spot was changing hands every lap with six different drivers in the frame. Ultimately Pat Daly put together a great session and threw down a 1:27.272 on lap 9 of qualifying—his fastest of the weekend. John Schauerman finished fourth with a time of 1:27.449, while Gus Doppes (1:27.661) would start fifth, Bill Sheilds (1:27.788) sixth, Jim McGuire (1:27.816) seventh and Doug Tuttle (1:28.229) in eighth.

 

As the field took the green flag, Kevin Woods got a solid start and cleanly held the lead into turn 2. From a fourth-place start, John Schauerman made a side-by-side move on Pat Daly going into the second corner, but he had to back out on the exit. Doug Tuttle was also looking good, moving up two spots in the first couple of laps.

 

On lap 8, the battle for third started to heat up with Schauerman closing on Daly, followed by Gus Doppes in lockstep. Stung by this pressure from behind, Pat Daly found some extra speed and even managed to close on Brian Frank in second place a couple of times. However the pass never materialised and as Daly dropped a wheel exiting turn three, he narrowly avoided being collected in the gravel. Daly returned to the track in seventh place.

 

IMG_2805By lap 11, Gus Doppes could taste that podium spot as he closed on John Schauerman. Doppes got a good run on Shauerman out of turn 11 and was able to get level with him in turn 1 of lap 12. Schauerman was not going to give it up easily, though, and with the pair side-by-side into turn 2,  a drag race developed as turn 3 approached! Doppes was ultimately able to edge it out on the exit and pull away.

 

The excitement wasn’t yet over for Schauerman, however, as Bill Sheilds tried hard to relieve him of fourth position on the last turn of the final lap. Schauerman would prevail by just two-tenths at the line. Further down the field, another great battle was unfolding, this time between Steve Campbell in 8th and Jim McGuire in 9th. A last-turn pass attempt saw them go into the final straight neck-and-neck, with Campbell claiming the spot.

 

IMG_2918Woods took the checkered flag in first place, ensuring he completed the perfect sweep on the final weekend with two poles and two wins. Brian Frank held on for second while Gus Doppes’s consumate performance was rewarded with the final podium place. Tuttle came in after the Schauerman/Shields battle—up two spots in sixth—while Pat Daly, Steve Campbell, Jim McGuire and Roy Strandburg completed the top ten.

 

Results
Driver Qualifying Lap TimeFinishing Position
05 - Kevin Woods1.25.1371
18 - Brian Frank1.26.1972
08 - Gus Doppes1.27.6613
15 - John Schauerman1.27.4494
23 - Bill Shields1.27.7885
06 - Doug Tuttle1.28.2296
07 - Pat Daly1.27.2727
19 - Steve Campbell1.29.2238
03 - Jim McGuire1.27.8169
16 - Roy Strandberg1.31.68810
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Series Summary – Final Championship Standings

 

In the end it was his speed and metronomic consistency across both tracks that enabled Brian Frank to claim the inaugural Jim Russell F3 Winter Series title (or maybe it was that transatlantic flight sitting next to F1 champ, Lewis Hamilton—always good for the mojo!).

 

So our congratulations go to Brian for some great driving that always seemed to make the highlight reels, race after race. John Schaurman also had a memorable campaign, capping it with a great final weekend to finish second in the overall standings. 2014 Summer Series champ, Chase Murray will be ruing a couple of errors over the short season as he has to make do with third place this time around.

 

The action now takes a short break, with the 2015 Jim Russell F3 Summer Series due to get underway at its home base, Sonoma Raceway, on April 18. Will Chase be defending his crown? Will Frank continue his winning ways? Or will another driver rise to the occasion during the 14-race Championship, as it expands to yet another venue, Buttonwillow Raceway Park? Stay tuned to find out!

 

DriverPositionTotal PointsAverage FinishRaces Completed
Brian Frank12954.56
John Schauerman22795.66
Chase Murray32782.25
Pat Daly426766
Doug Tuttle52538.16
Bill Shields62527.66
Gus Doppes72518.16
Jim McGuire823310.16
Quentin Wahl92275.45
Kevin Woods102093.254
Roy Block111589.54
Steve Campbell12152113
Roy Strandberg13114113
Ryan Garcia1411022
John Jastremski15995.52
Ross Jaffe169152
Erickson Shirley178292

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