Exclusive Autosport’s Jacob Douglas won the two-round YACademy Winter Series this week, which marked the race debut of USF Juniors’ new car.
Douglas came 12th in USF2000 last year with Exclusive, and is remaining with the team for a second season.
YACademy solely used Formula 4 cars for its first two seasons, as did USF Juniors during its inaugural season. For 2023 a USF2000-based halo-shod car is being introduced to the latter series, and several teams entered them into USF Juniors’ official winter series for learning purposes.
That meant there was two classes, as the Tatuus JR-23 proving was a considerably faster car. In round one qualifying at Sebring, the top F4 driver was Jay Howard Driver Development’s Frankie Mossman in ninth and 3.280 seconds off the pace set by Joey Brienza. A broken transponder meant Brienza did not know he had pole until post-qualifying.
Douglas started second and finished first in race one, while team-mate Brienza was pipped to third by DC Autosport’s Ethan Ho. There was a 22s gap between Brienza and Jimmy Lockhart in fourth, with F4 winner Mossman finishing 47.914s behind Douglas in ninth.
Kekai Hauanio and Michael Boyiadzis completed the F4 podium in 11th and 12th, with a gap of 31.625s between them.
Douglas won race two by 0.777s over Brienza. There was an early battle between the pair, then Brienza sat in Douglas’s mirrors. The F4 top two was a race one repeat, with Mossman victorious by 0.756s.
Brienza led early in race three but Douglas won again, this time by 2.725s. Hauanio dominated F4 in eighth, 6.370s ahead of Mossman.
The field then headed to Homestead-Miami Speedway’s road course for two more days of racing.
Douglas claimed pole by a commanding 0.745s, with the same gap covering second to sixth in qualifying, and JHDD’s Michael Costello was top F4 runner in eighth and 2.344s off pole.
Despite being overtaken at the start, Douglas won race one by 7.563s over Velocity Racing Development’s Max Taylor. Costello resisted pressure from Mossman until the latter ran into trouble to take F4 victory.
Taylor bettered Douglas on lap one again in race two, and this time ran away to a six-second win. But Douglas became champion in second place.
On lap three he dropped to fourth behind Lockhart and Ethan Barker, and recovered third a lap later. There was drama on lap eight of 16 as Douglas got into second while Lockhart fell down to sixth and Zack Ping, who had been trading fifth with Erick Schotten, moved into third ahead of Barker.
The top five went unchanged after that, with Carson Etter taking sixth after Lockhart retired. Costello comfortably won the F4 class.
The final race contained even more drama, with Ping passing Taylor at the start to lead as Barker got ahead of Douglas for third. Taylor dropped behind Barker and Douglas before the end of lap one, then on lap two Douglas passed Barker for second.
Douglas cleared Ping next time by, and Taylor got back ahead of Barker for third. Ping lost second to Taylor on lap five, before the first caution period over the next two laps.
There were two-and-a-half laps before racing was neutralised again for a prolonged period. When racing eventually resumed, Douglas flew off to victory and Costello did the same in F4 to also be the top F4 driver in the standings.
Race 1 (14 laps)
1 Jacob Douglas Exclusive Autosport 31m03.561s
2 Ethan Ho DC Autosport +4.307s
3 Joey Brienza Exclusive Autosport +4.637s
4 Jimmy Lockhart Velocity Racing Development +26.686s
5 Ethan Barker Velocity Racing Development +30.157s
6 Max Taylor Velocity Racing Development +31.466s
7 Erick Schotten Exclusive Autosport +36.409s
8 Zack Ping Velocity Racing Development +40.032s
9 Frankie Mossman JHDD +47.914s
10 Carson Etter DC Autosport +58.965s
Pole: Brienza, 2m11.690s
Fastest lap: Douglas, 2m11.785s
Race 2 (11 laps)
1 Douglas 30m20.768s
2 Brienza +0.777s
3 Ping +1.915s
4 Ho +3.561s
5 Barker +4.273s
6 Lockhart +4.873s
7 Schotten +5.753s
8 Taylor +6.214s
9 Mossman +7.822s
10 Kekai Hauanio New’t Racing +8.578s
FL: Brienza, 2m12.692s
Race 3 (14 laps)
1 Douglas 31m16.348s
2 Brienza +2.725s
3 Ho +11.618s
4 Schotten +19.736s
5 Taylor +23.108s
6 Barker +23.825s
7 Etter +50.688s
8 Hauanio +55.276s
9 Mossman +1m01.646s
10 Giovanni Cabrera Exclusive Autosport +1m16.262s
FL: Douglas, 2m12.262s
Race 1 (16 laps)
1 Douglas 24m10.344s
2 Taylor +7.563s
3 Ping +17.736s
4 Barker +17.890s
5 Schotten +30.233s
6 Etter +33.268s
7 Michael Costello JHDD +36.763s
8 Cabrera +49.782s
9 Michael Boyiadzis JHDD +59.140s
10 Ward Hix Jensen Global Advisors +1m03.389s
P: Douglas, 1m29.402s
FL: Douglas, 1m29.526s
Race 2 (16 laps)
1 Taylor 24m04.620s
2 Douglas +6.063s
3 Ping +6.733s
4 Barker +9.443s
5 Schotten +9.927s
6 Etter +25.342s
7 Cabrera +32.610s
8 Costello +34.316s
9 Hauanio +47.315s
10 Boyiadzis +47.533s
FL: Taylor, 1m29.234s
Race 3 (16 laps)
2 Taylor +2.760s
3 Ping +3.170s
4 Barker +5.433s
5 Etter +9.727s
6 Schotten +10.051s
7 Costello +10.409s
8 Boyiadzis +14.634s
9 Hauanio +15.033s
10 Mossman +15.722s
FL: Douglas, 1m29.153s
1 Douglas 143 2 Taylor 83 3 Ping 4 Barker 64 5 Schotten 52 6 Brienza 51 7 Ho 45 8 Etter 33 9 Lockhart 20 10 Costello 16