Home News Sebastian Wheldon starts the USF Juniors season on top

Sebastian Wheldon starts the USF Juniors season on top

by Ida Wood

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

Sebastian Wheldon is USF Juniors points leader after round one at NOLA Motorsports Park.

He comfortably led the way in practice, going fastest by 0.6478 seconds over Liam McNeilly, and in qualifying the next day still had a clear advantage, setting a 1m38.3452s to top his group by 0.3407s. But that did not earn him race one pole as McNeilly set a 1m38.1853s to top the other group.

Vinicius Tessaro qualified third, having trailed McNeilly by 0.54s in their group, while Jack Jeffers was fourth as a consequence of being in the slower group even though he was faster than Tessaro.

McNeilly held the lead into turn one of race one but Wheldon got past two corners later and dominated the 12-lap encounter by 7.6285s.

Max Taylor also got past McNeilly on lap one, and they then traded positions twice on lap two. On lap six McNeilly ran out of room at turn 10 when trying to make a move, but had another attempt there two laps later. He finally reclaimed second place at turn one on lap 10, then ecaped the four-car group that had formed behind.

Taylor held on to third in a photo finish againt Tessaro, and Ariel Elkin started 14th but finished fifth. He overtook five drivers on lap one, then gradually picked off more. Jeffers lost fifth place to him on lap 10.

Another qualifying session and two races followed on Sunday, and it was the same names at the top. Wheldon took race two pole with a 1m38.3574s, while McNeilly was fastest in his group by just 0.0285s over Taylor after setting a 1m38.4381s. Tessaro qualified third, having traile Wheldon by 0.3617s in their group.

Their second-best laptimes set race three’s grid, and McNeilly clinched pole by 0.1112s over Taylor. Wheldon and Tessaro were third and fourth.

Wheldon started race two in style, building a 3.3s lead on lap one. He was 4.8s clear of McNeilly by lap four, with Augusto Soto-Schirripa bouncing back from his day-ending electrical issues in race one to run in third.

Aidan Potter lost his rear wing at the end of lap five, which led to a caution period and brought the top two back together. On the lap seven restart McNeilly went side-by-side with Wheldon through the first four corners before getting ahead, then had enough to keep his rival behind thereon.

Elkin cleared Taylor and then Soto-Schirripa on his way up to third, and while Taylor did get back ahead he then had a five-second penalty for jumping the start which demoted him to sixth behind Jeffers. A lap one off dropped Tessaro to the back, but he charged back up to 11th.

Race three began with Elkin jumping up to second, then pressuring McNeilly into a mistake at turn 10. He went through the run-off and rejoined in the lead, but Elkin took it from him around the outside of turn one on lap two.

Wheldon and Taylor soon demoted McNeilly too, and Wheldon became leader at turn one on lap four. He was then untouchable, while Elkin fell to fourth.

Results round-up
Race 1 (12 laps)
1 Sebastian Wheldon VRD 19m57.6941s
2 Liam McNeilly JHDD +7.6285s
3 Max Taylor VRD +10.3171s
4 Vinicius Tessaro DEForce Racing +10.3742s
5 Ariel Elkin International Motorsport +11.8202s
6 Jack Jeffers Exclusive Autosport +12.0220s
7 G3 Argyros JHDD +16.6727s
8 Leonardo Escorpioni Zanella Racing +17.1291s
9 Ayden Ingratta JHDD +19.1689s
10 Joao Vergara Exclusive Autosport +19.2997s
Pole: McNeilly, 1m38.1853s
Fastest lap: Wheldon, 1m39.2453s

Race 2 (12 laps)
1 McNeilly 21m21.0657s
2 Wheldon +0.3368s
3 Elkin +2.9806s
4 Augusto Soto-Schirripa International Motorsport +6.1747s
5 Jeffers +7.0169s
6 Taylor +7.0399s
7 Ingratta +7.5130s
8 Bruno Ribeiro DEForce Racing +11.4360s
9 Evan Cooley Exclusive Autosport +11.7461s
10 Anthony Martella Exclusive Autosport +12.5182s
P: Wheldon,1m38.3574s
FL: McNeilly, 1m39.2395s

Race 3 (12 laps)
1 Wheldon 19m58.6712s
2 Taylor +1.9129s
3 McNeilly +3.6376s
4 Elkin +6.0628s
5 Tessaro +8.0769s
6 Soto-Schirripa +8.6523s
7 Jeffers +10.9999s
8 Escorpioni +12.5616s
9 Ribeiro +17.0764s
10 Christian Cameron VRD +19.1344s
P: McNeilly, 1m38.4385s
FL: Wheldon, 1m39.1192s

Championship standings
1 Wheldon 91   2 McNeilly 80   3 Taylor 62   4 Elkin 58   5 Tessaro 46   6 Jeffers 46   7 Ribeiro 35   8 Soto-Schirripa 34   9 Escorpioni 33   10 Cooley 29