Home News Taylor, Soto-Schirripa and Wheldon win amid USF Juniors drama at VIR

Taylor, Soto-Schirripa and Wheldon win amid USF Juniors drama at VIR

by Ida Wood

Photo: USF Juniors

Max Taylor, Augusto Soto-Schirripa and Sebastian Wheldon shared the USF Juniors wins in a dramatic round at Virginia International Raceway.

DEForce Racing’s Bruno Ribeiro took race one pole by 0.114 seconds over International Motorsport’s Ariel Elkin, whose team-mate Soto-Schirripa was 0.017s behind him in third. Exclusive Autosport’s Jack Jeffers was 0.136s back in fourth.

Elkin then claimed race two pole in Q2 by 0.355s over Jay Howard Driver Development’s Liam McNeilly, with Soto-Schirripa 0.701s off the pace in third. Just 0.126s split third and eighth place.

Race one began with Elkin taking the lead into the first braking zone and then a caution period in which Ribeiro was put back into first place. Racing resumed on lap four and Elkin wasted no time passing Ribeiro again, and at the final corner Ribeiro went off and dropped down the order.

Soto-Schirripa moved into second ahead of Jeffers and Wheldon, with the last two swapping places at turn three on lap five. McNeilly cleared Jeffers and Wheldon over the next two laps, as Ribeiro regained ground. On lap eight Soto-Schirripa fell to fifth behind McNeilly, Wheldon and Velocity Racing Development’s Taylor, and the gap between the top two rapidly shrank.

The prospect of a lead fight on lap 11 was undone by McNeilly spinning off at turn two and Elkin going off at turn 14, promoting Taylor to first. Wheldon was right behind him until he crashed out at turn six a lap later and a brief caution period was required.

Soto-Shirripa was all over Taylor down the back straight when racing resumed on the penultimate lap, and behind them Zanella Racing’s Leonardo Escorpioni threw away fifth place by going off at the last corner. Moments later another caution period began, as DEForce’s Rodrigo Gonzalez had crashed at turn 10.

Victory was secured for Taylor, ahead of Soto-Shirripa and Elkin. However stewards then put Elkin behind McNeilly in the race results as a penalty for avoidable contact, meaning he was classified eighth while Jeffers moved onto the podium and Ribeiro’s recovery was rewarded with sixth place.

Elkin locked up at the start of race two but kept the lead, and Taylor had a big off at turn three. McNeilly lost second to Soto-Schirippa but regained it on lap two, then took the lead as lap three began.

On lap five Jeffers passed Soto-Schirripa and then Elkin, and a caution period began a lap later as JHDD’s Ayden Ingratta and Wheldon went off at turns five and 11 respectively. Wheldon rejoined a lap down.

Jeffers collided with Elkin at turn three on the lap nine restart, causing another caution period. Soto-Schirripa passed McNeilly for the lead before racing was neutralised, then red flags waved on lap 10 as barriers were inspected.

The race restarted with a lap behind the pace car, in which McNeilly dropped to 19th due to a penalty for avoidable contact. JHDD’s G3 Argyros then fought Escorpioni for second until another caution period that ran to the end caused by DEForce’s Leandro Juncos going off, meaning Soto-Schirripa won. Taylor recovered to fifth.

Elkin’s second-best laptime from Q2 earned him race three pole ahead of Escorpioni, Ribeiro, Jeffers, Ingratta and Wheldon. Escorpioni lost two spots on lap one, then was passed by Wheldon lap two. Jeffers overtook Ribeiro after several corners of side-by-side action on lap three, then Escorpioni crashed out on lap four and a caution period began.

Jeffers went for the lead on the lap six restart but lost out to Ribeiro, then on lap seven red flags appeared after Soto-Schirripa collided with VRD’s Christian Cameron.

The pace car led the field for a restart lap, during which a driver went off. Green flags waved but then almost instantly yellows appeared again, and another attempt at a restart took place on lap 10.

There was wheel-to-wheel action immediately and Elkin was shuffled down to fifth behind Taylor, Jeffers, Wheldon and Ribeiro. The top two went side-by-side through much of the lap, and Jeffers got the lead just before turn 14. Wheldon took to the outside at turn one on the next lap and briefly got second, while Ribeiro fell to sixth behind McNeilly – who was without a front wing – and Elkin.

Taylor reclaimed the lead at turn 14, but lost it again at turn one before another caution period caused by Gonzalez and team-mate Jeshua Alianell going off. That set up a final lap restart with the lead trio going three-wide straight away. Wheldon on the outside overtook Taylor at turn one, then they went three-wide again at the finish and Wheldon edged ahead of Jeffers to win by 0.047s. Taylor was a further 0.01s behind.

Ribeiro got up to fourth early in the lap but finished 17th, with Elkin and Argyros dropping to 14th and 15th as McNeilly remarkably beat Ingratta and Zanella’s Diego Guiot to fourth in a photo finish.

Results round-up
Race 1 (15 laps)
1 Max Taylor Velocity Racing Development 36m17.940s
2 Augusto Soto-Schirripa International Motorsport +0.993s
3 Jack Jeffers Exclusive Autosport +2.353s
4 G3 Argyros JHDD +3.124s
5 Timothy Carel JHDD +3.721s
6 Bruno Ribeiro DEForce Racing +4.403s
7 Liam McNeilly JHDD +5.134s
8 Ariel Elkin International Motorsport +1.572s
9 Joao Vergara Exclusive Autosport +5.703s
10 Anthony Martella Exclusive Autosport +6.080s
Pole: Ribeiro, 1m54.366s
Fastest lap: Taylor, 1m54.902s

Race 2 (14 laps)
1 Soto-Schirripa 38m53.001s
2 Argyros +0.445s
3 Leonardo Escorpioni Zanella Racing +1.095s
4 Ribeiro +1.804s
5 Taylor +2.406s
6 Christian Cameron Velocity Racing Development +2.989s
7 Jeshua Alianell DEForce Racing +3.639s
8 Diego Guiot Zanella Racing +4.399s
9 Brady Golan DEForce Racing +5.266s
10 Timothy Carel JHDD +5.651s
P: Elkin, 1m53.843s
FL: Ribeiro, 1m54.739s

Race 3 (15 laps)
1 Sebastian Wheldon Velocity Racing Development 43m24.461s
2 Jeffers +0.047s
3 Taylor +0.057s
4 McNeilly +3.071s
5 Ayden Ingratta JHDD +3.143s
6 Guiot +3.149s
7 Carel +3.246s
8 Vergara +3.502s
9 Golan +4.077s
10 Martella +4.134s
P: Elkin, 1m54.103s
FL: Soto-Schirripa, 1m55.292s

Championship standings
Wheldon 163   2 Taylor 162   3 Elkin 148   4 McNeilly 142   5 Soto-Schirripa 135   6 Jeffers 122   7 Vergara 82   8 Argyros 81   9 Ribeiro 77   10 Ingratta 74