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September 4, 2017 / 0
One goal of both Flatout Motorsports and Tyler Kicera at the beginning of 2017 was to work together to develop a Global MX-5 Cup program for 2018. When Flatout, Kicera and teammate Matt Koskinen looked at the calendar, all three identified the Labor Day weekend event at Watkins Glen as the place to debut. The team and both drivers are very familiar with the 3.3 mile road course that is practically in their back yards. The team began testing over the summer at the track to get a handle of the new Global MX-5 Cup cars built by Long Road Racing. Heading into the event, they felt prepared but didn't really know where they would fall in the running order.
Kicera led a majority of the first practice session being edged out by Hernan Palermo on his last flying lap. The second practice session saw a more organized train of cars drafting which resulted in nearly everyone running considerably faster than the opening session times. However, Kicera didn't get his fast laps in until later in the session which impacted his lap times. In qualifying Kicera and worked in the pack to draft but was timing his laps and runs to the normal start/finish line. The series was using IndyCar's timing loops which placed the actual timing line between turns nine and ten. Desipte running top three times, none were based on the official timing loop and Kicera qualified sixth and nineth for the races respectively.
The green flag waved on race-one just after 9:30am EST on Saturday morning and the weather was cool and dry. The pack didn't even get through the bus stop before an incident brought out the full course yellow. On the restart, Kicera worked his way to fourth position on the back straight, passing Todd Lamb in the bus stop for third. With Bryan Ortiz ahead, Kicera started a run through the carousel. As Kicera moved to drivers right to set up for the laces, Ortiz also moved right. The two made contact and Ortiz went around. Officials made the call for avoidable contact and Kicera was forced to do a drive through penalthy at 35mph. Short of another full course yellow, Kicera's race was over. He did however manage to lay down blistering laps by himself with no draft and made up four seconds on the lead pack throughout the rest of the race.
On the incident Kicera said, "it was really unfortunate for me, because the penalty pretty much ended my race. Ortiz managed to climb back to a podium spot which was great to see. I think we both agreed that it was just hard racing."
Conditions for race-two were questionable leading up to the green flag, and teams had BFGoodrich rains ready on pit lane. That kind of rain never came, but condition did get slick throughout the race in some sections of the track. Kicera was patient on the start and went to work in the top ten. After a pair of full course yellows, the second one being lengthy, Kicera found himself in the top five. Rain started picking up in sections of the circuit which added another variable. Working traffic and the draft, Kicera picked his way to third. On the second to last lap, he and Lamb hooked up and blew by Gallagher and Stout on the back straight with Kicera being propelled to the lead. Coming to the white flag it was Kicera, then Lamb. The two hooked up again exiting turn one. On the back straight Lamb pulled out and passed Kicera for the lead. Stout, in Lamb's wheel tracks, dove in on Kicera in the laces and the two ran side-by-side into the toe. Kicera and Sout made slight contact but continued to the heel. Again, Kicera and Stout were side by side with heavier side-to-side contact occuring. It was just enough to give Kicera the spot. All focus was on Lamb at this point and after a huge run through the final corner, Kicera managed to get up to Lamb's rear wheel. It wasn't quite enough for the win, but Kicera did secure his first Global MX-5 Cup podium in his debut event.
"That race was so intense, especially the last two laps", explains Kicera. "Todd and I have run a lot together in spec miata, so it was great to get to work with him here. I thought I might be able to hold him off but he got a run on me down the back straight. Then I had the rest of the top five breathing down my neck. It was all really hard racing and despite coming so close to the win, I'm really happy with the result in our first weekend."