Friday practice was a challenge for the 18-year-old Co Kildare native, James Roe Jr. Roe went out in the first practice session only to encounter a misfire on the out lap. With four 15 minute sessions on the official test day, the team set their sights on understanding and curing the issue. The source of the problem eluded them which saw Roe enter qualifying on the Saturday morning without completing his Friday practice program.
Following an overnight marathon to fix the technical issue with the car, Roe went out on track to find the car was running as it should. Roe knew he had to dig deep to put in a time. After ten minutes of the 15-minute qualifying session gone, Roe was just a tenth of a second off the pole time. Trying to improve, he pitted to make an adjustment to try to cure a slight oversteer. The team sent him back out with only a few minutes remaining in the session. Joining the track again, Roe realised the brakes were binding following heat soak from sitting in the pit lane. That was the session over for the youngster, qualifying in third, a tenth of a second off the pole sitter and an even closer 200’s of a sec off second.
Roe got a great start off the line, passing Davidson on the inside through Debtors. O’Hara tangled with McCullough through Colonial which saw the safety car out to let the safety team recover the car from the track. That saw Roe running behind Murray in what was to become a ‘dog fight’ Murray defending the attack from Roe throughout the remainder of the race. While Roe set the fastest lap of the race by 4 tenths of a second, he could not find a way passed the defending Murray. They crossed the finish line with Roe only .03 of a second behind the winner.
Again, with a great start, Roe passed Davidson again at Colonial, this time around the outside. Managing his pace behind front runner Murray, Roe found himself backed into the advances of the pole sitter, O’Hara running in 3rd. As the three went into Colonial, Murray closed off the inside which saw Roe try an overtake around the outside. Murray was early on the brakes which saw Murray’s front right wheel snag the passing Roe’s rear right. This launched Roe’s car off the track, re-joining the race in 7th. With rear suspension damage, Roe struggled, however picked his way back through the field to finish 3rd.
Discussing the events, Roe said, “This weekend was frustrating, to be on the back foot on Friday with all of the engine troubles we had wasn’t good but only for Bernard and Sam Dolan to stay there all night working on my car, Saturday would have been a disaster. It just shows how much they want to win. We had really good pace which is the main thing, to have the fastest lap in race 1 by 4 tenths against the man who won everything last year was very encouraging”. “The incident in race 2 was one of those things that happen when there is close racing. I wasn’t planning on going around the outside”.
Roe, already nominated as driver of the day for rounds 1 & 2 of the Dawson-WAM NI FF1600 Championship will enjoy a shootout for the Mazda Road To Indy USF2000 scholarship later in the season. This holds a prize of $200,000.