Rookie star Kellen Ritter scores back-to-back wins on big stage in Montreal
MONTREAL, QC (June 10, 2018) – The Canadian F1 Grand Prix weekend in Montreal the biggest stage in North America for F1600 competitors and category powerhouse Exclusive Autosport defended their 2017 wins, extending their streak to 11 victories in the last 12 races, coming away from this year’s F1600 Canada event with two victories, three podiums and four top-fives. Running in support for the Formula 1 race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the team’s quartet of drivers found ultimate success with Kellen Ritter winning both races to add to his growing resume. American Spike Kohlbecker finished second in Race 2, while both Marco Kacic and Matthew Taskinen added to the team’s results with top-five finishes.
“What an incredible weekend for Exclusive Autosport and our drivers at the F1 Grand Prix,” commented Michael Duncalfe, Exclusive Autosport team owner. “I have to give a huge shout out to the EA crew for the dedication and hard work the past two weeks preparing for this event. The crew built a brand new Spectrum 2018 015 Honda for Kellen Ritter last week to debut at this event. I really can’t say enough about these guys – I am proud to have each of them a part of the program. As for our drivers, I am honoured to work with four incredibly talented rookie drivers. They all worked very hard in their personal preparations for this event. Their efforts really showed on-track. As a team owner, you can’t ask for much more than to see all four cars up and battling in the top-five in each of the races. To come away with back-to-back wins (marking the team’s 10th and 11th win in 12 races at this event), a second-place finish and multiple top-10s is remarkable. The level of competition here is outstanding.”
Ritter’s weekend started on a positive coming out of the gate, as the rookie qualified second in his Montreal debut. Kellen launched well off the rolling start to begin the opening race of the doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, slotting into second coming out of the opening complex of corners. Ritter quickly attacked for the lead and proceeded to build a small cushion, but a minor miscue opened the door for his competition and he fell back to P2. With just two laps remaining, Ritter retook the top spot and then defended on an aggressive last lap overtaking attempt, surviving contact to emerge unscathed to score the important victory. Kellen started on the pole for Race 2 and fell to fourth through the opening turns of the race. Ritter then settled in over the first two laps before the yellow flag was displayed when a pair of drivers in the lead group got together on the front straight. After an extended safety car period, the race resumed with two laps to go, and Ritter was quickly on the move as he went on the attack. Kellen made his move for the lead and went on to win the race by a scant 0.070 seconds, completing the sweep of the weekend.
In only his second open wheel formula F1600 race weekend, American Spike Kohlbecker displayed his immense talent as his calculated approach to the weekend paid off with impressive results. The St. Louis, Missouri resident lined up sixth on the grid for the opening race, and after a strong start, he worked his way into the top-five, running in fourth by the midway point of the race. Kohlbecker was showing great patience, letting the race unfold, however he lost the lead group and became embroiled in a battle that provided crucial experience for the 15-year-old. At the conclusion of the race, which was characterized by constant passing and re-passing, he had scored a strong sixth place result. On Sunday morning, Spike started eighth on the outside of the fourth row for the second race of the weekend and fell to 10th on the opening lap. Armed with supreme confidence in his Exclusive Autosport Spectrum and its stability at speed, Kohlbecker was able to advance to third just before a long yellow flag period. In the final dash to the finish, he made a bold pass for second and then got a solid run for the checkered flag that set the fastest lap of the race.
Coming off a sweep of the opening round of the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in May, Alberta’s Matthew Taskinen hit the track running in Montreal, qualifying fourth for the first race of the weekend. The 18-year-old was quickly into the fight for the lead, moving into second for a time. A minor error while attempting to out-brake his competition entering the track’s final chicane sent him over the curb on the inside of the track, which slowed both he and the pack he was racing in, which subsequently extended their gap to the leaders. Over the final circuits, Taskinen battled aggressively to take fifth. In the second race, held on Sunday morning before the Grand Prix, Matthew did not get a strong start and found himself deeper in the field during the first run down to the famed Casino hairpin. As he worked to claw back a few spots by braking deep into the corner, a car on the inside spun and shot straight into Matthew, bending a steering arm which ended his race early.
A mechanical issue hampered the start of the weekend for British Columbia driver Marco Kacic, as a minor clutch problem ended his warm-up session a few laps early. In the qualifying session, Kacic continued to learn the track’s unique layout while posting the 11th fastest time of the 30+ car field. The 15-year-old karting graduate finished 10th in the opening race of the weekend. In Race 2, he started on the inside of the sixth row and was on the move early, advancing to fourth over the opening laps. An early-race caution period bunched the field back up and its extended length left only a short two-lap sprint to the finish, which put Marco into a spirited battle with American Jake Craig. The dice allowed the fourth-place driver to draft past them, and in the final fight for third, Kacic came just a foot short at the checkered flag, taking fourth in the final classification.
With the season now running in high gear, Exclusive Autosport’s F1600 crew in already back in Ontario heading to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for the second round of Toyo Tires F1600 Championship on June 15-17. The event is part of the track’s popular VARAC Vintage Grand Prix weekend.
Exclusive Autosport is pleased to be able to partner with great companies, such as AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology (www.rethinkpaint.com), which is used on all their race cars.
EXCLUSIVE AUTOSPORT – DRIVER RESULTS AND QUOTES
F1600 CANADA (QUEBEC) – EVENT #2
CIRCUIT GILLES VILLENEUVE – MONTREAL, QC, CANADA
KELLEN RITTER – #90 SPECTRUM F1600
Qualifying: 2nd – 1:52.252
Race 1: Start – 2nd / Finish – 1st
Race 2: Start – 1st / Finish – 1st
Driver Quote: ““The weekend went perfect. The team got the car perfect on set-up, so it was easy for me to focus on my driving and racing. We experienced some bumps, but it wasn’t anything that the Exclusive Autosport team couldn’t handle.
Photo credit: Francois Belley