New Zealander Brendon Leitch is preparing for his first weekend of racing in the Formula 4 United States Championship at the opening around at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, running 7-9 April.
The 21-year-old is the first Kiwi to contest the US Formula 4 series which, in only its second year, has attracted 32 entries from across the United States, Jamaica and Denmark – many straight out of karts, many as part of driver development programmes.
For Leitch, who’s contested New Zealand’s premier single seater championship, the Toyota Racing Series, for the past four years, the opportunity for international experience in one of 12 FIA-sanctioned F4 series around the world is the attraction and he can’t wait to get into the F4 car for the first time on Friday (EDT).
“Homestead-Miami is a good-looking road course set within the oval,” says Leitch who arrived in Miami early this week. “There are a few very good passing opportunities and a very long, flat-out run around one of the oval corners which looks exciting! We will do a track walk on Thursday to check it out in person before testing on Friday.”
Running as Kiwi Motorsport under the management of New Zealander Garry Orton, director of Nelson-based Victory Motor Racing who ran all four of Leitch’s TRS campaigns, and with a full Kiwi crew, Leitch is feeling as comfortable as he can be as he faces driving a new car on a new circuit among unknown competitors.
“I think it’s going to be a big learning curve and, to be honest, I’m not sure what to expect. It shouldn’t be too difficult learning the course, but you can never really tell until you get out there in the car.
“Garry has spent some time on the car getting it ready prior to the event, and familiarising himself with it, and I’m doing the same now we’re at the track.
“Once we get through the first two test sessions on Friday, I’ll have some time overnight to evaluate and make myself some goals. At the moment, I’m unsure what the opposition will be like, so there’s plenty to learn.”
Leitch will run the number 86, a race number he’s carried since he was seven years old, racing in karts in his hometown of Invercargill. The 10-turn road course is 3.65km (2.27 mi) in length and runs anti-clockwise.
In Miami, US F4 competitors have two 40-minute practice sessions on Friday, along with official driver photos, seminars and a formal championship welcome. On Saturday morning, a 40-minute practice session is followed by a half-hour qualifying session at lunchtime and the first 30-minute race at 4pm, with the grid determined by qualifying positions and a standing start. On Sunday there are two 30-minute races, one at 10.15am with a grid based on fastest times in race one and the final at 3pm with a grid based on fastest times in race two. Points earned count toward an FIA Super License.
Leitch sends his thanks to everyone who’s supporting his US campaign. “I know there’s heaps of work going on at home to help make this season of US opportunity possible, and I really appreciate it. I’ll be doing my best to make the most of this fantastic opportunity. I can’t wait to get racing!”
More information is available on Leitch’s website www.brendonleitch.co.nz, including details of the Brendon Leitch Supporters’ Club, or follow Leitch on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/brendonleitch86. Follow the Formula 4 United States Championship http://www.f4uschampionship.com/ .