The Tricky Triangle, an oval double-header and a classic European circuit tackled by Step One Ambassadors
It was a trio of race tracks this weekend as Step One Ambassadors Chandler Smith, Romain Grosjean, and Juan Manuel Correa all competed simultaneously across three different series. Smith took on a layout known as The Tricky Triangle, Grosjean dove into two races at Iowa Speedway, and Juan Manuel Correa competed at a long-standing European circuit, the Hungaroring.
Juan Manuel Correa
Step One Motorsports ambassador Juan Manuel Correa battled to a competitive top 10 finish at the Hungaroring as the FIA Formula 2 Championship returned to the technical Budapest-based venue. After tricky qualifying, Saturday’s shorter Sprint Race proved to be a complex affair, and after receiving a three-place grid penalty for impeding Amaury Cordeel in qualifying, JM started from 19th. A hotly contested first lap saw the American-Ecuadorian racer get into a consistent rhythm as the race found its beat. A three-way incident in Turn One on lap 12 triggered a brief Full Course Yellow, and JM resumed the race in 15th. Unfortunately, a steering wheel issue forced JM to pit and removed his hopes of a top-10 finish despite his competitive comeback in the early stages of the race.
With hopes and aspirations renewed on Sunday, the 23-year-old displayed one of the comeback drives of the season. JM navigated the perfect opening lap to slice through the field with clinical precision to hold 10th. He set out on applying pressure on Oliver Bearman but was stuck behind the Briton for most of his opening stint before pitting for fresh tires with the hope of performing the undercut. Upon completing his mandatory pitstop, JM set out with a statement of intent by posting the fastest lap of the race and continued to close in, now holding 15th. As the alternate strategy unfolded, JM returned to the top 10 and held ninth until the chequered flag waved on lap 37 to score two points and overtake Roman Stanek in the Drivers’ Championship.
Chandler Smith competed at Pocono Raceway, well known as The Tricky Triangle for 90 laps around the Pennsylvania-based track. Qualifying on the day prior to the race resulted in Chandler slotting into 16th for Saturday’s race start. The Kaulig Racing driver swept his way forward five positions, just barely missing out on collecting points in the first of three stages while reporting overall positive feelings in the car other than on the exit of turn three. The position gained continued into the second stage resulting in points at the end of it, the No.16 sweeping in for fresh tires and fuel shortly afterward. A big incident ahead of Chandler occurred after a race restart but he safely cleared it and continued laying down lap times. More fuel was required as the laps wound down, and he emerged toward the back of the pack, with the expectation that cars ahead would need to follow suit and he’d gain positions. Yet another caution led to the call for fresh tires and another fuel top-up, and the conclusion of the race found Chandler in 20th place after the overtime laps wound down.
Romain Grosjean hit the Iowa Speedway oval for a double-header race weekend, his fourth showing at the speedway. Grosjean put on a strong qualifying run on Saturday morning ahead of Race 1, securing himself an 8th-place start for that race, which was his best Iowa start. Romain showed confidence and drove clean laps, but unfortunately was caught up in traffic issues throughout the race and couldn’t run the high line, making his outing even more challenging. As a result, this shuffled him backward to an 11th-place finish. Sunday’s Race 2 saw him start from 20th, where he quickly wasted no time making up positions. Romain sliced his way forward with decisiveness, gaining eight positions during the 250-lap event. However, a tricky restart led to being blocked behind a slow car in front and losing positions, after which his forward momentum stalled as the tires no longer gave the Swiss-French racer the same feeling. Ultimately, he crossed the line in 12th after the exciting race, securing solid points in both Grands Prix across the weekend and making strong progress learning on an oval track.
Next up… This weekend, Chandler Smith hits the track at Road America in Wisconsin and Juan Manuel Correa is competing in Belgium at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps