Greenemeier and Dobson complete rookie F4 US campaign at COTA
The development of Hannah Greenemeier and Ava Dobson was on full display at the F4 US season finale at COTA, as the two rookies had a strong end of their season with impressive charges through the field and great battles, both showing significant progress and finishing just outside the top ten despite having to fight some bad luck.
The season finale of the 2023 F4 US Championship took place at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) with the last three races of the season. Two female drivers have contested their first racing season in single-seaters - Hannah Greenemeier and Ava Dobson, both graduating from karting. And their final round was a weekend full of positive takeaways and promising pace, as well as some adversities due technical issues and bad luck.
Coming off a four race streak of point scoring results - including all three races at VIRginia International Raceway - Hannah Greenemaier (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport) has been one of the most interesting new prospects in F4 US. With a sixth and seventh place finishes as her season bests, Greenemeier - who scored for the first time at New Jersey Motorsports Park in July - has often been the protagonist of great charges through the field and spectacular battles in the big fields of the US-based Formula 4 championship.
Having joined the series at Mid Ohio in June as soon as she turned 15, Ava Dobson (Jay Howard Driver Development) was just as impressive in her first ever season of car racing. Dobson had completed a testing program with the team before her race debut, and has quickly built experience in F4 US, USF Juniors and USF 2000 Championship - in part time campaigns where she had the chance to learn different cars and several circuits, often climbing the ranks close to the top-10 thanks to her consistency in the races.
In a 26 car field for the F4 US season finale, Greenemeier had a superb start of the weekend with top tens in both the practice sessions: she was in fact eighth and ninth fastest on the 3.427 mile track, home of the F1 US Grand Prix, ahead of qualifying. Dobson made big improvements from the first to the second practice finishing P22 at the end of the first day, also due to a technical issue that severely hampered her running in FP1.
Titus Sherlock (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport) was fastest in the qualifying session, scoring pole position for race 1 ahead of Daniel Cará (Cara Origin Motorsports) and Augusto Soto-Schirripa (International Motorsport).
Strong of her practice pace, Hannah Greenemeier carried momentum and was able to qualify in P9 for the first race of the weekend.
After the kill switch issue that prevented her from running in the first practice, Ava Dobson showed more progression through the weekend with a 20th place for the grid race 1, after an over-two second improvement from FP2.
In race 1, Sherlock defended his lead at the start, only to pull away from the rest of the field. He was soon caught back as a caution neutralized the race.
Hannah Greenemeier took the inside line at the start and slotted into 12th place after the first lap, before the neutralization. Dobson, meanwhile, had a great start and moved up to P17, having gained three places.
At the restart, Cará battled hard but was soon forced to let Sherlock go, who again pulled away. Behind him, Patrick Woods-Toth (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport) firstly passed Soto-Schirripa for third place before catching Cará - and overtook him for second position. Soto-Schirripa, though, fought back and also overtook Woods-Toth for second.
Greenemeier held P12, just behind a big group of cars trading places for the top ten - as the Shift Up Now athlete waited for an opportunity. Dobson had dropped to P19, but remained close to the cars ahead before eventually settling behind Wolfe.
With 15 minutes to go, Greenemeier passed Benavitz at turn 11 - and closed in on Hauanio just half a second ahead. Benavitz found a way past Greenemeier with 7 minutes left on the clock - and the two lost touch to Durst and Hauanio, who had swapped places for tenth.
While Hannah fell behind Martinez as well, she claimed back the position on the final lap, crossing the line in P12.
On the last lap, a brief battle between Sherlock and Soto-Schirripa saw Sherlock coming home with the win; Soto-Schirripa was second and Woods-Toth third.
Ava Dobson had significantly close in on the car ahead and took the chequered flag in P19, eight tenths behind Jett Bowling.
Ariel Elkin (International Motorsport) started from pole in the second race of the weekend with Soto-Schirripa following him; the latter, though, had to defend from Jesse Lacey (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport), who then spun and dropped back as he battled hard and lost the car in the Esses.
Based on the fastest laps of race 1, Hannah Greenemeier lined up in P14 and Ava Dobson in P21. Greenemeier battled with Bacon Zelenka on the second lap - but had to slot behind, holding P14. Dobson also had retained her starting position after the first stages of the race.
The new 2023 champion Toth-Woods meanwhile made his way up from 8th to 3rd position in the opening minutes of the race. The battle for the lead heated up between the two teammates Elkin and Soto-Schirripa: unfortunately the battle was interrupted by a full course yellow and as the race resumed with just three minutes to go.
Greenemeier dropped to 16th in the equally fierce midfield, but she was able to gain back 15th from Benites, then moved into P14 and caught Cantu ahead. In a sterling run for the young driver of the #21 JHDD machine, Ava Dobson had made up several positions - initially grabbing P19, then continued to move forward and passed Bowling and Lawley for P17.
At the restart, Greenemeier was wheel to wheel in a duel for P13 through the fast Esses section, but was eventually pushed back to P14. Dobson also fought with Lawley but held P17. On the final lap, Greenemeier made a great double pass and snatched 12th place - just three tenths away from Zelenka in P11.
Ava Dobson also made more progress on the final lap, finishing P16 in one of her strongest races to date and having shown good racecraft.
Between the two International Motorsport drivers, the battle for the win was just as exciting and Soto-Schirripa made his winning move on the last lap through turn 15 to take the victory ahead of Elkin and Woods-Toth.
There was plenty of drama also in Race 3 - and even before the start pole sitter Sherlock was forced to get back into the pits with a mechanical issue. While the drivers completed an extra formation lap, his pit crew tried to fix his car to eventually join the field at the back.
Cará led the field into the first corner and pulled away quickly, but before the end of the first lap a double yellow was waved for several incidents through the pack.
From tenth on the grid of the final race of the season, Hannah Greenemeier had another chance to battle for points - and she had indeed made a great start, but she was spun on the first lap and dropped down to P24.
From P17 on the grid - in one of her best starting positions - Ava Dobson on the other hand successfully navigated the chaotic first lap and moved up to P16 before the safety car was deployed.
Cará kept first place after the restart, but Woods-Toth made up places and ultimately passed Cará for the lead pulling away; Cará also had Lacey on his tail and dropped back, with Soto-Schirripa climbing up to third.
With 12 minutes to go, Greenemeier was on a mission and charged back, initially climbing to P22, then making up three more places in a single lap.
Hannah soon caught the cars ahead and passed both Bowling and Parrish; next up was Martinez, whom she cleared one lap later. Ava Dobson had held on brilliantly to P16 after the restart; despite she lost one position to Greenemeier in her incredible charge, Dobson had great pace and also climbed the order up to P14 with two minutes to go.
Ahead, the top three ran next to each other on the last lap for a sprint to the finish line that saw Woods-Toth taking the chequered flag first, just 0,017 seconds ahead of Lacey and Soto-Schirripa.
Following one of the most impressive recoveries, Hannah Greenemeier managed to make up one more place on the final lap, finishing a brilliant P11 that certainly doesn't represent her speed: she gained 13 positions in 12 minutes of racing after the restart.
With 44 drivers entering at least one round in F4 US this year, Greenemeier finished the season 17th in the standings, with 17 points to her name.
Despite not equalling her best finish of the season, Ava Dobson's P13 in race 3 was one arguably one of her most solid performances, having kept up the pace with the top half of the field and battled her way into her third top-15 of the season.
"At COTA I was so pleased to find such big improvements with only having one practice session due to the kill switch being pulled but that did not set me back", Dobson commented. "Struggled a little in race 1 but came back stronger in races 2 and 3 with continuous improvement in both races finished race 3 in 13th"
"May not have been my overall best finish, but this weekend really helped me learn so much as a driver, as the whole season did and I’m very pleased with everything Jay Howard and the team has done with me. Onto the next season in USF JR!"
Dobson has in fact already confirmed her commitment with JHDD for the 2024 season.