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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Maite Cáceres battles for the win in rainy Mid-Ohio, secures fourth podium of the season in JS F4 Ligier

"There are still many races left where anything can happen, and that is my goal: to fight for this championship" - Maite Cáceres continued her impressive season in the Ligier JS F4 championship at Mid-Ohio, maintaining her podium-scoring streak at every circuit visited so far. Engaging in fierce battles throughout the weekend, the Uruguayan excelled in challenging weather conditions and fought for the win before securing a podium finish.


Maite Caceres, JS F4 Ligier, 2024 Mid Ohio Sports Car Course
Photo credits: ANCAP/Maite Caceres

Maite Cáceres continued her impressive season in the Ligier JS F4 championship at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, maintaining her podium-scoring streak at every circuit visited so far. Engaging in fierce battles throughout the weekend, her talent was on full display in Race 2, where the Uruguayan excelled in challenging weather conditions and fought for the win before securing a podium finish in third.


At the third round of the Ligier JS F4 season, in fact, Cáceres displayed once again the big step forward made over the past year, having contended for podium positions at every round and often for the win - an achievement that although elusive so far, is looking increasingly close at each round.


Returning to the US after a year in F1 Academy, Maite's development has been impressive, in both confidence and racecraft. Straight from the pre-season preparation, Cáceres showed stellar pace at the wheel of the Ligier JS F4 machine, in a couple of outings in the Formula FARA championship at Homestead Miami, where she climbed the podium with consistency and barely missed out on her first race win in F4 machinery.


On her debut in the inaugural season of the Ligier JS F4 series, Cáceres confirmed that she would be in contention for podiums and race wins, as she collected a second and a third place finish at NOLA Motorsports Park, again battling for the top spot throughout the weekend.


At the iconic Road America circuit, she continued the progress and significantly improved after every session, eventually leading laps in the last race of the meeting and adding yet another podium to her streak.


The International Motorsports racer was therefore aiming for more silverware at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, although she would have to quickly put behind her two big accident in the previous two race meeting in Road America and Sebring.


"Coming into this weekend after being involved in two accidents that were not my fault, I knew it would be a challenge to come to this race, especially for the team that had to build a car from scratch in a short time", Maite told us.


The weekend started with two joint practice sessions between the F4 US and JS F4 series; Maite built up speed progressively once again, clocking the seventh fastest time in FP1 and the ninth time in FP2. By the time of the qualifying, she was back fighting in the positions at the top of the class.


Cáceres showed her speed early in the qualifying, setting the fifth fastest time on her first timed lap in a session marked by high temperatures at the Ohio racing venue.

The International Motorsports driver pushed harder on her second flying lap, improving to fourth place and breaking the 1:30 mark. Times continued to drop and she improved to a 1:28.320 with 13 minutes left on the clock, which solidified her fourth position.


In the final minutes, Maite found an additional three-tenths of a second, posting a 1:28.098, which secured her a spot on the second row of the grid. This consistent improvement set her up for a competitive start in all three weekend races.


Cáceres had a good getaway and tried to challenge Bacon Zelenka into turn one but had to slot behind in fourth, holding her starting position, while Hauanio and Musella led the pack on the first lap. Cáceres continued to put pressure on Zelenka - while defending from Brad Majman as well, as the latter tried to seize the opportunity to gain ground.


Ahead, Musella found a way past Hauanio for the lead on the second lap, with the leading duo opening a three second gap on the battling Zelenka and Cáceres.

Maite was a few tenths per lap faster and continued to look for a way past Zelenka, but Majman eventually could complete an opportunistic pass for fourth,  forcing Maite to fight back from fifth while defending from Drew Szuch.


With tyre performance starting to drop, Maite went a bit wide on lap 11 and traded positions with Szuch - but she could eventually fight back and place her #6 Abitab-sponsored machine into P5.


Ahead, Majman overtook Zelenka for third around the outside of turn 4 - although he made a mistake one lap later and spun, promoting Cáceres back to fourth with 6 minutes to go.

The Uruguayan had tried to nurse her tyres and closed back in on Zelenka - but the full course yellow was out when Cash Felber spun out in the gravel with 3 minutes left on the clock, ending the first contest of the weekend with a positive fourth place finish.


Maite Caceres, JS F4 Ligier, 2024 Mid Ohio Sports Car Course
Photo credits: Maite Caceres

The weather dramatically changed on Sunday, with heavy rain forcing organizers to reshuffle the racing schedule as track personnel worked to clear standing water. By the time cars headed to the grid, the track was drying but still damp offline.


From fourth, Cáceres had another good getaway and perfectly cleared Zelenka into turn two, while Musella held off Hauanio for the lead. Maite had great pace and immediately attacked Hauanio, completing a great pass before the end of the first lap, which saw the Uruguayan then catching Musella.


Maite was on a roll and started to put heavy pressure on the race leader: the two went side by side on the second lap on the run to turn 4, but Musella managed to hold on, despite a late braking by Cáceres in very damp conditions.


Musella, though, found some pace again and could put a second in between himself and the Abitab-sponsored Ligier F4 car of Maite, who then had to watch her mirrors from the return of Zelenka. Maite, however, responded with the fastest lap of the race in 1:37.008 on lap 5, then gained again on the leader one lap later, as the top three opened a gap to Bowlsbey and Hauanio.


Cáceres was as close as ever and attempted a move into turn 1 but had to slot behind; the two again were wheel-to-wheel on the long straight to turn 4, but positions remained unchaged as Musella covered every inch of the track. Hauanio, meanwhile, was making up ground and seized an opportuinity to snatch second from Cáceres - in now a 4-way battle for the win. Hauanio and Musella traded positions on lap 10 - and Maite was soon into the clutches of Musella.


With Hauanio gaining some ground, Maite made a stunning move for second on Musella on lap 13 into turn 2 - but the latter fought back a few corners later, in an endless duel.

The clock ticked down and Kekai Hauanio crossed the finish line to take victory in race 2, ahead of Teddy Musella and Maite Cáceres, who couldn't quite clear the driver of the #25 machine but returned to the podium with a spectacular performance in mixed weather conditions.


"In the first practice sessions, we showed competitive pace, and then we were testing different setups, which complicated things for us later", Cáceres recalled. "Our main goal was to score points, and we achieved that in the first races, even getting a podium and being in the fight for the victory."


"Mixed conditions in two races, and honestly, I'm happy with my pace, as I was super competitive."

The final race provided one more chance for Cáceres, again starting from the second row of the grid. While the track had dried for the final race of the weekend in the afternoon, a new rain shower just before the driver went on pre-grid meant that everyone lined up on wet weather tyres again.


With Drew Szuch spinning off in the gravel on his way to the grid, the field eventually completed another formation lap behind the safety car and the race was shortened to 22 minutes.


When the lights finally went out, Hauanio was unchallenged in the lead, followed by Pollack, Zelenka and Cáceres, who defended from Musella. The latter did find a way past and then attacked Pollack; a few corners later, drivers found big puddles and both Zelenka and Cáceres drifted off track - with the latter unfortunately getting stuck in the gravel trap.


Conditions further deteriorated and a red flag was deployed when more cars went off track.

Cáceres had meanwhile managed to make her way back to the pits, albeit two laps behind the leaders. At the restart, Maite was running P13 - and was eager to make up more ground but the race was eventually called with 6 minutes left on the clock, leaving the Uruguayan in 13th position.


It was an unlucky end of an otherwise positive weekend for Cáceres, who came home with another podium - the fourth of her season to date in the Ligier JS F4 championship.


"A mistake of mine in the last race hurt us and separated us a bit from the fight, but there are still many races left where anything can happen, and that is my goal: to fight for this championship", said a determined Maite at the end of the weekend.


"Still a lot of work to do, more hunger to get that victory which will come."

Eight top-five finishes out of nine races put the young racer fourth in the championship standings, with now two race meetings left in the calendar. Still widely in contention for the top three, Cáceres will be aiming to continue her strong form and finally climb the top step of the podium.


Next up will be New Jersey Motorsports Park, which is set to host the fourth triple-header of the season from July 25-28.

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