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Nicole Havrda secures maiden podium in Formula Regional Americas

Canadian teenager Nicole Havrda has claimed her maiden podium finish in the Formula Regional Americas series - and not only she did it once, but twice - as the Kiwi Motorsport driver took back to back third place finishes at the iconic Road America circuit


Nicole Havrda, Kiwi Crosslink Motorsport - Formula Regional Americas 2024, Road America
Photo credits: Nicole Havrda

Canadian teenager Nicole Havrda has claimed her maiden podium finish in the Formula Regional Americas series - and not only she did it once, but twice - as the Kiwi Motorsport driver took back to back third place finishes at the iconic Road America circuit, hosting the second championship round.


With this result, Havrda joins an elite group of female racing drivers to have stood on the rostrum in mixed-gender FIA-sanctioned Formula Regional series.

Havrda had previously enjoyed a positive start to her season, with a seventh and a sixth place finishes at NOLA Motorsports Park, often battling around the top five - which was a promising sign for her first full-time season in the series.


Nicole, who claimed the title in last year's Formula Pro US series - an open wheel championship in Western US, as she collected a stellar 11 podiums and 9 wins to secure the crown. She collected valuable track time that eventually resulted in her debut in Formula Regional Americas at New Jersey Motorsport Park midway through last season. Out of six races, Havrda was three-times in the top-five, in a highly positive partial campaign that clearly showed potential.


Joining Kiwi Motorsport, Havrda - who is now also part of the groundbreaking Shift Up Now organization - signed up for a full season in Formula Regional Americas, and soon proved to belong to the top five.


After skipping a non-championship round at Laguna Seca, Nicole returned behind the wheel of the #6 Valley Kitchens/Colonial Countertops Ligier Formula Regional car at Road America - a 4.048-mile, 15-turn road course renowned for being one of the most physically demanding in North America. Havrda was in the top ten in both practice sessions on Thursday, and then was seventh fastest on Friday's last practice.

Higher temperatures marked qualifying later in the day - and Nicole secured her best qualifying performance to date with a remarkable fourth place.


Race 1

Pole-sitter Woods Toth held the top spot at the start of the first contest of the weekend, held again in cooler conditions, ahead of Ambiado and Sherlock. The cooler tyre temperatures cost one position at the start to Havrda, who nevertheless followed Bowlsbey closely over the first lap.

 

The Canadian then came under pressure from Ryan Shehan - and he managed to find a way past with 25 minutes to go; Nicole didn't give up and was quick to seize an opportunity on Shehan when the latter went deep - and then was back to fourth when Bowlsbey made a mistake a few corners later and spun with 16 minutes to go.


Shehan continued to put some pressure on the Kiwi Crosslink Motorsport driver but Nicole held on comfortably, before the caution was brought out by Jeff Bowling's crash at the exit of Canada Corner.


At the restart for the final lap, Nicole drove defensively but cleanly; despite her good racecraft, Shehan managed to snatch fourth in the final minute. Havrda still crossed the finish line in a highly positive fifth place, in her first top-five of the season.


Nicole Havrda, Kiwi Crosslink Motorsport - Formula Regional Americas 2024, Road America
Photo credits: Nicole Havrda
Race 2

Having set the sixth fastest time in race 1, Havrda lined up sixth on the grid in race 2 - and she had a brilliant getaway, immediately finding herself battling for positions.

Patrick Woods-Toth and Titus Sherlock almost banged wheels into turn 1 but everyone kept it clean and Hayden Bowlsbey joined the leading group for a three wide fight that saw Woods-Toth hold on to the top spot.


Havrda was not far away from this group, as she continued to stay right behind Nicolas Ambiado - and with Ryan Shehan again trying to make up ground behind. Shehan was one of the fastest drivers on track in the opening laps and found a way past Nicole on lap 3, but the Canadian continued to be faster than all cars behind, and opened a gap to Bowling.


Bowlsbey made a mistake at Canada corner and went wide, gifting third to Ambiado; he dropped to fifth and Havrda attacked and passed him one lap later, thus reclaiming the top five.


Ahead, Woods-Toth had managed to open a 5 second margin but made a mistake and went off at the Kink; while he could make a remarkable save and avoid a big accident, he would pit one lap later with damage and handed the lead to Titus Sherlock.


With a comfortable run, Nicole Havrda moved up to fourth place and continued to run on a very competitive pace; the Shift Up Now athlete had managed her tyres well and was faster than Ambiado in second, as she tried to close in on a potential podium position. After an uninterrupted but thrilling race, Sherlock took victory ahead of Shehan, and Nicole Havrda initially took the chequered flag in fourth place, topping her best finish in the series.


Nevertheless, a post-race penalty for Ambiado promoted Havrda to third - and she could celebrate her first ever podium in the series.

Her pace was particularly crucial in the final laps, as she significantly closed in on Ambiado, having gained over 3 seconds in the last couple of laps: with her competitor eventually receiving a 5 second penalty, her efforts towards the end of the race proved particularly valuable.


Race 3

After a career best result in race 2, Havrda aimed to carry momentum into the final contest of the weekend, where she would line up on the outside of the third row once again.

Nicole had some wheelspin at the start but she comfortably held sixth place over the first lap, with Sherlock, Shehan and Woods-Toth trying to pull away.


Ambiado, Bowlsbey and Havrda followed closely behind: faster than the car ahead, Nicole started to put pressure on Bowlsbey and attempted a move on the second lap, but couldn't quite make it stick into turn 1. The battle was then halted by the safety car when Jett Bowling went off at turn 13 and made contact with the barriers.


The green flag waved again with 15 minutes to go and Havrda had a stellar restart: she capitalized on a mistake by the cars ahead and snatched fourth place into turn 1, then set her personal best lap, opening a gap to Garat and Matriano behind. An off for championship leader Woods-Toth at the Kink promoted Havrda to third on lap 6.


The action was again interrupted by a caution on the following lap to retrieve Woods-Toth's car - and the race eventually finished under caution: Titus Sherlock took victory in race 3, preceding Ryan Shehan and Nicole Havrda, who claimed her second podium in the series with another spectacular drive at one of North America's more challenging racetracks.


Her second podium advanced her to the top five in the championship standings, having collected 46.5 points over two race meetings.


“This weekend at Road America, I showed that I am a podium runner and I deserve to be there,” said Havrda. “That’s what I wanted to prove to everyone. That I am capable of being a contender. Huge thank you to the amazing Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport team, especially Garry and Teena, and to my parents.”


Havrda is only the sixth female driver worldwide to stand on the podium in a mixed-gender FIA-sanctioned Formula Regional series - and is the second in Formula Regional Americas, following Shea Holbrook's third place finish at Road Atlanta in 2019.


The third points-paying round of the season is scheduled for 13-16 June at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But before that, Nicole headed straight to Spain, where she is currently completing a testing program with Campos Racing in Tatuus second-gen F4 machinery at Navarra and Valencia.

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