Canadian up-and-coming racer Nicole Havrda started her racing season in Formula Regional machinery with a pole position and a second place in the Formula Pro US opener at Sonoma.
Nicole Havrda's racing season was off to a great start last weekend at Sonoma Raceway, as the 16-year-old Canadian driver claimed a second place finish as well as her first pole position in Formula Regional machinery. Havrda, who races the Ligier S F3 Regional car operated by JMF Motorsports, is contesting the Formula Pro US championship and is set to make her debut in the Formula Regional Americas later in the season. Formula Pro USA – a platform that offers cost-effective track time to up-and-coming drivers – kicked off its season with a two-event Winter schedule, which saw teams heading to California, for the first of two back-to-back weekends. At Sonoma Raceway – a 4.056 km racetrack that also hosts NASCAR, GT World Challenge America and hosted IndyCar until 2018 – drivers were met by wet conditions and freezing temperatures, as California was hit by winter storms. Young Canadian Nicole Havrda, only in her second year of car racing after karting and stepping up to the Formula Regional car, was unfazed and went on to secure the second place on the grid for race 1, in the treacherous conditions. Later on Saturday, conditions remained mixed for the first race of the weekend. "Although mostly dry, the track had several wet and damp sections from the morning's rain", Nicole told us, as the damp track proved to be tricky for the drivers lining up on the front row, who both dropped a few positions. "I fell from second to fourth, but by lap four, I was back up to second - and in pursuit of the leader." – Havrda said. David Burketh also managed to climb back into the lead, but had the #2 Ligier of Nicole Havrda putting intense pressure. "I was in tight pursuit, but I was held up in traffic and I lost time", Havrda continued. The multi-class Formula Pro USA series in fact also includes Formula 4 and Mazda Pro machinery, as the fastest class had to carefully manage traffic in the latter stage of the race. After 11 laps, Nicole Havrda took the chequered flag in an excellent second place, kicking-off her 2023 racing season with a podium. David Burketh secured victory, while Daniel Quimby rounded out the podium. More challenging weather awaited the drivers of Formula Pro USA on Sunday. In the second qualifying session, Havrda fought for pole position in a tight battle that saw the top two drivers of the series trading positions on top of the leaderboard. "Both of us kept chipping away at our times and, near the end of qualifying, I set a time that appeared to be unbeatable and I had pole position", Nicole said. Unluckily, rain was back for Sunday's race, just as cars were lining up on the starting grid. "Unfortunately I wasn't able to capitalize on my excellent pole position and, on lap 2, I was caught out by the wet conditions, spinning into retirement", Havrda explained. The Canadian driver was not the only driver to hit trouble in the second 25-minute race, as also race 1 winner Burketh ended one lap down. Daniel Quimby took victory in race 2, followed by Braydon Arthur and James Lawley. Despite the unfortunate ending, Nicole Havrda's first round was a really promising step pace-wise, as the Canadian proved to be able to fight at the top, as she continues to progress: "A pole and a second place were an excellent way to start the 2023 racing season" - she commented. Just a few days later, Nicole Havrda will make her way to Thunderhill Raceway Park, in the Sacramento Valley, for the second event on 4-5 March. As announced in the previous weeks, Havrda's 2023 schedule will include 11 more race meetings, including appearances in Formula Regional Americas.