After sitting on ice for 2022, FTF1 came back to life over the course of this summer, producing a constant stream of tight racing and unforgettable moments behind the wheel. With a number of returning drivers from the inaugural 2021 season meeting a new influx of talent into the league and an overhauled schedule taking advantage of the Dallara iR-01's new oval racing package, we've been treated to some of the best racing the car has had to offer since its inception. Here's a look back at the season that was:
A Remarkable Return of the U.S. 500
The journey kicked off at the illustrious Michigan International Speedway with a packed paddock determined to make the field for the season opening U.S. 500. 40 cars attempted to make the field, whittled down to just 33 starters after nearly six hours of qualifying. The racing action quickly set the tone for the championship, with the high speeds creating a perilous situation for a number of favorite throughout the pack. But after a long green flag run to finish out the race, Hamilton Akabueze, who had made his way into the field from the bump session the night prior, promptly established his dominance, asserting himself as an early contender to watch & leaving Michigan with the championship lead.
Hawkin's Triumphant Pocono Response
As the series journeyed to the hallowed grounds of Pocono Raceway for the 2023 FTF1 Pocono 400, Brandon Hawkin of Akadémie Des Klowns quickly looked to get his season back on track after being collected in a multi-car crash at Michigan after starting on the pole. Hawkin dazzled with an emphatic victory, bumping his name up the leaderboard and igniting a streak of results that would force Akabueze into a tight defense of his championship lead.
The Return of Mercedes-A-MICKe Mouse F1 Team
In a season punctuated by a mélange of new contenders and seasoned racers, the Mercedes-A-MICKe Mouse F1 Team soared to the forefront. One of the only returning constructor entries from the 2021 season, they claimed their first win of the year at the Phoenix 200, as Ryan Nawrocki made the most of late race pit stop strategy to find his way towards the front in the closing laps and ultimately seal the win, his second career victory in the series.
Fuller's Double Delight at Spa-Francorchamps
With iRacing's announcement of 2023 TURN GP Championship, there was a question if we'd see new faces make their way into FTF1 action in preparation for the coming winter series. Spa-Francourchamps delivered that very result, with Apex Racing Academy's Ben Fuller scoring a remarkable double triumph in the Sprint and Feature.
Akabueze Displays His Versatility from Texas to France
Amidst the radically different challenges presented by Texas Motor Speedway and the revered Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans, Hamilton Akabueze proved his mettle once again. His victories at the Texas 600k and the 24 Laps of Le Mans were emblematic of his ability to compete across every surface the series would visit, but despite claiming the most points from the two events, he struggled to build on his advantage over Hawkin, who remained in close pursuit across both events.
Hawkin's Late June Dominance
If it was Akabueze who had left the biggest impression over the first half of the season, Brandon Hawkin began to claim the attention of the series with his dominance in the closing weeks of June, scoring a double victory at Road America and then following it up with a win at Chicagoland, finally surpassing Akabueze in the points with just a five-point advantage heading into the close of the season, where the double-points on offer in the two remaining Triple Crown races loomed large as a threat in the final championship standings.
Melillo's Monumental Moment at Indianapolis
At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Justin Melillo was able to claim a piece of FTF history, emerging victorious at the line in the 2nd Running of the FTF.gg Rectangle 500. In a race marked by drivers struggle to cope with the handling of these extremely powerful cars inside the tight confines of IMS, it was Melillo who managed to eke his way across the line ahead of Jamie Ritchie-Price, putting himself in commanding position in the Triple Crown standing and securing his 2nd career FTF1 victory in the very same spot as his first, where he claimed the win in the 2021 Freedom 100s.
Goke's California Triumph: A Grand Finale
After a final road course round at Watkins Glen that saw championship contenders fail to hold off impressive performances from Connor Harrington & Blake Reynolds, the series headed west for its final date on the 2023 schedule. Jonathan Goke, a frequent name at the front of the field across nearly every oval event on the calendar, was able to climb the highest step and win the final Triple Crown event of the season in another photo finish result. The race also brought a formal victory in the championship to Hawkin, whose 3.4 average finish across the season was a menace for others to follow. Hawkin joined teammate Ryan Pandiscio in lifting the Constructor's Championship title, with Melillo's Triple Crown dominance earning him the victory in the super series.