Simona de Silvestro’s attempt to become the first woman to win a major open-wheel motor-racing title ended in disappointment when she was knocked out of the Atlantic Championship finale on the opening lap at Laguna Seca.
Instead, 18-year-old polesitter John Edwards won both the race and the title at the expense of team-mate and USF1 hopeful Jonathan Summerton, who finished second in both.
The pair ended the season tied on 182 points and four wins each, but Edwards held the advantage after taking four second places during the season to Summerton’s three.
De Silvestro, who entered the race as the series points leader, tangled with 2008 champion Markus Niemela in the Corkscrew on the opening lap and went into the tyre barrier, ending her season on the spot. He went on to finish third but was demoted to fifth for avoidable contact.
The Swiss racer recorded four wins and four second places during the season, but by the end of the year her Newman Wachs Racing rivals had the measure of her Team Stargate Worlds car in both qualifying and the races. Two DNFs in the final three outings destroyed her championship hopes.
Edwards, who won the Star Mazda title in 2008, said: “Someone told me after I got off the podium that I looked like I was on â€˜Cloud 36,’ and I think that’s about where I am right now. I couldn’t believe after the safety car that Simona was out, so it just came down to Jonathan and I and whoever won the race.
“I pulled out a bit of a gap and then at the end, I was just trying to not make mistakes. my engineer came on and told me there were 30 minutes to go. That 30 minutes went by like six hours to me. It was really hard to believe that, for the second year in a row, the driver in third before the last race ended up winning the championship.”
Summerton said: “For the past, probably, five race weekends we’ve definitely had the cars to beat. We should have been, probably, 1-2 every single race in the past five. Really, it’s disappointing it came down to finishing positions throughout the year and being tied in points.”
Britain’s James Winslow completed his year with another seventh place – and another team – to end in eighth place in the final standings.
The reigning Australian F3 title-holder, who struggled throughout last year to find the funding to keep his championship-winning season going, began the Atlantics season with Conquest Racing.
Conquest did not return for round two in Utah and Winslow switched to Jensen Motorsport for that race. For six of the next seven events he was in one or the other of Genoa Racing’s cars, missing only the Mosport race. Finally at Laguna Seca he ran for west coast team Paladin Motorsports.