At any other round of the F4 US Championship this year, you’d find Jacob Loomis not in the cockpit but in the Velocity Racing Development tent in the paddock. Perhaps he’s analysing data with one of VRD’s other F4 drivers, Noah Ping and Matt Christensen. Perhaps he’s tinkering with the set-up before the race or refitting the tyres after it. This weekend, his surprise racing return brought him an even more surprising pole position.
By Michael McClure
Loomis last raced in 2020 in a partial campaign in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship, highlighted by starting from pole in one of the Mid-Ohio races and standing on the podium before being disqualified. He had a similar part-season campaign in 2019, with similarly few major scores to show for it.
In fact, in all of his prior single-seater racing, Loomis has taken just four podiums, all during his rookie year of F4 US in 2017. He contested that season nearly in its entirety before missing the final round at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
It’s thus fitting that his return to the championship comes about at the same circuit and under very similar circumstances, with Christensen ending his own season a round early. Loomis didn’t let the chance go to waste, topping practice before scoring his first pole position in the series more than five years after his F4 début.
His best lap, a 2:15.228, was 0.047 seconds clear of the time set by championship leader Lochie Hughes and notably more than six tenths ahead of Ping’s best effort.
“I knew we were fast enough for pole. I knew that’s where we should be and where that car should be, so it’s just a relief just putting it all together. It felt good,” Loomis tells F1 Feeder Series after the session.
An unlikely return
According to VRD team principal Dan Mitchell, Loomis and the team began negotiating about a return to the cockpit just last weekend, around the time when Christensen decided to pull the plug on the 2022 campaign. Loomis’ car, the #24, was still dismantled. The entry was last run by Nicholas Rivers at the Road America round in May.
Loomis had only a single test session in an F4 car ahead of this weekend’s race. In the roughly three days before negotiations began and the first on-track session Wednesday afternoon, Loomis also had to scrape together funding and get the car rebuilt.
He attributed his smooth transition back to the cockpit to the immediate strength of the VRD package.
“We come obviously really well prepared every race weekend. Our cars are always quick, so I think having an extra set of data and set of video for the boys is very beneficial. And obviously [with] me being one of the engineers, it’s very crucial,” Loomis tells F1 Feeder Series. “That’s really helping the boys a lot, helping them develop, which is good.”
Loomis says that preparation has been important not only for him but also for Ethan Barker, who moved across to VRD this weekend after racing for family-run team Barker Racing in several prior rounds. Barker finished just half a tenth off Ping in qualifying to take fifth, and Loomis says he’s “just going to get better and better” at VRD.
“It makes it easy, just stepping in and not having to worry about it,” Loomis explains. “We had a bit of an issue with his car in the first practice, but we got that sorted and obviously [qualified] in the top five, which is really good. I think that’s his best in an open-wheel car, so really good progress for him.”
The ultimate teammate
Ping is 44 points off Lochie Hughes’ championship lead, meaning he has an outside shot at the title. Loomis’ main role this weekend, he explains, is to help Ping both on and off the track.
“As far as the race goes, it’s hard to say. I’m going to race my own race, but if the opportunity comes where I can help him, I’m going to help him. Obviously I don’t really have much to prove or much to gain by winning, but Noah has tons to gain. He’s still young in his career. I’m just a washed-up driver at this point.”
His qualifying result alone would contradict such a harsh self-assessment – especially so given that he, unlike most drivers, lacked a tow down COTA’s straights.
“I knew that the cars behind him were drafting, so I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re probably not going to do it’. Then I saw it and I came on the radio, and I’m like, ‘Ah, my little princess is on pole,’ but I guess he didn’t hear it,” Mitchell explains, referencing a nickname he gave Loomis. “He was on his own the whole time and the others were drafting. The kid’s fast.”
Loomis was indeed unaware of Mitchell’s initial message, only realising he was on pole when Mitchell informed him, again, at the championship’s mandatory technical inspection.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I was pole. I think Dan was just really excited and didn’t want to tell me and wanted to make it a surprise. I was just anxious around the whole lap – ‘Did I get it? Did I get it?’ – because I knew I’d be close,” he explains. “Then I’m in the tech line and Dan just runs up to me and says I got pole, and it was a bit of a relief.”
Header photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography
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