Twelve months ago US driver Spike Kohlbecker joined the grids of both the South Island and New Zealand Formula 1600 Championships. He was a ‘cocky’ (but in a good way) and confident driver who was immediately on the pace fighting for podiums and race wins.
Fast forward to January 2020 and he is now part of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series racing with the Kiwi Motorsport Team. It is proving to be a major step up in his single seater career.
With only 2.5 days testing with aero – half a day in a Formula 4 car and two days driving last year’s FT50 TRS car. It’s a big step up after two seasons in Formula Ford.
Talkmotorsport caught up with him as soon as he stepped out of the FT60 car at the end of the opening TRS round at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell last weekend.
“It was a big learning curve to be honest and we are just not getting there.
‘We’re close to our target which is in the top ten. We’re just a little bit out of that but with a little bit more experience and more time in he car, I think we will be able to achieve that.
“We need to improve in the high-speed stuff as I’m not used to carrying all that speed. That’s where I loose all my time. Most of the slower turns I’m faster as that’s what Formula Ford taught me.
“It has been a big shock to be honest, as I have never driven a car this heavy before but everybody has to cope with it. It takes a bit to get used to but then you are fine.
“I don’t want to go out there and make a mistake and have crash, as that is not good. You’ll loose confidence, so I’m just building up to it.”
Kohlbecker will get plenty of time in the car with five consecutive rounds of the series on five different circuits. Three of these he competed on last season in Formula Ford (Teretonga, Hampton Downs and Manfeild). So what are his thoughts heading to Teretonga Park in Invercargill this weekend?
“It’s a really high speed track which I know so looking forward to it. All the corners at Teretonga are pretty important as there are only four of them.
“Turn one in the wet you can ‘ring-it’ around the outside and that’s a bit of fun.
“Another important turn is the last one as that is shooting me on to the long straight-away.
“Draughting – shouldn’t be a problem as there will be areas where you don’t get aero wash.
“It may be difficult to pass as these cars are really wide and there won’t be much room to get by (at Teretonga).
“Finishing close to the top ten is good for someone who hasn’t this type of experience. We have improved across the weekend so can’t complain about that.”
Kiwi Motorsport owner Garry Orton was complimentary and sees the bigger picture.
“It has been a tough weekend for him which he has handled pretty well.
“They are a very physical car to drive especially going from a Formula Ford. It is a much bigger jump than to the previous FT50. It’s a very big learning curve.
“Highlands is a very technical track which can take a lot out of the driver. He’s driven at Teretonga before so I would expect to see improvement this weekend. Overall he has brought the car home in one piece and done a really good job.”
Currently 11th overall on the points table, we are more than likely to see Kohlbecker moving up into the top ten sooner than later.