Kyffin Simpson took the chequered flag 9th on the road in the penultimate Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires event of the 2022 season, overcoming a tumultuous first lap of Portland International Raceway to recover from the back of the 12-car field.
The Caymanian driver was strong out of the box in Friday’s single practice session, completing 28 trouble-free laps. Simpson was happy with the neutral car balance, another job well done by the HMD Motorsports team, and completed the practice session in P7. A newcomer to Portland, Kyffin focused on building track knowledge in this session to best prepare him for the weekend ahead.
Saturday arrived with milder conditions and a small threat of rain that never materialised. This had a knock-on effect on the balance of Simpson’s car, leaving him struggling to find consistency, notably through turns 1-2 and 10-11. With these challenges, he concluded the dry session in P11, 8 tenths off of the fastest car and his teammate, Benjamin Pedersen, and built upon his track knowledge throughout.
On Saturday afternoon came two qualifying runs, a total of 15 laps for the #21 machine to navigate. Track evolution was high throughout the weekend, with a multitude of series logging laps on the 12-turn, 1.964-mile track. Simpson’s fastest lap would come on lap 9 of his second run, Kyffin finishing 8 tenths off of the fastest car and 10th overall. During the qualifying runs, Kyffin was still chasing a better balance for the car and was disappointed with his grid position for the Sunday race. Nonetheless, he remains confident and optimistic that there is progress that can be made.
Sunday morning was an early start with the race kicking off at 10am. It was a clean getaway on the outside row for the #21 car. With late braking into Turn 1, Simpson briefly moved in front of 3-4 cars around the outside. Unfortunately, he was pinched on the inside of Turn 2, causing contact at the front of his car.
Whilst the wing sustained superficial damage, the suspension of the car took the brunt of the collision, resulting in a highly unpredictable car for the remainder of the race. Kyffin was not injured in the incident and resumed his 10th place before moving up to 8th. Frustratingly, 2 caution periods for separate incidents later neutralised the race, and with the suspension damage, Simpson was unable to defend from Rasmussen’s opportunistic move at the restart, pushing the #21 car back down to 9th. Nonetheless, Simpson continued to challenge the cars ahead of him as they battled through the remaining 35 laps, the suspension damage limiting his overtaking ability.
Reflecting on a frustrating weekend in Portland, Kyffin said:
“FP2 was a tough session. [We] didn’t end up as quick as we wanted to be, struggling with understeer mostly. Ahead of qualifying I’ll look at changes we can make and things I can be doing better to get the most out of the car.”
“It wasn’t a great weekend, to be honest. We had some contact in turn 2 on the opening lap, and it messed with our steering quite a bit. From there, it was difficult to keep up and challenge for any positions with the guys ahead. Two races to go at laguna. Hopefully we can finish the season on a high. We had a test out there earlier in the season – it went well and I really like the track.”
The double-header at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca CA closes the season out on September 11th weekend, with Kyffin currently 9th in the 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires points standings. Fans can follow live coverage on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES website and mobile apps, and can support Kyffin on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Kyffin is supported by Ridgeline Lubricants, InvestCayman, Visit Cayman Islands, Boddens Legal, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Simpson Race Products, GoPro action cameras, Spy sunglasses and Kokoro Media.