Australian Lochie Hughes leads the 2023 USF2000 Championship after delivering a commanding performance at the Grand Prix of St Petersburg.
Hughes picked up pole position, a race victory and a third place finish to lead the championship by one point after the season-opener.
In his maiden race on a street circuit, the 2022 Formula 4 United States Championship winner claimed a lights-to-flag victory in Race 1, taking the chequered flag ahead of team-mate Evagoras Papasavvas, with Nikita Johnson rounding out the podium.
After starting well from pole, Hughes' advantage was slashed after the race went under Safety Car, with both Zack Ping and Avery Towns hitting the wall at the exit of Turn 3.
The Gold Coaster commanded the restart perfectly, steadily building a gap that would be by 2.4846s as he crossed the stripe after 20 laps.
“I couldn't ask for a better race, I started on pole and built a gap on the first lap and just managed the race really,” Hughes said.
“I didn't make any mistakes, I probably could have pushed a bit harder, but the goal was to just get the win.
“This is my first time on a street circuit. It takes a little bit to get used to it, but I am loving it.”
Hughes wraps up round with podium
The Jay Howard Driver Development pilot backed it up with a third place finish in Race 2.
After starting fourth, he passed team-mate Papasavvas for the final spot on the podium, securing the position with a move at Turn 13 on Lap 12.
“The race was alright, I struggled a little bit to be honest,” Hughes reflected.
“We were on an older tyre and everyone ahead had newer tyres.
“I made some mistakes on the first lap which made me drop some positions, so then I was trying to catch back up and make some passes.
“In the end, I finished third. It was tough with Evagoras behind me. It was a decent result.
“To take a pole, a win and a third from the first round of the year, I'm pretty happy.”
Races 3 and 4 of the 2023 USF2000 Championship will take place at Sebring International Raceway in Florida on March 25-26.