Almost 100 Races Later…
Sharon, CT – 98 races down and a doubleheader weekend this month at Watkins Glen will mark the 100th race in the history of the F2000 Championship Series, almost eight years after Bob Wright and Al Guibord Jr. sat down and starting playing with the idea of creating their own race series.
Those two were unhappy with the direction and costs associated with the pro series at the time, 2005, and decided to call up Mike Rand to see if he might be interested in such a venture.
“I had known Bob for years and my most vivid memory of him was during my time as General Manager of Lime Rock. It was during a Tuesday test day and he had a total brake failure entering Big Bend and after numerous barrel rolls, he had turned his Swift into a pile of parts,” recalled Rand, adding that Wright then tried to sell him the parts.
Rand then met with the two and fleshed out a plan of action. Helping was the SCCA’s approval of the Zetec motor.
“I did some homework, asking whether there was demand for another series,” Rand continued. “Having convinced myself that there was and it could work, I jumped in with both feet. I was excited by the prospect of getting back involved in entry level single-seater racing, my avocation and vocation for literally decades as a driver, series manage, my love of the whole of road racing with a clear focus on small bore formula cars just took over
Wright would then head to the PRI show, where he talked to anyone that would listen.
“Most laughed, some ignored me, but Bob Schaefer from Frisby Tire recognized me and hooked us up with Hankook. Mike put together a six weekend schedule in less than a month and we were off and running.”
The opening event at VIR in 2006 was a challenge, said Wright.
“After many phone calls, sales pitches, pleas, and bribes later we arrived at VIR the second weekend of April, 2006 for our first event. The test day had 10 cars and the weekend had 13, but really 12. I was pretty much sick to my stomach, not to mention my wallet. What had we done? Were we out of our minds? The event came off spectacularly with some of the best racing I had seen in years even though there was low car count- better than the runoffs the fall before. There was hope, and a lot of word of mouth praise within the FC community.”
Rand and company assembled a competitor-friendly and customer-centric staff and as Guibord notes, “the rest is history.”
The Series would add cars by the event and break-out for 2007 – pairing up with big weekends like the Cleveland Champ Car event. Hoosier came aboard in 2008 as the Series gained momentum.
The group adjusted for the recession, trimming the seven-event 14-race schedule to six weekends and 12 races in 2009 to cut costs for the teams.
The Series kept its independence along the way, sanctioned with SCCA Pro Racing, and added a F1600 Championship for 2011 – which took off faster than F2000, and try a pro Atlantic Championship for 2012.
“It has been a great addition to our offerings,” said Guibord, on the addition of F1600. “I still view it as in its infancy stages. There is a lot of growth potential for that Championship. We are now seeing manufactures support it and build cars again, which hasn't been the case for a long time. I firmly believe that the F1600 series offers the best value in the market by far.”
As for the winners? Matt McDonough took the Championship in 2006, followed by Cole Morgan, Anders Krohn, Chris Miller, Victor Carbone, Remy Audette and Robert La Rocca. Krohn and Carbone would go onto Indy Lights, Carbone making the jump directly. Miller would advance to Star Mazda while La Rocca is already at the front of the field in F3 and Audette is winning in Touring Cars in Canada.
What about the highlights? Wright explained: “Hard question indeed. So many great moments, great drivers and drives, huge fields, great vibe in the paddock, it just goes on. One constant is the staff who really make it all work and make it look easy in the doing. Believe me, they all really care and know they are there for the racers; the racers aren’t there for us. But for me the F1600 races at Mid Ohio in 2012 and Road Atlanta in 2013. There are so many drivers who are meeting their own goals and pursuing their dreams, it’s gratifying to be part of it all.”
All three owners pointed to customer service as the key to their success.
“We treat the entrants like the friends they are,” says Rand, “and as racers would want to be treated. Add in great tracks, excellent track time, great dedicated single class racing, the formula really isn’t that hard to understand. The hard part is sustaining the enthusiasm and desire and keeping it exciting and fresh as the faces change year to year … Luck and hard work have turned a dream in 2005 into a pretty good race series.”