Bamford and Grant Lead Friday Practice
Alton, VA - Steve Bamford led practice in both F1600 and F2000 while Keith Grant was fastest in Atlantic practice on Friday at VIRginia International Raceway for the third Formula Race Promotions event of the 2016 season.
Trenton Estep lead opening F1600 Formula F Championship Series practice by .032 seconds over Road Atlanta victor Peter Portante, one of two 30-minute F1600 practice sessions held on Friday at VIR. Estep's Exclusive Autosport teammate Ben Auriemma led opening practice from Watkins Glen earlier this year. Estep's lap checked in at 1:59.170..
Watkins Glen winners Calvin Ming and Phillippe Denes were third and fourth respectively, ahead of a strong performance from Hans Ada in the No. 33 ahead of the triple-header race weekend for F1600 at VIR.
A few hours later, F1600 drivers and teams took to the 17-turn track for their second practice session of the day, with Estep going to the top of the time charts in the opening segment of the session. As times came down, Ming ran a 1:59.252 on a hot track, and Denes answered with a lap at 1:59.050. before Steve Bamford turned in a lap at 1:58.729 and K-Hill's Neil Verhagen leapt to second at 1:58.900.
Bamford would lead the day in F1600 over Verhagen with fast times coming in the afternoon sessions. Ming, Denes, Estep and Portante followed.
John LaRue's 2016 F2000 Championship Series debut is shaping up to develop into a show-down between the former race winner and 2016 points leader Steve Bamford.
The two drivers have proven they are in the top tier in talent and both are in similar cars. LaRue last won at Mid-Ohio in 2014, disposing of a very competitive field over the July weekend.
Friday morning at VIR saw LaRue easily lead practice as temperatures quickly climbed the thermometer. LaRue ran nine laps with a best time of 1:53.787, compared to Bamford, who ran just five laps and managed a 1:54.546 to be second fastest.
Bamford did battle through some car issues, limiting morning track time, and was able to rebound in the afternoon session to set the early pace, with LaRue second quick on a series of consistent laps before an lap at 1:53.494 put him on top, and then going quicker at 1:53.429.
Then the two started trading fast laps, as the pace picked up, with Bamford eventually going to first and staying there with a quick time of 1:53.108 and LaRue running a best of 1:53.217. Brandon Dixon, Dave Weitzenhof and Robert Wright completed the top five.
2015 Atlantic title-winner Keith Grant led the opening practice session from VIR in the No. 40 Polestar Swift 016/Mazda with a time of 1:43.731, ahead of K-Hill's Ryan Norman, who is coming off a weekend sweep at Watkins Glen International. Grant will look to claw some points back on Norman with a strong performance this weekend at VIR, a track he won at last year.
It is the first opening practice session Grant has led in 2016, with Norman getting the early pace at Road Atlanta and Watkins Glen.
David Grant was third quick, while Company Motorsports driver Connor Burke led the Atlantic Challenge over Bob Corliss from Comprent. All Atlantic Challenge entries for the VIR weekend are high-revving Swift 014/Toyotas.
With cloud cover taking over for the afternoon session and temperatures in the 80s, it was Keith Grant that set the mark again, this time with a best lap of 1:43.912.
Second quick in the 30-minute session that ran without incident was David Grant, while Norman was third in the No. 48 in the afternoon session that saw him run only six laps.
Connor Burke was fastest in Atlantic Challenge over Bruce Hamilton.
Full results are available on www.F1600Series.com, www.F2000Series.com, and www.AtlanticChampionshipSeries.com