F2000 on a Growth Track
While other development racings series struggle to get their car count out of the teens and face skyrocketing costs, the F2000 Championship Series is readying itself for takeoff. Positioned firmly on the open wheel racing ladder, F2000 is quickly becoming the destination for racers coming out of karting or looking to graduate up from school cars.
Racers can run professional full season programs in the F2000 Series for a fourth of the budget that other development series would require. Attracting many up and coming drivers, F2000 has also become a home for established veterans and club racers looking for a more competitive playing field.
"The F2000 Championship Series is easily the best value for aspiring young racers, offering a high-tech car, tight competition, tough racetracks and excellent exposure,” commented Rob Howden, editor-in-chief at eFormulaCarNews. “I believe that it's a must-stop on any run up the driver development ladder."
Twenty-eight cars took the green flag at Virginia International Raceway for the season opener and that number is expected to go into the 30s for the next round at Lime Rock over Memorial Day weekend and stay there through Mosport. Series officials are seriously preparing for a 40+ car field when F2000 visits Watkins Glen in support of the Indy Cars on the July 4th weekend. With the current economic situation and the poor health level of other open wheel series across the nation, the F2000 field is absolutely phenomenal.
The on-track action from the season opener at VIR was spectacular. Rain showers 15 minutes before the first race of the weekend set the stage. The race started in heavy wet conditions and 30 minutes later, the track was almost completely dry as American Benjamin Searcy took the checkers for the win in his first ever career start. Searcy passed his way to the front of the field after starting in the fifth position. Before signing to drive for Z-Sports MidWest Searcy was a very active karter and won three Skip Barber Regional Series races last season.
“I owe most of my success in cars to my years in karting, where I learned all the fundamentals and good car control, which helped me win at VIR in the rain,” said Searcy. “There is quite a difference between the kart and the F2000 chassis .Go karts have no suspension and no down force and because they are light you can actually throw your body around to make the kart handle better if you missed the setup. You can’t do that in the F2000 car.”
The second race at Virginia International Raceway saw the on-track product continue to deliver. Canadian Remy Audette stole the lead early in the race and was pulling away when he was balked by lapped traffic. Rising American star Chris Miller got around him with Matthew Inge following. The two pulled away from Audette at a rate of almost a second per lap, with two laps to go Inge pulled alongside Miller but couldn’t get past. He tried again on the last lap, but Miller had the ideal line going into the corner. Two American open wheel racing hopefuls were going side by side for the win on the last lap in a race that did not see one full course caution.
Miller, Inge and Audette are all returning drivers for their second season of competition. They are joined by a crop of quick rookies coming out of school cars.
Fabio Orsolon graduates to F2000 after spending last year dominating the Skip Barber Series. “The F2000 cars and the Skip Barber cars are amazingly different,” explained Orsolon, who drives for Alegra Motorsports.
“The F2000 brakes are much stronger and the soft Hoosier tires help with the braking grip. The softer tire allows you to brake much later and carry so much more speed through the corner.
“You need to drive this car less aggressively than the Skip Barber car otherwise you will lose it. The F2000 Series prepares you better for the next step up because you can work on the setup and the engineering of the chassis.”
Orsolon is in good company as Jonathan Scarallo, who won the Bertil Roos Championship last year, joins the series for his rookie season with Group A Racing. “The best way to describe the jump from the school car to the pro F2000 car is by saying the F2000 car is on steroids,” commented Scarallo, who won seven races last season in the Bertil Roos Series.
“It has 50 horsepower more, slick tires, and high downforce. The biggest competition difference I have noticed from the Roos Series in relation to the F2000 series is that the drivers in F2000 give you a lot less room when you are side by side. In Roos the drivers will give you a couple of inches, but here in F2000 the drivers give you the bare minimum, and sometimes not even that,” Scarallo said.
The series is also gaining momentum in media coverage and internet exposure. Web traffic during the season opening round at VIR was up 600% with SpeedTV.com, EFormulaCarNews, AutoRacing1, The Grid, PaddockTalk, Motorsport.com, FlagWorld and numerous other racing news outlets featuring F2000 on their editorial pages.
High profile events, lots of track time, huge fields and a very controlled cost structure have put the F2000 Championship Series in a great position on the open wheel ladder going into the future. With a month before the next race at Lime Rock Park, some teams still have cars available.