F2000 Road Atlanta Preview

May 8, 2012
Robert La Rocca won both races at VIR in the No. 10 Van Diemen. (photo Dennis Valet)

Braselton, GA – The F2000 Championship Series heads into rounds three and four at Road Atlanta this weekend with a tight Championship battle. Robert La Rocca is coming off an opening weekend sweep, with two wins at VIR for HP-Tech, but was handed a 25 point penalty, while Niki Coello, Kevin Kopp and Fabio Orsolon are not far behind in the points. Don’t count out Kyle Connery either, who won both races in Georgia last year, Tim Minor, who finished second, and Wyatt Gooden, who ran at the front in Virginia a month ago.

La Rocca took the first two wins of his career in the opening weekend of his sophomore season. The Venezuelan switched over to the Van Diemen chassis from the RFR, essentially dominating the weekend by taking both races, both fast laps and both poles. The perfect weekend came to an end days later, when Series officials handed La Rocca a 25 point fine (50 points are awarded for a win) citing driving tactics.

Wyatt Gooden made contact with La Rocca in the first race of the weekend, while battling for the lead, after narrowly missing out on pole by thousandths of a second in the Quantum Racing Services No. 6 Van Diemen.

“I can't afford to not finish any more races, so I'm going to be careful about the situations I put myself into,” said Gooden, who added that he wants to be on the podium both Friday and Saturday at the 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit as F2000 shares the Thursday-Saturday weekend with Formula Drift and the new Atlantic Championship Series.

Meanwhile, Kyle Connery should not be left out. The 21-year-old took his first win in F2000 at Road Atlanta last year, sweeping the weekend with two wins and a closing stages pass on Tim Minor for the lead. The difference this year? Connery has switched to a new RFR chassis and did not finish on the podium at VIR after six wins in 2011.

“We knew going into VIR we'd be at a disadvantage with the majority of each lap being a straight-line,” explained Connery.

“We couldn't make all the changes we wanted to but before the car caught fire I felt we potentially had a top five run going. Road Atlanta will certainly suit what changes James Lee (engineer) has made to the car. Something that is making me feel more comfortable is James's willingness to go to the extremes to learn, and then calculate increments that will work.”

Connery’s Road Atlanta nemesis in 2011, Masters Class Champion Tim Minor, should also prove fast in his new Citation chassis. Minor was ecstatic leaving VIR, noting they had made major gains with the chassis package over the weekend.

Sitting second in points is Niki Coello, who landed on the podium both days at VIR and has driven Road Atlanta before in the No. 81 RFR.

Fabio Orsolon, meanwhile, said he can win in the Radon for GTP Motorsports. Orsolon finished second in Virginia and feels the fast Road Atlanta circuit will suit the new chassis.

Twenty-three year old Kevin Kopp also surprised at VIR during the opening weekend. Coming out of Spec Miata, Kopp was relatively unknown, but suddenly finds himself third in points.

“We had low expectations coming to VIR. The F2000 race was only the second time I had ever driven and open wheel race car, besides karts,” he noted. “For the past six years I have been piloting a Spec Miata, and needless to say, a Miata and an F2000 are radically different cars to drive well. I’m very fortunate to have been chosen by Wisko F2000 to drive and develop their Van Diemens, but Wisko is a brand new team and we’re still trying to come up a very steep learning curve.”

Another racer looking for a sought-after podium spot in Georgia is Tim Paul, who took valuable points home from VIR and feels he is ready to be a presence at the front of the field after becoming a regular in the top five throughout 2011.

“The plan for Road Atlanta is to be on the podium,” said Paul. “I feel like we may take some people by surprise this year. We have a lot more speed than last year and my chops are finally up to par with road racing. It was a long learning curve, going from dirt ovals and sprint cars to road courses and formula cars, but I feel like I'm finally competitive, and the car is really good.”

Road Atlanta kicks off with three practice sessions on Thursday morning, followed by 4:30pm local time qualifying. After a 8:00am warmup on Friday, F2000 cars will race at 10:50am for 18 laps, and Saturday concludes the weekend with a 8:00am qualifying session followed by a 11:15am race. Qualifying and races will feature live audio on www.livestream.com/F2000. News, results, social media updates and photos will be available on www.F2000Series.com throughout the weekend.