Sharon, CT – The F2000 Championship Series will kick off its 2011 seven-event, 14-race tour at VIRginia International Raceway this weekend for the sixth consecutive season, with the 31 car field being as competitive as ever. Early Championship contenders include returning drivers and race winners Remy Audette, from Canada, alongside Americans Chris Livengood and Jonathan Scarallo.
Audette, was the oldest winner in the Series last year at the age of 25, running a partial season effort – and finished third in the overall championship in 2009. Audette Racing will cut back its other Formula Ford and Canadian Touring Car programs to focus on the F2000 Championship Series with the #21 Van Diemen.
Livengood, meanwhile, is back after contesting last year on a shoe-string budget in the decade-old completely stock #37. The Van Diemen will return with major upgrades from John Walko Racing.
“We are showing up with a car that has been revolutionized since last year, and from my perspective I will need to pretty much relearn the track because of this,” said Livengood, who won comfortably at Mid-Ohio last year.
“VIR is a bit different from the other events because of all the testing and track time you get. Work Racing needs to be methodic and steady during these sessions to assure that we make constant progress.”
Joining Audette and Livengood in the race win column from 2010 is Jonathan Scarallo, who is finishing up his first year at college and feels there is unfinished business as he enters his third season, now with Primus Racing.
Alegra Motorsports is back to defend its dominant 2010 title with two rookies in Gustavo Rizzo and Angel Benitez, who, like the rest of the field, will have to learn a new-for-2011 spec tire from Hoosier.
The promising HP-Tech team joins the grid with the new RFR chassis being piloted by aspiring rookies Giancarlo Potolicchio and Robert La Rocca following an extensive offseason testing program.
“I am a new driver, with a new team and a new car,” La Rocca said. “We know we have a lot of work to do to be competitive, and the first races will teach us the most. We don’t know what to expect. We’ve done a lot of testing over the winter, but we haven’t been able to run with 30 other cars yet.”
Multiple-time Formula Continental National Champion Niki Coello will be at VIR for Afterburner Racing in a new RFR, joined by teammate Brian Tomasi in another RFR 010.
Tim Paul emerges for his second season, as the former midget and sprint car pilot moves under the established GTP Motorsports awning for his SMR team.
“For me, the expectation is to get re-acclimated with the Van Diemen after being out of the car since Road America last August,” Paul commented. “The biggest challenge for the weekend will be turn 10. I ran off there a few times last year in practice. Taming it with confidence is key to being quick and being able to defend your position.”
Primus Racing, who notched the last win of 2010 at Mid-Ohio, returns with Australian rookie Nathan Morcom, teammate to Jonathan Scarallo, and has also filed a third entry for VIR, with a name yet to be announced.
“F2000 is going to be a tough series,” Morcom added. “There is a mix of young drivers like myself and some very fast older drivers. And the circuits: VIR, Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Mosport and Lime Rock, they are among the best.”
A fast contingent of established Masters Class drivers are set for the opening rounds of the Championship, led by 2008 Masters Class Champion Tim Minor and front-runner Rob Nicholas.
“We are expecting a top-three car for the weekend,” said Nicholas, driving a Van Diemen for K-Fast. “After the long winter, just getting to the race track and running the new parts together on the car is the most important thing. The new tires will be the biggest challenge; there are a lot more questions than answers surrounding them.”
Formula Atlantic standout team Polestar Racing adds depth to the field, adding another three Masters Class entries for Bill Jordan, Dan Denison and Mark Defer.
The tentative entry list shows four new RFR cars entered for VIRginia International Raceway with much speculation surrounding the speed of the first new chassis to be on track in the F2000 category for some time. Those new RFRs will have to go up against a deep field of aging, but developed and proven Van Diemens.
Follow live action with up-to-the-minute coverage, reporting and photos on F2000Series.com all weekend, and on Twitter @F2000. Thursday kicks off with a full day of testing around the 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit. Friday features officially timed practice sessions, before the first qualifying session on Saturday at 10:30, followed by race one of the 2011 season at 4:30. Action gets started on Sunday at 12:45, with qualifying for the 4:30 green flag. All times are eastern.