La Rocca Goes Flag-to-Flag at VIR

April 15, 2012
La Rocca took his first win at VIR. (photo: Dennis Valet)

Alton, VA – Robert La Rocca led every lap in the F2000 Championship Series season opener at VIR from pole en route to his first career F2000 victory in the No. 10 HP-Tech Motorsport Van Diemen. La Rocca faced a brief challenge following opening-lap contact with Wyatt Gooden from Fabio Orsolon’s GTP Motorsports Radon before checking out on the 32-car field, and setting fast lap, ensuring all the Championship points for the day. Orsolon finished second in the best-ever result for the Radon ahead of Niki Coello in the No. 81 RFR.

“That was a good race,” said La Rocca, who took the first ever F2000 win for HP-Tech. “The car was consistent and fast, I need to thank the team for the car they put under me.”

At the drop of the green, La Rocca and Gooden went side-by-side out of turn one, with the two cars making contact. Gooden would retire from the incident while La Rocca went on to victory lane.

Despite the flurry of chassis activity over the offseason, a Van Diemen was still first at VIR, and Van Diemens have won all F2000 races since 2006.

Orsolon was able to stay with La Rocca at the start of the race but as the all-green-flag 14 lap event developed, La Rocca disappeared.

For Orsolon, it was best finish since 2010, and he noted that his result underscored the speed and the development behind the new Radon chassis.

Coello was the first of the RFRs in third, following a near all-nighter to repair a broken bolt in the No. 81.

“After all that effort, this feels good, I need to thank the crew and everyone who helped on the car last night, there must have been 15 people under our awning at some point,” said Coello. “The Firman car worked awesome today.”

Kevin Kopp finished fourth in his first ever F2000 start while Dave Weitzenhof rounded out the top five in the No. 67 Citation chassis and won the Masters Class.

Tim Minor was sixth, followed by Kyle Connery in the No. 91 RFR. Connery finished on the podium at VIR in 2011 with a Van Diemen.

The SMR/GTP No. 06 of Tim Paul was eighth. Paul said the car had lost front end grip as the race went on, but noted he was happy to take home the points.

Brent Gilkes and Nick Palacio completed the top ten.

“This was my first pro race and to be in the top ten is a good feeling,” said Palacio, who is receiving engineering support from Primus Racing. “For tomorrow we are going to take a look at the data and see where we can improve.”

John Walko Racing’s Chris Livengood, who finished second in last year’s Championship, was a distant 14th.

Nathan Morcom won the CellMark Paper Hard Charger award, going from 31st to 15th.

“There were a lot of close calls in that race,” said the Australian. “I was getting good runs on the straight and the car was good, but it developed some understeer towards the end.”

The weekend concludes tomorrow, Sunday, April 15, with a 12:00pm local time qualifying session followed by a 3:00pm race.  Live audio and commentary, results, photos and more is available on F2000Series.com

Race Results:
Pos No. Name Laps Total Tm Diff Gap Avg. Speed Best Tm Best Spd 1 10 Robert LaRocca 14 27:12.413 - - 100.960 1:55.852 101.612 2 77 Fabio Orsolon 14 27:20.119 +7.706 +7.706 100.485 1:55.932 101.542 3 81 Niki Coello 14 27:29.486 +17.073 +9.367 99.915 1:56.650 100.917 4 66 Kevin Kopp 14 27:30.054 +17.641 +0.568 99.880 1:56.837 100.756 5 67 Dave Weitzenhof/M 14 27:32.424 +20.011 +2.370 99.737 1:56.722 100.855 6 88 Tim Minor/M 14 27:33.131 +20.718 +0.707 99.694 1:56.876 100.722 7 91 Kyle Connery 14 27:35.853 +23.440 +2.722 99.531 1:57.244 100.406 8 06 Tim Paul 14 27:40.126 +27.713 +4.273 99.274 1:57.724 99.997 9 7 Brent Gilkes/M 14 27:44.001 +31.588 +3.875 99.043 1:57.983 99.777 10 5 Nick Palacio 14 27:44.206 +31.793 +0.205 99.031 1:57.662 100.049 11 16 Peter Gonzalez/M 14 28:00.921 +48.508 +16.715 98.046 1:58.155 99.632 12 70 Tom Fatur/M 14 28:01.245 +48.832 +0.324 98.027 1:58.405 99.421 13 52 Dean Baker/M 14 28:01.468 +49.055 +0.223 98.014 1:58.402 99.424 14 37 Chris Livengood 14 28:02.623 +50.210 +1.155 97.947 1:56.472 101.072 15 11 Nathan Morcom 14 28:08.559 +56.146 +5.936 97.603 1:58.548 99.302 16 8 Mark Defer/M 14 28:12.037 +59.624 +3.478 97.402 1:58.118 99.663 17 83 Charles Finelli/M 14 28:13.812 +1:01.399 +1.775 97.300 1:58.924 98.988 18 18 Zach Craigo 14 28:14.023 +1:01.610 +0.211 97.288 1:57.055 100.568 19 9 Jose Montiel 14 28:14.371 +1:01.958 +0.348 97.268 1:58.333 99.482 20 42 Bill Jordan/M 14 28:15.009 +1:02.596 +0.638 97.231 1:58.418 99.411 21 59 Shaun Miller 14 28:20.161 +1:07.748 +5.152 96.937 1:59.227 98.736 22 72 Thomas Schwietz/M 14 28:22.400 +1:09.987 +2.239 96.809 1:59.961 98.132 23 15 Aaron Pettipas 14 28:30.840 +1:18.427 +8.440 96.332 1:59.541 98.477 24 73 Vaughn Horvath 14 28:43.535 +1:31.122 +12.695 95.622 1:59.703 98.343 25 51 Dan Denison/M 13 26:22.970 1 Lap 1 Lap 96.677 1:59.170 98.783 26 19 John Brumder 13 26:28.989 +6.019 +6.019 96.310 1:59.956 98.136 27 27 Craig Clawson/M 13 27:29.248 +1:06.278 +1:00.259 92.791 1:59.736 98.316 28 17 John LaRue/M 12 23:55.015 2 Laps 1 Lap 98.441 1:57.159 100.479 29 25 Jeff McCusker/M 11 22:25.714 3 Laps 1 Lap 96.225 2:00.115 98.006 30 31 Brendan Puderbach 5 10:22.813 9 Laps 6 Laps 94.507 2:00.417 97.760 31 14 Jose Gerardo 5 10:23.316 +0.503 +0.503 94.430 2:00.034 98.072 32 6 Wyatt Gooden 4 8:08.113 10 Laps 1 Lap 96.469 1:57.468 100.215 33 90 Robert Wright/M 3 6:17.396 11 Laps 1 Lap 93.578 2:00.291 97.863 DNS 2 Rob Allaer 0 -.--- - - - -.--- -