It’s been a while since I blogged for the F2000 website. Last time, we were just about to leave for Road Atlanta, where I was able to get the best finish of my F2000 Series career with a second place. That sounds great, which it was, but it was one of the most difficult race weekends of my short racing career with so many unlucky things happening to the team and me.
Between the first two practice sessions at Atlanta, I was only able to complete a total of 12 laps at a track I had never been at. In the first session I had a suspension failure coming out of turn 10B. Then, in the second session ,I was waved out of the pits by a track official and got hit by another car while merging.. This was incredibly frustrating yet we were still third fastest which was a huge confidence boost for me.
Qualifying for race one was one of the most impressive grids I have ever seen in my entire life with how competitive it was. I qualified fifth but was only 11 hundredths of a second off the pole! I was pretty happy with my lap but felt that I could have possibly lost that time in the turn seven and eight complex. But, I know I am a better racer then qualifier so I felt I could move up in the race. More importantly it was good to get a top five starting position after all the hard work the R-Sport team had to do the day before repairing the car.
I got a pretty decent start to race one, but did not get the best exit onto the back straight. This allowed Tim Minor to get a run on me and pass me to put me back in sixth. I remained calm and was playing with my bars, and brake bias to help with the understeer that was developing. With that I was able to catch and pass Tim Kautz for fifth and was starting to run down Minor for fourth. Sadly though, more bad luck would plague us. I had a very rare motor failure exiting turn one. To make it even more dramatic the car caught fire as well, luckily I remembered these cars have a fire extinguisher in them and wisely took advantage of it.
My team “burned the mid night oil” that night putting in a fresh Zetec so the car would be ready the next morning. I would like to give a big thank you to Mike “Purple Frog” Eakin, the chief of tech for the F2000 Championship Series. He was hanging around our trailer talking to my guys as they were changing the motor. Then about five minutes later his wife Janice brings him a change of clothes and before I know it, he’s getting his hands dirty changing my motor with the team as well. I have never seen a series official help like that and Mike did it purely out of the love of the sport. Nobody asked him, nor said anything he just wanted to do it. My fellow competitor Rob Nicholas was also by us doing some calculations, double checking some of the new parts with the new motor going in. Andy Greene from Alegra Motorsports happened to be driving by on his golf cart when he saw my Dad and I cleaning out all the oil lines. Five minutes later, he came back with a huge bag of new, cleaned, fitted lines so we did not have to do that. This really showed how great this series is. The competition is as fierce as it gets on the track, yet when somebody is in trouble everybody helps out to make sure he is on the track the next session.
The next day I qualified fifth once again, but felt that I was a real contender for pole. I had many other laps that were much faster then my flyer but I could not complete them, due to traffic, cars spinning in front of me, safety trucks etc. But I was ready to move up in the race which is when it counts.
At the start I moved up to fourth, narrowly avoiding a crash in front of me, and would pass Fabio Orsolon on lap two in turn 12 for third. I made a minor mistake the next lap in turn six which was just big enough for Fabio and Phil Lombardi to pounce and put me back to fifth.
I kept my head cool and re-passed Lombardi a few laps later to get back up to fourth and started to chase down Rob Nicholas and Fabion for second. Just as I caught them and was strategizing my way around them, they decided to crash in turn eight. I managed to avoid it all and held my position to capture my first podium of the season.
It was a great result; especially after all the hard work my team put in. Plus my teammate Keith McCrone came home in fifth, to put both R-Sport Van Diemens in the top five! Rob, Don, and Paul did such a great job all weekend, and even with all the drama kept such a good attitude and refused to give up. It really is great for a driver to have such a great group of guys behind me, especially on a tough weekend like how Road Atlanta was. It is a huge confidence boost!
Now its time to get ready for Mosport. This track is one of my favorite tracks. It’s such a great place with high speed, terrific elevation changes, a long back straight and more. Plus the Canadian race fans are great. Its incredible how much they know and how passionate they are about the sport which makes it that much more enjoyable when we go. I have been really training hard to be both mentally and physically prepared. Also, I have been hard at work putting together some new potential sponsors and marketing partners so hopefully we will have some announcements in the near future.
See you in Canada!