Spark Plug Wire Robs Erickson of Win
A loose spark plug lead has cost Daniel Erickson victory in the second round of the American F2000 Championship Series.
The 22 year-old Sydney driver was leading comfortably with less than three laps remaining at Virginia International Raceway when his Van Diemen suddenly went onto three cylinders.
After that, Erickson was literally powerless to stop his pursuers catching and passing the ailing race car.
He finished 10th in the 14-lap, 74km race, which was won by American Cole Morgan, also in a Van Diemen.
Despite Erickson's disappointment after the race, he said that many positives had come from his flying visit to the F2000 Championship Series.
"Of course I was gutted to lose what looked like a certain win today, but more importantly I've proved to myself – and hopefully to others – that I'm capable of winning in a highly competitive 'development' openwheel formula.
"I started both races from pole position, set a new qualifying lap record, finished second in the first race by half a car-length after mis-timing my first ever rolling race start, and had the second race won until a spark plug lead came loose.
"That's in a formula and on a circuit that I'd never seen, let alone driven, until the Thursday before the race meeting, and against drivers with considerable experience in F2000 and at Virginia International Raceway.
"After this weekend and my successful Formula Star Mazda test last December, I have no doubt that I could fight for the F2000 Championship Series title – or any other 'development' openwheel championship."
Erickson said that he learned a valuable lesson from being outjumped at the start of Saturday's race.
"In the first race I waited until the starter waved the green flag, which is what we'd been told to do at the drivers' briefing, but by then the guys around me were already into it.
"Obviously 'waved' means different things to different people!
"Today I jumped on the throttle as soon as I saw the green flag, and didn't give the others a chance to pass me into the first corner.
"I drove the first few laps as hard as I could to open a couple of seconds' lead, and then kept the pressure on to maintain the gap.
"Everything went smoothly until lap 12, when the engine made a terrible noise as I went up the hill before Turn 10.
"At first I thought there must be a serious engine problem, and I was ready to pull off the track straight away or into the pits at the end of the lap.
"But it was only a loose spark plug lead, so the engine kept going on three cylinders.
"I lost a lot of places, but I drove until the end of the race to pick up as many championship points as I could."
Erickson said the entire Primus Team was as disappointed as he was after the race.
"We were all shattered – especially Jon Baytos, who owns Primus Racing and has backed many successful young drivers in the past.
"Jon worked with me non-stop to fine-tune the car's handling from the moment I arrived on Thursday.
"By Saturday we had a pole-winning and potential race-winning package, and on Sunday it was close to perfect.
"Our qualifying performance on both days was amazing, not just the new qualifying track record on Saturday but the margins over the other drivers (0.344s for Round 1; 0.461s for Round 2)," he said.
Erickson said that coming so close to winning both races has given him extra motivation to contest further rounds of the 2010 F2000 Championship Series.
"I know now that I can take it up to anyone in this year's F2000 Championship Series.
"I just hope that I can come back to America for the remaining rounds, because there's some 'unfinished business' to take care of," he said.