Alton, VA – The opening day for the 2010 F2000 season at VIR, featuring five unofficial testing sessions, saw a modest 30 cars spend the day practicing for the double race weekend. Some 35 cars are expected for the official opening to the weekend tomorrow. New drivers, new teams, returning drivers swapping places and more made it an interesting day for the entire paddock.
The newest hardware on the grid is Jesse Yorio’s #5 Piper DF5C/Van Diemen. Thursday morning marked Yorio’s first time ever in the new chassis.
Yorio said: “The car is starting to work and we got a couple good laps in, the Piper I had was a very good car and this is a very improved version.”
At Alegra Motorsports, returning drivers Fabio Orsolon and Victor Carbone were at home in their matching Van Diemens. The teammates lapped at nearly identical times, according to the team, who made some shock changes between sessions.
The majority of the F2000 Series used their abundance of track time to work on engineering and setups for the rest of the weekend.
Audette Racing tried a new lower wing-setup for the #21, driven by returning Canadian Remy Audette, only to find their lower wing element nearly burnt to pieces a few laps later.
SMR, a rookie team from the midget and sprint car ranks, debuted their two car effort for rookie Tim Paul and returning sophomore driver Blake Teeter. Thursday morning was Paul’s first time ever in an F2000 car.
“These things are fast,” commented Paul, driving the #06, the same chassis McDonough won the 2006 title in. “The braking points, turn in points, track out points, all the marks just come so quickly.”
Jonathan Scarallo has his first day under the R-Sport tent, commenting: “The car is pretty awesome. It rolled off the trailer fast and we only made one minor change to the shocks which wasn’t even a big deal.”
The morning sessions saw some speed bumps for K-Hill Motorsports with rookie driver Billy McLaughlin going off-track in his first session, sustaining heavy damage to the #57. His K-Hill teammate, 2007 F2000 title holder Cole Morgan had his rear wing collapse at speed along with the starter motor on the #1 Van Diemen stripping some teeth on the flywheel.
Newcomer and British Formula Ford driver Daniel Erickson, from Australia, turned his first laps in the #02 for Primus Racing.
“It was good to get back in the car,” said Morgan. “During the morning session we came in for some changes and I thought we had gone the total wrong way on the setup but it turned out the bigger, lower element on the rear wing had come off.”
One of the other talking points in the paddock is the new Radon aero kit seen on the GTP and SMR Van Diemens. The latest update-kit features new rear-wing end-plates that extend down to a sleek diffuser.
The lunch break saw ADSA/Wright changing shock valving before battling gearbox issues on Robert Wright’s #90. F2000 newcomers SMR spent the afternoon looking for a new Zetec engine for Teeter’s #14, which expired in a big way during the second morning session.
At GTP Motorsports, Phil Lombardi, driving the #3 Van Diemen said: “So far, so good. We were struggling with the balance of the car a bit but we made some changes and are now comfortable with the setup we have. This gives us an opportunity to use tomorrow for some experimenting.”
For some, VIR is the first time back in a car since last year’s season finale at Mid-Ohio. Tim Minor, the 2008 Masters Class Champion said that, “the car is great but I haven’t been in it since last August, so at this point I am just knocking the cobwebs out.”
A very late addition to the VIR field is Tim Walsh, in the #03 Van Diemen/Zetec. Walsh competed at VIR last season and has SCCA Run-Offs experience. The car is being fielded by Z-Sports.
Formula Ford standout Chris Keller was seen making the rounds, as well as 2006 F2000 Champion Matthew McDonough, who is here this weekend as a driver coach for Paul Farmer in the lone MyGale chassis.
The F2000 Championship Series at VIR continues tomorrow, Friday April 9 with official practice sessions, while Saturday and Sunday both have a morning qualifying session followed by an afternoon 30-minute or 14-lap race. Fans and competitors can follow live updates, news and photos on www.F2000ChampionshipSeries.com or on Twitter @F2000.