Alton, VA – The test day before the opening rounds of the 2011 F2000 Championship Season at VIRginia International Raceway delivered the stout F2000 field two and a half hours of track time to shake down cars, crew, new spec tires and more on an almost-cloudless day in Southern Virginia. Combined session times at the end of the day showed Canadian Remy Audette fastest at 1:55.103 in a newly painted #21, followed by rookie Kyle Connery, Chris Livengood, Alegra’s Angel Benitez, also a rookie, and Tim Minor, the top Masters Class driver.
Audette said: “we had a small problem at the Oak Tree turn and went off, breaking the nose and one track rod, I was a bit too excited trying to pass Dave Weitzenhof. However, we got the car back together and we are happy with the result. We are going to make some small changes and try to continue being consistent.”
Chris Livengood improved throughout the day in the #37 Van Diemen/Zetec. Livengood, along with Audette are considered championship contenders and both won races in 2010.
Kyle Connery put his Van Diemen/Zetec on top of the charts in the opening 30-minute session of the day, some two seconds off the qualifying track record as there was little grip to be found on a green race track. Connery, a F2000 rookie, has a long karting history and is driving the same chassis Ben Searcy won in, in 2009 at VIR.
“We’re very happy to be near the front,” stated Connery. “We are looking for sponsorship so we are pleased with the result; we are biting away at the setup, bit by bit. A top three result this weekend would be reasonable.”
In the next session, it was a throwback to 2010 with Alegra Motorsports’ rookie driver Angel Benitez going quickest ahead of Chris Livengood, Tim Minor, Jonathan Scarallo and Robert La Rocca. Benitez set the fourth fastest time of the day but went off in an afternoon session.
La Rocca, in the new RFR chassis for HP-Tech Motorsports, was quick throughout the day, setting the sixth fastest time overall.
“I’m really happy, we’re off to a good start,” said La Rocca. “The track is coming in and getting faster and we are still working on the setup.”
Joining La Rocca at HP-Tech is Giancarlo Potolicchio, also from Venezuela, and piloting the #22 RFR/Van Diemen.
The third RFR at VIR, Brian Tomasi, was 16th fastest out of 26 cars that logged lap times, as some entries chose not to use their transponders.
Series rookies Nathan Morcom and Steele Guiliana, both from Australia and driving for Primus Racing, had a solid test day, although did not officially set any times as neither car had a working transponder.
“This is the first time I’ve done a double weekend like this with two qualifying sessions,” said 19-year-old Morcom. The Australian comes to Primus Racing after having run a Formula F Australian series in 2010.
Guiliana, meanwhile, has been racing since 1998, when he started in karts. Currently 19 years old, the Primus driver ran in the 2009 Pacific Formula BMW championship.
“I’ve driven an F3 car before and the F2000 car is similar to that,” Guiliana commented. “My goal for the weekend is to be in the top three and come out of it with a podium. Qualifying will be super important as there is a big field.”
Rob Nicholas was one of the causalities of the day, suffering a massively blown Zetec in the first few minutes of the opening session in his Van Diemen.
Nicholas will move to a unique Citation chassis, borrowed from engineer Eric Langbien, for the rest of the event.
“It’s a big step away from the Van Diemen,” explained Nicholas. “The car turns in like it’s a go-kart.”
Nicholas will be one of two Citation chassis in the field, joining Dave Weitzenhof, multiple SCCA National Champion and Masters Class front-runner.
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.