FF2000 CHAMPION ZAK MORIOKA LOOKS SHARP IN SERIES SPONSORED ATLANTIC TEST SESSION HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (Sept. 18) - 1997 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Champion Zak Morioka, of Sao Paula, Brazil, completed a productive series...
FF2000 CHAMPION ZAK MORIOKA LOOKS SHARP IN SERIES SPONSORED ATLANTIC TEST SESSION
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (Sept. 18) - 1997 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Champion Zak Morioka, of Sao Paula, Brazil, completed a productive series administered test session Sept. 17, under the direction of 1997 KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic champion Lynx Racing and team manager Steve Cameron.
The test session, which was awarded to Morioka by the Yokohama Tire Corporation, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, KOOL, and Player's, was conducted at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, north of Bakersfield, Calif. Sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted Morioka, who ran a structured testing agenda which included morning and afternoon "hot lap" track sessions. Morioka skillfully piloted the Lynx Racing Ralt RT-41, the same car that 1997 KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Champion Alex Barron drove to five victories last season, to within base lap times as established by Cameron that were crisp, clean, and extremely fast. "My first impression of the car was that it handled much different than the Formula 2000 car," said Morioka. "Many of the drivers I spoke with before the test thought the cars were very similar. I disagree. I found the Atlantic had much more grip and engine than the '2000' cars. I had to get used to how the Atlantic car stuck to wherever it was on the track. I also had to get used to the set-up because of the ground effects. Once I got used to the way it turned and reacted to the track, I started to feel very comfortable. I really like the Toyota engine. It's powerful, so I'm also glad the brakes are strong. It took a little time to get used to the brakes because the car can stop so much faster than I'm used to. "Other than wheels, wings and the steering wheel, I thought the Atlantic car was very different than a two-liter car. It was more physically demanding than I thought. You really have to be in good shape to race Atlantic cars. It was a lot of fun though, and I would now would have to recommend Atlantic cars to any of my friends looking for a fast, fun, and competitive race car." Morioka was a two-time winner in the 1997 U.S. Formula Ford National Championship with victories at Pikes Peak and Mid-Ohio. He also scored podium finishes at Phoenix (third place), Savannah (second place), and Charlotte (third place). The U.S. FF2000 National Championship is jointly sanctioned by USAC and the SCCA, and included a 12-race schedule in 1997 on road courses, street circuits, and ovals.
"This has been a fruitful day for Zak," cited Cameron. "I think he's somewhat surprised at the amount of grip and the physical effort required to drive Atlantic cars. This circuit was more difficult than most because we used some long-duration high-speed corners, which was actually quite good because it gave him a chance to really feel the ground effects. Ground effects are the biggest difference between Atlantic and two-liter cars." "Zak also had to adapt to the difference between a bias-ply and a radial tire. I think he made that transition well. As he became more familiar with the car, we looked at the data from the computer and he was able to see how he had to adjust his driver's style to capitalize on the different aspects needed to optimize this car versus a two-liter car." The KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship, which is sanctioned SCCA Pro Racing, is the longest racing and richest open-wheel development series in North America, offering more than $1.38 million in total prize money. 1998 will mark the 25th anniversary season of Atlantic racing in North America.