Pacific F2000 Championship Returns to Action This Weekend at Infineon Raceway;
Top Contenders Star in Recent "East Coast" Cooper Tires F2000 Races at Cleveland
Buttonwillow, Calif. (July 12, 2005) -- The burgeoning Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire has been on hiatus since early April, but will reconvene this weekend at Infineon Raceway in support of the Infineon Technologies Grand Prix of Sonoma. In the meantime, several top contenders took the opportunity to hone their skills -- and display their abilities -- during the most recent rounds of the East Coast-based Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland (Ohio).
Both races were won by highly-rated young Englishman Jay Howard (who remains unbeaten in six races this year), but Pacific F2000 series leader Mike Forest, from Edmonton, Canada, upstaged the East Coast regulars by posting the fastest time in qualifying and claiming the coveted pole position for the first of the weekend's two races at the ultra-fast Burke Lakefront Airport temporary circuit with his Dynacor/Miracle Sealants/Earth Water Mygale SJ04.
Forest, a recent graduate of the University of Alberta who won the first four Pacific F2000 races this season, struggled a little with his car's handling in the first race but still brought home a respectable fourth-place finish. The following day, he made a rocket-like start from ninth on the grid to take second place at the very first corner. Unfortunately, he then crashed heavily after tangling wheels with PR1 Motorsports teammate J.R. Hildebrand.
"I hit the wall at over 120mph; it was a big shunt," said Forest, who sustained heavy bruising to his ribs and hips. "J.R. and I talked about it afterward. We didn't agree about what caused it, but we'll move forward and I'm looking forward to racing this weekend in California."
The Canadian's car sustained extensive damage and was not repaired in time for a test session last week at Infineon Raceway, but Forest will have an opportunity to run the rebuilt car during a test on Thursday (July 14).
Hildebrand, 17, from Sausalito, Calif., who finished a close second in the Saturday race at Cleveland, emerged unscathed from the contact with Forest in Race Two and went on to maintain his remarkable record of podium finishes by claiming third behind Howard and fellow Briton Joey Foster.
"It was a great experience to race in front of the Champ Car World Series crowd at Cleveland," said high school student Hildebrand. "I learned a lot. The incident with Mike was unfortunate and I feel bad about it, but I guess it's just one of those things that's going to happen when the racing is so competitive."
Reigning Pacific F2000 Series Champion Brad Jaeger, from Cincinnati, Ohio, finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the two Cleveland races in a third PR1 Motorsports Mygale.
John Lombardo Jr., from Brea, Calif., who currently stands fourth in the Pacific F2000 Series points table, also made the long journey east in his Napa Auto Parts/Denso/P-1 Racing Van Diemen RF02, finishing 10th in the first race and 11th in the second.
The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire features modern, purpose-built, single-seat, open-wheel race cars powered by either four-cylinder, double-overhead cam, fuel-injected 2.0-liter Ford Zetec engines or the slightly older, carbureted, 2.0-liter Ford "Pinto" engines, both of which produce around 150 horsepower. The cars weigh in at just 1,190 lbs, employ "slick" (treadless) Cooper Zeon racing tires and are capable of speeds in excess of 140mph.
Past F2000 graduates include Champ Car World Series title-winners Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy, two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. and the two most recent Indianapolis 500 race winners, Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon.