NA-F2000: Mid-Ohio preview

Cooper Series Leader Jay Howard Faces New Challenger at Mid-Ohio Pacific F2000 Series Leader Mike Forest To Take On Regular Cooper Series Front-Runners St. Petersburg, Fla. (May 12, 2005) -- The third and fourth rounds of the 2005 Cooper Tires...

Cooper Series Leader Jay Howard Faces New Challenger at Mid-Ohio

Pacific F2000 Series Leader Mike Forest To Take On Regular Cooper Series Front-Runners

St. Petersburg, Fla. (May 12, 2005) -- The third and fourth rounds of the 2005 Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars will take place as part of the American Le Mans Series weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, May 19-21, and will feature an intriguing battle between championship leader Jay Howard and his counterpart in the West Coast-based Pacific F2000 Championship, Mike Forest.

Howard, 24, from Basildon, England, scored a pair of victories in his Aiken Racing Van Diemen RF03 when the 2005 title-chase kicked off at Road Atlanta last month. The gifted Briton currently holds an eight-point advantage (63-51) over Ontario, Calif., youngster Jason Bowles, who finished second in both races.

"To be honest, I really don't pay too much attention to who I'm going to be racing against," says Howard, who carved a fine reputation for himself in Europe, firstly in karting and more recently in Formula Ford and Formula Renault competition, before seeking to further his career in North America. "Some people might think I'm a bit arrogant, but I always go to a race to do my best and just concentrate on what I'm doing, not on what anyone else is doing. Having said that, I'm very much looking forward to racing against [Forest] because if I do beat him, it will raise my profile a little bit more."

Forest, 23, from Edmonton, Canada, already has clinched this year's Pacific F2000 series' "Spring Cup" by virtue of his four wins from six starts in a PR1 Motorsports Mygale SJ03. The West Coast series, which has drawn an impressive field averaging 27 cars to the first six races, is currently on hiatus and will resume later in the summer with three more weekends (each comprising two races) to determine the winners both of the overall championship and the "Summer Cup" which will be awarded to the top point-scorer from the final six races.

"I've never been to Mid-Ohio before but I've watched quite a few videos and it looks like a real drivers' track, a beautiful place," says Forest. "I'm really looking forward to it. I know there's going to be some pretty fierce competition. Obviously Jay Howard will be a leading contender, along with Jason Bowles who I raced against at Fontana last year [in the Pacific F2000 series] and Chris Guerrieri, who I raced against in the Canadian Formula Ford Championship [won by Guerrieri, now 21, in 2003].

"But our approach will be the same as always," Forest continues, "just put our heads down and do the best job we can."

A field of close to 40 cars is expected at Mid-Ohio, including contenders for the Cooper Masters Series, for drivers over 35 years of age, and the Cooper Gold Cup for Pinto-engined SCCA Formula Continental-spec cars.

Coincidentally, Venezuelan drivers scooped top honors in the series opener at Road Atlanta. Enzo Potolicchio currently leads the Master Series with a seven-point advantage over Jason Byers, from Livonia, Mich., while Riccardo Vassmer, 21, holds a handy lead in the Gold Cup standings after claiming two victories.

The Cooper Series, sanctioned by the Grand American Road Racing Association, represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel auto racing ladder in North America. It features purpose-built, single-seat race cars powered by either double-overhead cam, fuel-injected 2.0-liter Ford Zetec engines, which produce around 170 hp, or the older, slightly less powerful, carbureted 2.0-liter Ford "Pinto" engines. The cars employ "slick" (treadless) Cooper Zeon racing tires and are capable of speeds in excess of 140 mph.

Many top-line drivers have graduated through the category, including 1996 Champ Car World Series titlist Jimmy Vasser, two-time Indy Racing League Champion Sam Hornish Jr., reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice and current IRL points leader Dan Wheldon, who already has three victories to his credit this year.

-www.cooperseries.com

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jason Bowles , Jay Howard , Mike Forest , Sam Hornish Jr. , Enzo Potolicchio