Veterans Look to End British Dominance as Cooper Series Returns to Mid-Ohio
St. Petersburg, Fla. (August 23, 2005) -- A pair of British rookies have dominated this year's Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars, but a strong contingent of Americans have their sights set on ending that streak when a full field of F2000 campaigners returns to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend in support of the EMCO Gears Classic, Round 10 of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.
Jay Howard, from Basildon, Essex, England, will start as a firm favorite with Aiken Racing's #22 newhoneys.com Van Diemen RF03. Howard, 24, has won seven of the first eight races this season, including a pair of triumphs at Mid-Ohio in May. Countryman Joey Foster, 23, from Truro, Cornwall, also will be among the pace-setters with Cape Motorsports' #3 Bradfords/BRDC/Keenpine/Woodpecker Pine Van Diemen RF01. Foster earned a pole on his Mid-Ohio debut and recently scored a long overdue maiden victory at Road America.
Another driver to shine earlier this month in Wisconsin was 46-year-old Jason Byers, who secured a pair of podium finishes at Road America with St. Clair Motorsports' #28 A&B Refrigeration Van Diemen RF03. The results elevated Byers, from Livonia, Mich., to third place in the overall series point standings and catapulted him into the lead of the Cooper Masters Series, for drivers aged 35 or over.
"It was an amazing weekend," said Byers, who achieved much success in SCCA Club Racing before moving into the professional ranks on a regular basis last year. "St. Clair did a great job and the car was really working well. Two Masters wins and two podiums; that was a bonus."
Byers' best result during his rookie campaign in 2004 came at Mid-Ohio, where he finished fourth.
"It's a wonderful track and a great place to race," said Byers. "I had a tough weekend there in May [placing outside the top 10 in both races], but I'm looking for a lot more this weekend."
Fellow Cooper Masters Series contender Matthew McDonough also will enter the weekend with high hopes. Business commitments prevented McDonough from competing at Road America, but the resident of West Newbury, Mass., served notice of his capabilities by guiding the #19 TASC Technical Services/GTP Motorsports Van Diemen RF02 to a pair of third-place finishes at Mid-Ohio in May.
Other talented drivers to keep an eye on include 2003 Canadian Formula Ford Champion Christopher Guerrieri, 22, from Pickering, Ontario, Canada, in the #11 Aiken Racing Van Diemen RF05; 17-year-old rookie Nick Haye (#8 Think TogetherPremier Bank/JDC Motorsports Van Diemen RF01), from Huntington Beach, Calif.; Brian Tomasi (#18 HM Motorsports Van Diemen RF01), from Elgin, Ill., who won last year's SCCA Formula Continental National Championship Runoff at Mid-Ohio; and a young man who will attempt to follow in Tomasi's footsteps, Ricardo Vassmer, from Caracas, Venezuela, who has won six out of eight Cooper Gold Cup races (for Formula Continental-spec cars) in the #25UltraLub/Comprent Van Diemen RF01.
The Cooper Series is sanctioned by the Grand American Road Racing Association and represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel auto racing ladder in North America. It features modern, purpose-built, single-seat race cars powered by either four-cylinder, 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 which will be vying for Cooper Gold Cup honors. All cars employ "slick" (treadless) Cooper Zeon racing tires and are capable of speeds in excess of 140 mph.
Formula Ford 2000 originated in England in 1974. Alumni include Formula 1 World Champions Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill; Champ Car World Series title-winners Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy; Indy Racing League Champion Sam Hornish Jr.; and the past two Indianapolis 500 winners Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon.
The first of this weekend's pair of 30-minute races will start at 2:45 pm on Saturday. The green flag for Race Two is slated for 10:15 am on Sunday.