Forest Makes Trip From Edmonton Worthwhile By Snaring Pacific F2000 Season Opener

Fontana, Calif. (January 29, 2005) ---- Mike Forest, from Edmonton, Alberta, earned a narrow victory over teenaged teammate J.R. Hildebrand in this afternoon's exciting opening round of the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire at the 2.88-mile California Speedway road course.

The pair of PR1 Motorsports Mygale SJ04s worked their way clear of an impressive field of 26 cars and became embroiled in a see-saw battle for supremacy. Forest had started from the pole after posting the fastest lap in qualifying, but Hildebrand, from Sausalito, Calif., quickly moved up from fifth on the grid (his car had suffered a broken throttle sensor in qualifying, restricting him to just a handful of laps) and took the lead on Lap Three. Forest, however, never allowed Hildebrand to pull away, and eventually regained the advantage with a bold maneuver on Lap 10. They were separated by a scant 0.365 seconds at the finish line.

"He had places where he was quicker, and so did I," recounted Forest. "I just had to figure out where to make my move. That was a huge amount of fun. It was a great race."

"I couldn't get out of the corner leading onto the front straight," said 17-year-old Hildebrand, who made a stunning F2000 debut after winning last year's ESPN Formula Russell Championship. "I kept on picking up this nasty understeer. But hey, for my first time in the car, I'm happy."

Tim Harris, from Irvine, Calif., and John Lombardo Jr., from Brea, Calif., enjoyed a similarly close battle for third place before Lombardo encountered some slower traffic in the closing stages which enabled Harris to secure the final podium position.

Defending Pacific F2000 Champion Brad Jaeger, from Cincinnati, Ohio, couldn't quite match the leading pace and finished a relatively lonely fifth ahead of Mark Peller, from Irvine, Calif.

Efrain Olivares Jr. was the highest placed of those running the older Ford "Pinto" engine, rather than the more popular Ford Zetec powerplant. Olivares finished 13th.

Qualifying for Round 2 will take place tomorrow morning, with the race due to commence at 2.50 p.m.

Round 1 results (12 laps): 1. Mike Forest (Mygale SJ04), 20m 32.382s; 2. J.R. Hildebrand (Mygale SJ04), 20m 32.747s; 3. Tim Harris (Van Diemen RF03), 20m 40.134s; 4. John Lombardo Jr. (Van Diemen RF02), 20m 41.291s; 5. Brad Jaeger (Mygale SJ04), 20m 45.066s; 6. Mark Peller (Van Diemen RF03), 20m 54.470s; 7. Robert Podlesni (Van Diemen RF03), 21m 02.424s; 8. Bob Negron (Van Diemen RF99), 21m 14.438s; 9. Clark Cambern (Van Diemen RF03), 21m 14.469s; 10. Scott Foutch (Van Diemen RF03), 21m 22.966s;

11. Peter Hastrup (Van Diemen RF02), 21m 27.114s; 12. Al Salvo (Mygale SJ04), 21m 27.354s; 13. Efrain Olivares Jr. (Van Diemen RF97-Ivey/Pinto), 21m 29.291s; 14. Tom Hope (Van Diemen RF98-Ivey/Pinto), 21m 31.827s; 15. Scott Rarick (Van Diemen RF03), 21m 31.918s; 16. Greg Minium (Mygale SJ04), 21m 45.135s; 17. Steven Kries (Van Diemen RF01), 21m 45.829s; 18. Chris Spreitzer (Van Diemen RF94-Loyning/Pinto), 21m 48.818s; 19. Gary LaHaie (Van Diemen RF03), 22m 12.680s; 20. Fiorenzo Tirinnanzi (Van Diemen RF02), 11 laps;

21. Gary Peterson (Crossle 71F-DFR/Pinto), 11 laps; 22. Dennis Goughary (Carbir DS3-Elite/Pinto), 10 laps; 23. Paul Marciano Jr. (Van Diemen RF03), 9 laps, not running; 24. Bill Modisette (Van Diemen RF96-Ivey/Pinto), 2 laps, not running; 25. Dennis Russell (Van Diemen RF99-Elite/Pinto), 2 laps, not running; Les Phillips (Van Diemen RF01-Ivey/Pinto), did not start, engine.

Fastest race lap: Hildebrand, 1m 41.742s, 101.905 mph.