NA-F2000: Morioka Pikes Peak Advance

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com Hayes Motorsports Hopes for 'Home-Track' Advantage With Morioka in U.S. FF2000 Race FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 22 - Even...

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com

Hayes Motorsports Hopes for 'Home-Track' Advantage With Morioka in U.S. FF2000 Race

FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 22 - Even though they've never been there before, it's home.

The Hayes Motorsports team, based in Aurora, Colo., will get its first look at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway in Fountain, Colo., this coming Wednesday when its truck and trailer bring Zak Morioka's Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil U.S. Formula Ford 2000 car onto the grounds of the new 1-mile speedway.

For a team that usually has about a 2,000-mile tow to the track at which it is competing, the 80 miles from Aurora to Fountain is more like a quick hop for groceries than a typical haul to the races. Whether that will translate to a "home-track" advantage remains to be seen, but the team has high hopes for the first U.S. Formula Ford 2000 race in its home state on Sunday.

Rick Hayes of Aurora is the team manager and crew chief. His brother John, who resides in Denver, is the team engineer. Brian Sharp of Boulder, Colo., and Rory Pedersen of Hebron, Ill., serve as mechanics.

They field the Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil/A.M.E. Sports No. 27 Van Diemen in U.S. Formula Ford 2000 competition for 18-year-old rising star Zak Morioka of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Miami, Fla. The team is currently fourth in the overall point standings, and Morioka is coming off his best finish ever in the series with a second-place run May 18 in Savannah, Ga.

Team manager Rick Hayes, who was graduated from Hinkley High School in Aurora in 1981, has lived in Aurora since 1972. His older brother John has operated a racing business in the area since 1980, for which Rick has played an integral role.

Rick Hayes assisted Randy Ruyle in preparing Morioka's car last year in the U.S. Formula Ford 2000 series, and took over Ruyle's responsibilities at the beginning of this year when Ruyle advanced to the Indy Racing League with driver Jim Guthrie.

So far this year Hayes Motorsports and Morioka have competed at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida; a street course in St. Petersburg, Fla.; three races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway, and the event at Savannah, Ga. Following this weekend's race on Pikes Peak Intl Raceway's oval they'll be off to Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway for a double-race weekend; the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for an appearance with the CART World Series cars, and a doubleheader at Watkins Glen, N.Y., to conclude the 12-race series.

Add to that several testing sessions sprinkled throughout the year, and it's easy to see that with all that traveling, this weekend's event at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway will be like racing in their own back yard.

"It's nice to be staying in Colorado," notes Rick Hayes. "The closest pro race we've ever competed at before was at Heartland Park Topeka, and that's about an eight-hour drive."

The Hayes brothers have a great deal of solid racing experience behind them, and they've won championships together.

They started in club racing with Formula Fords (1600s) and advanced to the pro Formula 2000 ranks in 1985 in Canada. That series, sponsored first by Canadian Tire and then by Export A, was extremely competitive, and in 1985 the Hayes brothers ran a two-car team which finished fourth and 12th overall in the championship.

In 1986 the car they prepared finished fourth and in 1987 their efforts were rewarded with a third-place finish overall. They got their first taste of real glory in 1988 when they won the series championship overall with driver Claude Bourbonnais, who has gone on to IRL competition. The team also won the Formula 2000 SCCA amateur national championships at the Valvoline Runoffs at Road Atlanta that year.

In 1989 the brothers again won the Export A 2000 pro championship and also advanced to the Atlantic series, where Bourbonnais finished third overall despite only competing in seven of the 11 events.

The Hayes brothers worked on Christian Vandal's Export A Formula 2000 car in 1990, finishing fourth overall that year. In 1991 John helped win that title again, this time with Jeff Girard behind the wheel. That year Rick was on P.J. Jones' Indy Lights team, which finished third overall in that series.

The brothers worked together again in 1992, this time for Landford Racing in the Indy Lights series with drivers Marco Greco, Mario Dominguez and Phillipe Favre. (Greco, who will be in Sunday's IRL race as part of the Galles team, did the best of the group with eighth place in the overall standings.)

The following year Rick worked for Competition Preparation, which fielded Peter Barron in the Olds Pro series. Rick worked for Dennis Eades for part of the year in 1994 in that series and then joined John on Kevin West's pro 2000 effort, which culminated in a fourth-place finish in the overall USAC FF2000 championship at year's end.

Ruyle hired Rick Hayes to assist him with Clay Collier's efforts at the last race of 1994, in which Collier clinched that year's U.S. Formula Ford 2000 national championship. Ruyle and Rick Hayes worked together with Morioka in FF2000 in 1995 and 1996, with Rick Hayes assuming the team manager role for Morioka at the beginning of this season.

In addition to assisting his brother with Morioka's efforts this year, John Hayes also works on the Indy Lights team of another Brazilian, Sergio Paese. Last year he was the chief engineer on Bourbonnais' Indy Lights car.

Morioka finished 11th last year in both the overall FF2000 national championship and in that series' oval crown standings. The 18-year-old, who competes against drivers two- and even three-times his age, has two podium finishes so far this year: a third on the oval at Phoenix and the runner-up spot at Savannah.

The Hayes brothers' experience and the momentum Morioka carries into this weekend with his second-place finish at Savannah has the team cautiously optimistic. Like the other FF2000 teams, they'll start with their basic oval-track set-up in practice and go from there.

The tentative schedule for the Samsonite 200 weekend shows an open test for the FF2000 cars from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday. Friday has more practice sessions for the division at 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

The top 20 starting positions will be determined in time trials Saturday at 10:30 a.m., right before qualifying for the Indy Racing League (IRL) cars. Positions 21-34 will be determined in a 20-lap consy at 3 p.m. Saturday, right before the "Happy Hour" IRL practice session at 3:45 p.m.

The FF2000 cars will get a 15-minute warm-up session Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m. prior to their 50-lap/50-mile race at 10:30 a.m., just two and a half hours before the start of the IRL's Samsonite 200.

ESPN2 has set a tentative date of Saturday, July 19 at 1:30 p.m. for its broadcast of the FF2000 race at Pikes Peak, with a re-airing at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 23.

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