Canada's Mike Forest Completes Second Straight Pacific F2000 Championship Sweep
Las Vegas, Nev. (March 20, 2005) -- Mike Forest continued his domination of the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire by taking the pole and then leading throughout this afternoon's 18-lap second race of the weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway road course.
Forest now has won all four races this year and taken a commanding lead in the Pacific F2000 Series' "Spring Cup" initiative, which comprises the opening six rounds of the 12-race season and will be concluded with another pair of events in two weeks' time at Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona.
This time, however -- for the very first time -- the 23-year-old from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, earned the maximum 24 points on offer by winning the race and scooping the two bonus points apiece for posting the quickest lap in qualifying and setting the fastest lap of the race.
"It was a good weekend," said Forest, who is fast becoming not only a superior force in F2000 racing but also a master of understatement. "We ran a slightly different configuration of the track than we did last year and I think it was definitely an improvement. It's a very technical track and flows better -- much better to drive."
Forest was pushed hard in the opening stages by fast-emerging teenager Robert Podlesni. But the youngster then slipped back into the clutches of Forest's PR1 Motorsports teammate Brad Jaeger, giving Forest a clear run to the checkered flag.
"It was pretty tough for the first half," said Forest. "Podlesni was quite fast and all over my tail pipes. It definitely wasn't easy. Then I saw him battling Brad and it gave me a chance to concentrate on my driving and pull away a bit."
Forest now holds a commanding 22-point lead in the championship.
Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., continued to hold off the defending series champion, Jaeger, until just three corners shy of the finish line, when he lost control of his Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen and spun.
"If the race had been 25 minutes' long it would have been spectacular," he said wryly. "I went in too deep and just pushed right off the track. Just driver error; I messed up. But hey, you learn from your mistakes, right?"
Podlesni's late slip allowed Jaeger to take over second place, albeit almost five seconds adrift of the fleeing Forest. Jaeger, meanwhile, had his mirrors filled by yet another PR1 Mygale, that of J.R. Hildebrand, who had driven impressively from eighth on the grid after completing just one lap in qualifying.
"It was a good race; it was exciting," said Jaeger, from Cincinnati, Ohio. "There were a few moments when I saw J.R. put his nose in, but he couldn't get past. It was a great finish for the PR1 team."
Hildebrand, meanwhile, was relatively pleased with third -- even though it brought an end to his run of three consecutive second-place finishes.
"I made a few passes, so that was good," said the 17-year-old from Sausalito, Calif., who had been hobbled after just one lap of qualifying by a broken drive-shaft. He was struggling, too, in the race with a persistent understeer.
"I tried every combination on the [cockpit-adjustable] rollbars but I just couldn't get the front end to hook up coming off the corners," he said.
Placentia, Calif.'s Greg Minium drove by far his strongest race of the year to finish a fine fourth in his Brown & Riding Insurance/Baccarella Insurance/Stewart Title Insurance Company car, ensuring an impressive top-four sweep for the French-built Mygale chassis.
Close behind Minium at the finish was the highest-placed Van Diemen, driven by Madera, Calif.'s Clark Cambern, who started third but struggled with a lack of front-end grip as the race progressed.
Reigning SCCA Formula Ford 1600 National Champion Scott Rarick, from Santa Monica, Calif., took sixth in the hotly contested race which featured a plethora of battles throughout the 28-car field. Kansas City, Mo.'s Scott Foutch finished close behind, with Bob Negron (San Jose, Calif.) and Al Salvo (Arcadia, Calif.) also hot on his tail at the end.
Chris Spreitzer, from Phoenix, Ariz., was the highest-placed Pinto-engined finisher in 15th after Saturday star Tom Hope's engine let go while he had been running solidly among the top 10. Jeremy Shaw, from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., made up most positions, rising from 26th to 16th in his Comar Performance Van Diemen RF02.
Round 4 results (18 laps): 1.Mike Forest (Mygale SJ04), 26m 18.381s; 2. Brad Jaeger (Mygale SJ04); 3. J.R. Hildebrand (Mygale SJ04); 4. Greg Minium (Mygale SJ04); 5. Clark Cambern (Van Diemen RF03); 6. Scott Rarick (Van Diemen RF03); 7. Scott Foutch (Van Diemen RF03); 8. Bob Negron (Van Diemen RF99); 9. Al Salvo (Mygale SJ04); 10. Peter Hastrup (Van Diemen RF02); 11. John Lombardo Jr. (Van Diemen RF02); 12. Chris Hundley (Van Diemen RF05): 13. Fiorenzo Tirinnanzi (Van Diemen RF02); 14. Tim Harris (Van Diemen RF03); 15. Chris Spreitzer (Van Diemen RF94-Loyning/Pinto); 16. Jeremy Shaw (Van Diemen RF02); 17. Doug da Costa (Van Diemen RF02); 18. Efrain Olivares Jr. (Van Diemen RF97-Ivey/Pinto); 19. Ted Guenther (Van Diemen RF01-Ivey/Pinto); 20. Jim Bryant (Van Diemen RF00-Ivey/Pinto); 21. Les Phillips (Van Diemen RF01-Ivey/Pinto); 22. Dennis Goughary (Carbir DS3-Elite/Pinto); 23. Bill Modisette (Van Diemen RF96-Ivey/Pinto); 24. Robert Podlesni (Van Diemen RF03); 25 Tom Hope (Van Diemen RF98-Ivey/Pinto); 26 Jesse Yorio (Van Diemen RF01/Quicksilver/Pinto); 27 Steven M. Kries (Van Diemen RF01); 28 Shaun Modisette (Van Diemen RF96-Ivey/Pinto); Did not start: Gary Peterson (Crossle 71F-DFR/Pinto).
Fastest qualifier: Forest, 1m 26.921s, 82.834 mph.
Fastest race lap: Forest, 1m 26.819s, 82.931 mph.
Margin of victory: 4.961 seconds
Championship points, after three of 12 races: 1. Forest, 90; 2. Hildebrand, 68; 3. Jaeger, 43; 4. Harris, 41; 5. Lombardo & Podlesni, 27; 7. Cambern, 23; 8. Minium, 17; 9. Rarick, 16; 10 Salvo, 14; etc.
Next round: Phoenix International Raceway, Ariz., April 2/3.