NA-F2000: Pacific F2000 Phoenix preview

Pacific F2000 Championship Kicks Off at Phoenix International Raceway Feb. 3-5 Buttonwillow, Calif. (January 27, 2006) -- Drivers will be traveling from far and wide to attend the opening two rounds of the Pacific F2000 Championship as the West...

Pacific F2000 Championship Kicks Off at Phoenix International Raceway Feb. 3-5

Buttonwillow, Calif. (January 27, 2006) -- Drivers will be traveling from far and wide to attend the opening two rounds of the Pacific F2000 Championship as the West Coast professional road racing season commences at Phoenix International Raceway, Ariz., on February 3-5. The weekend will comprise a pair of 30-minute races as part of the Vintage Auto Racing Association's Tuttle-Click Automotive Group Copper State Classic event.

Formula Ford 2000 represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel auto racing ladder in North America, although its roots stretch back to England in the middle 1970s. Formula 1 World Champions Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill are two among many top names to have honed their skills in F2000 during the early stages of their careers. More recent F2000 alumni in North America include Champ Car World Series champions Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy, as well as the two most recent Indianapolis 500 champions, Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon.

Last year's Pacific F2000 champion, Canadian Mike Forest, is set to graduate this year into the rejuvenated Champ Car Atlantic Championship, which will begin at the famed Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. The 2005 runner-up, teenaged Californian J.R. Hildebrand, is poised to step up into the Cooper Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars, which will comprise races run in conjunction with at least three Champ Car World Series events this year.

A host of talented drivers are looking to follow in their footsteps, including Robert Podlesni, 19, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who finished his rookie campaign last year with Fullerton, Calif.-based Dave Freitas Racing with an impressive flourish, winning three of the final four races.

"I learned so much last year," says Podlesni, who previously achieved much success in the karting ranks. "The competition was tough, and driving a race car was very different to driving a kart. I'm excited about returning to the Pacific F2000 Championship and looking forward to trying to win some more races -- and the championship."

Podlesni will face plenty of tough opposition. Veteran John Lombardo Jr., from Brea, Calif., has won races in each of the past two seasons and will be a sure-fire front-runner in his Napa Auto Parts/Denso Van Diemen, run by the newly renamed G.FRO (Geoff Fickling Racing Operation) team based in San Clemente, Calif.

G.FRO also will field a car for promising Englishman Dominik Jackson, who has previously won races in the intensely competitive German Formula BMW Championship and is now looking to make his mark in North America.

"I see F2000 as a great launch pad to the U.S. motorsport scene and believe competing in the opening West Coast round will be a great introduction to the car and more importantly a great evaluation exercise for me and G.FRO," says 21-year-old Jackson, who hails from the historic cathedral city of Lincoln, England. "I guest-drove on behalf of BMW at the Montreal and Indy [Formula 1] GP's in 2004 so I'm really looking forward to getting back to the States and competing in the grass roots."

The addition of Jackson to the field adds further credibility to the vision of Pacific F2000 Championship organizer Les Phillips, who established the series in 2004 and regularly saw grids of between 25 and 30 cars in 2005.

"The championship has come a long way and I couldn't be more pleased with how it is developing," says Phillips, who also serves as the general manager of the Buttonwillow Raceway Park race track, located near Bakersfield, Calif. "We distributed over $60,000 in prize money last year and expect to do so again this year. We've already seen several of our drivers move on to bigger and better things, and our series creates an opportunity for competitors of any age and level of experience to enjoy great racing at a very affordable cost."

The Pacific F2000 Championship features modern, purpose-built, single-seat, open-wheel race cars powered by either four-cylinder, double-overhead cam, fuel-injected 2.0-liter Ford Zetec engines or the slightly older, carbureted, 2.0-liter Ford Pinto "National" engines, both of which produce around 150 horsepower. The cars weigh in at just 1,190 lbs, employ "slick" (treadless) Hankook racing tires and are capable of speeds in excess of 140mph.

-js-

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Dan Wheldon , Ayrton Senna , Damon Hill , Buddy Rice , J.R. Hildebrand , Mike Forest