NA-F2000: Pacific F2000: Phoenix season opener preview

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Competitive 23-Car Field Set For Pacific F2000 Championship Season Opener Buttonwillow, Calif. (January 31, 2006) -- At least 23 drivers from as far afield as Brazil, Canada, England and Hawaii will converge on Phoenix International Raceway ...

Competitive 23-Car Field Set For Pacific F2000 Championship Season Opener

Buttonwillow, Calif. (January 31, 2006) -- At least 23 drivers from as far afield as Brazil, Canada, England and Hawaii will converge on Phoenix International Raceway (Ariz.) this weekend for the opening round of the 2006 Pacific F2000 Championship. Two 30-minute races will be held for the nimble, open-wheel Formula Ford 2000 cars as part of the Vintage Auto Racing Association's Tuttle-Click Automotive Group Copper State Classic event.

The list of potential winners is extensive, ranging from teenagers Robert Podlesni (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Nick Haye (Huntington Beach, Calif.) to veterans Scott Foutch (Kansas City, Mo.) and John Lombardo (Brea, Calif.).

"It's certainly a tough field but that's what makes it fun," says Lombardo, who finished third in the inaugural Pacific F2000 series in 2004 and fourth last year in the #30 NAPA Pro Series/Valvoline/Denso/P-1 Racing Van Diemen RF02, which for 2006 will be run under the G.FRO (Geoff Fickling Racing Operation) banner.

San Clemente, Calif.-based G.FRO also will field the ex-Jay Howard Cooper Tires Championship Series-winning Van Diemen RF05 for 16-year-old Philip Metzger, from Littleton, Colo., who displayed promising form in the West Coast-based Formula TR Championship in 2005, and another Van Diemen for 21-year-old Englishman Dominik Jackson, who won a pair of races in the ultra-competitive German Formula BMW Championship -- including one at the famed Nurburgring, where his winner's trophy was presented by Formula 1 star Ralf Schumacher.

Jackson will drive the same Van Diemen RF03 with which Ian Lacy (who is now the team's driver coach) won both races last year at P.I.R.

Fresno-based PR1 Motorsports, which has won the Pacific F2000 Championship in each of the past two seasons, will field two new drivers: 18-year-old Haye and Wladimir Genovesi, 25, who hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"I'm excited about joining the Pacific F2000 Championship," says Genovesi, who last competed in the Skip Barber Racing School's Formula Dodge Southeast Regional Championship in 1999 and 2000, with some promising results. "I have a lot to learn, especially since I have not raced for six years, but [team owner] Bobby [Oergel] is a very good teacher and he has had some very good results the last few years. This is a great opportunity for me."

Genovesi's learning curve no doubt will be accelerated by using the same Mygale SJ05 chassis with which Canadian Mike Forest won four races en route to last year's Pacific F2000 Championship title. (Forest, incidentally, will graduate into the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in 2006.)

Other likely front-runners will include Podlesni, 18, who won three of the final four races last year in his rookie campaign with Dave Freitas Racing; former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick (Santa Monica, Calif.), who will drive the distinctive Piper DF5 chassis; Todd MacNaughton, who will travel all the way from Honolulu, Hawaii, to drive the locally-prepared Bill Wilson Motorsports Van Diemen RF03; and BWM teammate Chris Spreitzer, from Phoenix, Ariz.

Spreitzer, 18, drove an older Pinto-engined Van Diemen last year but now has graduated to a newer Zetec-powered car and will represent two local businesses, heating and air-conditioning supply company Climatec Inc., and Anglo-American Road Racing auto accessories.

"I've only been in the car once and we had a few problems," related Spreitzer, who is studying mechanical engineering in his freshman year at Glendale Community College. "We have a lot to learn but the car was really nice to drive and I'm looking forward to learning more about it."

Formula Ford 2000 represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel auto racing ladder in North America and has provided the launching pad for the careers of many top racers, including Champ Car World Series champions Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy, as well as the two most recent Indianapolis 500 champions, Buddy Rice -- who lives in Phoenix -- and Dan Wheldon.

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