NA-F2000: Road Atlanta season opener preview

Cooper Tires Championship Series Set For Strong Debut at Road Atlanta St. Petersburg, Fla. (April 5, 2005) -- Race car drivers from 15 different states and from as far afield as Great Britain, Venezuela and Canada are among a strong field of...

Cooper Tires Championship Series Set For Strong Debut at Road Atlanta

St. Petersburg, Fla. (April 5, 2005) -- Race car drivers from 15 different states and from as far afield as Great Britain, Venezuela and Canada are among a strong field of over 35 entrants for the opening two rounds of the 2005 Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars. The races will be held as part of the Grand Prix of Atlanta American Le Mans Series weekend April 15/16 at the scenic and challenging Road Atlanta venue in Braselton, Ga.

"We were gaining momentum toward the end of last year," says series president Jon Baytos, "and the level of interest we have already this year is very encouraging. Drivers and teams are realizing the value of the Cooper Series and they're proving it by coming out to the races.

"This sport is never going to be cheap but we provide extremely close racing for a fraction of what it costs to compete in most of the other open-wheel classes. We race at high-profile venues and the quality of the racing is second to none, both in terms of excitement and competitiveness."

The Cooper Series, sanctioned by the Grand American Road Racing Association, represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel auto racing ladder in North America. It features modern, purpose-built, single-seat race cars powered by either four-cylinder, double-overhead cam, fuel-injected 2.0-liter Ford Zetec engines, which produce around 170 hp, or the older, slightly less powerful, carbureted 2.0-liter Ford "Pinto" engines. The cars employ "slick" (treadless) Cooper Zeon racing tires and are capable of speeds in excess of 140 mph.

Many top-line drivers have graduated through the category, including 1996 Champ Car World Series titlist Jimmy Vasser, two-time Indy Racing League Champion Sam Hornish Jr. and current IRL points leader Dan Wheldon, who already this year has won on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Cooper Series will comprise 12 to 14 events in 2005, with two races on each race weekend. Among the prizes will be an opportunity for the series champion to drive a Ford-powered Multimatic Daytona Prototype sports car in the 2006 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Challengers for top honors will include a pair of talented young Britons, Jay Howard and Joey Foster. Howard contested two races in the championship last season, winning once at Infineon Raceway, Calif. The 24-year-old from Basildon, England has returned for a concerted attack on the series title with Alpharetta, Ga.-based Aiken Racing. Fellow Englishman Foster, 22, from Truro, won the prestigious Formula Ford Festival & World Cup at Brands Hatch in 2003 and will drive for Cape Motorsports which has won the title in three of the last five years. Other potential stars include 2003 Canadian Formula Ford Champion Chris Guerrieri, from Pickering, Ont., Canada, who will join Howard at Aiken Racing, and 2004 Cooper Tires Formula SCCA front-runner Franklin Futrelle, from Augusta, Ga., driving for Athens, Ga.'s Comprent Motorsports.

Competition will be equally strong both in the Cooper Gold Cup Series, open to all Pinto-engined cars, and in the Cooper Masters' Championship, which is open to all drivers over the age of 35.

-ctcs-

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Joey Foster , Jimmy Vasser , Dan Wheldon , Jay Howard , Sam Hornish Jr.