For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com Morioka Finishes Second Saturday at Savannah SAVANNAH, Ga., May 17 - Eighteen-year-old Zak Morioka recorded the best finish of his U.S. Formula Ford 2000 career Saturday...
For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com
Morioka Finishes Second Saturday at Savannah
SAVANNAH, Ga., May 17 - Eighteen-year-old Zak Morioka recorded the best finish of his U.S. Formula Ford 2000 career Saturday afternoon when he took the checkered flag just 0.55 seconds after winner Luciano Zangirolami to finish second in the FF2000 race that was part of the inaugural Dixie Crystals Grand Prix on Hutchinson Island. The top two finishers are both from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Lapped traffic allowed Morioka's Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil/A.M.E. Sports Van Diemen Quicksilver Ford to close right up behind Zangirolami at the end, but he couldn't pass him. With the great finish Morioka now moves into fourth in the overall point standings.
"Luciano had trouble with traffic at the end; I don't think the lapped cars could see him coming up on them," Morioka said. "One more lap and more traffic I might have been able to pass him, but it would have been hard to stay there because his car was faster than mine was today.
"I am just so happy to have a good finish here," he added. "I have to thank all of my crew at Hayes Motorsports and of course my great sponsors, Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil and A.M.E. Sports."
Morioka, who calls Miami his home away from home, started eighth.
The race quite literally started off with a bang. The Team Kool Green cars of polesitter Jeff Shafer and Matt Sielsky shared the front row, but they touched going into turn one and set off an accident that also involved the eventual winner, Duncan Dayton and Andrea De Lorenzi. Shafer, Dayton and De Lorenzi got the worse of it all and were out, which eventually caused Dayton to lose his point lead to Buddy Rice before the day was over. All escaped injury.
Morioka did an amazing job to miss all the trouble, and he was second only to Sielsky by the time the field got back to the start-finish line. The severity of the crash caused the race to be red-flagged, however, and a complete restart was deemed necessary. Since three of the cars that started ahead of him were now out, that put Morioka in fifth for the restart behind Sielsky, Zangirolami, Rice and J. Michael Johnson.
"On the first lap, it just looked to me like too many people wanted to lead going into the first turn," said Morioka. "I saw Shafer spin and go up to the outside of the track, so I just tried to go as low as I could. I didn't see what had happened to everybody else. I was very sorry for Duncan [Dayton], because before the race we talked and both of us said the most important thing was for both of us to finish."
Morioka got a great restart when the green waved again on lap five, passing both Johnson and Rice to nail down third. Just seconds later the yellow waved again for an accident in turn 10 involving Mike Williams, Johnson, Ollie Besinger and Robbie McGeehee. Again no one was hurt.
Sielsky came in for a black-flag at that point, as the officials said he had warmed up his tires past the cut-off point of turn seven that had been discussed at the drivers' meeting. Morioka was as surprised as anyone to see another one of his main competitors disappear, and he was now second to Zangirolami, with Jeff Horne in third followed by Rice and Seth Taylor.
Zangirolami's car was perfect and Morioka couldn't mount a challenge to him on the restart on lap 12, and a few laps later he had his hands full holding off Horne and Rice while still keeping Zangirolami within striking distance. Eventually Horne and Rice locked up in a torrid battle for third, with Rice getting the final podium spot in turn two with just two laps to go in the 25-lapper around the 1.964-mile street course.
Zangirolami was slowed by lapped cars at the very end and Morioka closed the gap, but he couldn't pass his fellow Brazilian at the line.
The three podium finishers all ran a lap faster than the track record which had been determined in qualifying, with Morioka running a 1:13.605 (96.058 mph) to Zangirolami's fastest lap of 1:13.511 (96.181 mph).
Horne held on for fourth and Andy Lally was fifth. David Rutledge and Seth Taylor were next across the line. Sielsky rebounded for eighth followed by Tim Duit and Ryan Hampton in the 36-car field.