Cooper Tires Championship Series Doubles Up For Mid-Ohio ALMS Weekend
St. Petersburg, Fla. (April 19, 2005) -- Cooper Tires Championship Series President Jon Baytos confirmed today that the next round of the burgeoning series for Formula Ford 2000 cars will feature a pair of races as part of the American Le Mans Series weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on May 19-21.
"We were originally scheduled to have just one race, but the folks at Mid-Ohio and the American Le Mans Series have shuffled things around and made some space so we can have a double-header," said Baytos. "I have to say a big thank-you to everyone for making this possible. Mid-Ohio is a wonderful race track, one of the most challenging in the country, so this is really good news for our drivers."
The race weekend will be preceded by two days of exclusive testing for Cooper Series teams and drivers on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 17 and 18, followed by more testing on Thursday. Friday will comprise one final practice session and qualifying for Race One, which will take place at 12.05 on Saturday. The green flag to commence Race Two will fly at 4.20 pm on Sunday.
The news comes hot on the heels of an extremely successful season-opening event at Road Atlanta last weekend which drew an impressive field of almost 40 cars and witnessed the emergence of several young stars, including Englishman Jay Howard. The 24-year-old from Basildon, England, swept to victory in both races, beating out a strong challenge from equally talented young Californian Jason Bowles. Howard has not raced at Mid-Ohio before, but he is well aware of the track's reputation and is looking forward to his first visit to the parkland venue.
"I've heard some great stories about Mid-Ohio," Howard said. "I'm told it's quite similar to Oulton Park in England, which is a really technical track and has lots of elevation change. Those are the sort of circuits I like -- the more challenging, the better. Road Atlanta was also a tricky place but I felt comfortable there right away.
"Of course, it helps that I have a great team in Aiken Racing and a great engineer in John Hayes. John gave me a great car at Road Atlanta and I know he'll do the same for Mid-Ohio."
Howard's Aiken Racing teammate, 2003 Canadian Formula Ford 1600 Champion Chris Guerrieri, also is excited about his prospects for Mid-Ohio. Guerrieri, from Pickering, Ontario, endured a difficult weekend at Road Atlanta, crashing out of the first race while running third and then overcoming some mechanical woes to finish fifth in Race Two.
"I'm excited about having two races at Mid-Ohio," Guerrieri said. "First of all it's a great race track, so the opportunity to race there twice will help make me a better driver. Also, I have raced there before, so that will help. I had never been to Road Atlanta before, so I spent half my time learning the track and half the time trying to optimize my car. We have a really good team, so I know both Jay and I will have strong cars, and now I can just concentrate on setting up my car and running up front."
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 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 has two victories to his credit this year.