F2000: Rookie Searcy Wins Season Opener in Wet-Dry Conditions Alton,VA -- Benjamin Searcy drove his Z-Sports Midwest Van Diemen into the lead in the wet and never looked back as the track dried out to take the victory in Friday's...
F2000: Rookie Searcy Wins Season Opener in Wet-Dry Conditions
Alton,VA -- Benjamin Searcy drove his Z-Sports Midwest Van Diemen into the lead in the wet and never looked back as the track dried out to take the victory in Friday's opening round of the 2009 F2000 Championship Series. The rain started falling just twenty minutes before the scheduled start time, forcing teams to switch to rain tires and wet setups at the last second.
Searcy's Z-Sports team put him on the grid on rain tires. At the drop of the green the American was able to quickly get around Jesse Yorio who started the race on slicks. Searcy then quickly moved around Matthew Inge and Remy Audette, who had already been passed on the opening lap by Chris Miller for the lead. Searcy didn't wait long and got past Miller in turn 13, and took off. He took the win over Audette by some 15 seconds, at times lapping two seconds a lap quicker than anyone else.
"One race one win, hopefully we can continue," said Searcy. "The car was unbelievable, we made some wing changes, it was just great in the rain. I got around a few cars and then passed Miller for the lead up in turn 13 and went for it."
Z-Sports team owner Ron Boltik commented , "I am over the moon. There was nothing special about this car and Benjamin was able to lap two seconds a lap faster than anyone. It's all Benjamin, I'm proud of him and he entire Z-Sports team."
Remy Audette, who broke the track record in morning qualifying and started from pole, came home second in the #21 Audette racing Van Diemen. "Rain is always fun," said Audette. "We made a mistake on the setup. The weather was tricky with the changing conditions. There was no good line on the track so I just kept up the pace. The start of the race was very fun in the wet."
GTP's Phil Lombardi was able to overcome the challenging conditions and a practice crash yesterday to come home in third position. Lombardi commented, "It's been a trying two years and to finish on the podium here is just awesome. I've never driven on these rain tires. GTP did an amazing job putting the car back together. During the race people were making mistakes which opened the door for me. I passed Inge for third and then he tried to come back at me going into the rollercoaster and I just out braked him. I'll take this podium."
Tom Fatur was the first of the Masters class drivers coming home in fourth overall after losing a Zetec morning in yesterday's test sessions and having to switch to a spare engine, starting in 21st, "We didn't need the horsepower for the rain," commented Fatur. "GTP did a super job on the setup changes right before the start. There were quite a lot of slow guys on the track and I was able to take advantage. I think I went from 21st to 12th on the opening lap and was able to pick off a car a lap after that."
Matthew Inge rounded out the top five and at one point was challenging Chris Miller for third place when they got together in turn five to avoid a spinning Jonathan Scarallo. Inge commented, "It was a very slick track out there. I couldn't see anything. There was a wall of water. There were cars off everywhere. A car spun in front of Chris [Miller] and I. We both checked up, got back on the gas and he checked up again and I had nowhere to go."
JDC Motorsports driver Chris Miller ended up in 18th spot after posting fast time yesterday and qualifying second for today's race. "There was a car spinning," explained Miller. "I slowed down and the car behind me just hit me. "
Tim Minor, Jeff McCusker, Robert Wright, Al Guibord Jr., and Dave Weitzenhof rounded out the top ten as series veterans and Masters class drivers excelled in the challenging conditions. Tim Minor, the 2008 Masters class champion, completed the entire race on his Hoosier slicks.
"My rain tires were even on backwards. I couldn't see the front nose of my own car during the first lap, it was insane, a wall of water," said Guibord Jr. "It was survival of the fittest today."
Series newcomers Alegra Motorsports and Group A Racing did not have any of their cars finish the race. Both teams rolled the dice with the changing weather situation, sending one car out on rain tires and the other on slicks.
Alegra's Fabio Orsolon spun in the esses to end his day and teammate Victor Carbone, who started the race on slicks, went off in the first turn on the opening lap, "The race was bad," said Carbone. "I had the dry tires on. Approaching the first turn I went to brake and turned and nothing happened. I went off and couldn't get the car going again."
Group A Racing's day didn't go any better. Apparent gearbox problems stranded Colin Alexander on the grid and Jonathan Scarallo spun off in turn five on his dry weather tires.
"It was unfortunate. Colin got taken out before he even started. We rolled the dice with Jonathan and sent him out on slicks. He had a problem with the gearbox which ended up causing his spin. I'm thrilled about his car control in the wet on dry tires, it was amazing. Both boys did really well, this looks much better on the inside than on the outside," commented team owner Joe Scarallo.
Race winner Searcy's teammate Caitlin Johnston came home in 18th and had the fifth fastest race lap. "The race was good. It was a little wet at first and I couldn't see anything at the start. It took a few laps to get used to the track in the wet but after that I was able to slowly pick up the pace," said the Canadian rookie.
Chris Gumprecht also completed the entire race on slick tires, bringing his #97 CG Racing Van Diemen/Zetec home in 20th, five laps down.
The F2000 cars hit the track again tomorrow morning for a morning qualifying session followed by an afternoon race. The weather at VIR continues to be a huge question mark for the 28 car field.