Forest Takes His First F2000 Win and Jaeger His Second at Phoenix
Phoenix, Ariz., April 4, 2004 -- A pair of intensely fought SCCA-sanctioned races on the combined oval/road course at Phoenix International Raceway saw Bobby Oergel's PR1 Motorsports team maintain its dominance in the See Ya Motorhomes Pacific F2000 Series. This time, however, in the absence of gifted youngsters Wade Van Hooser and Joel Miller, who did not meet the SCCA's minimum age requirement of 16, Canadian Mike Forest and American Brad Jaeger stepped up to the plate to claim one victory apiece.
Saturday's opener saw 62-year-old series administrator Les Phillips claim a surprise pole in his newly built Mygale chassis. Jaeger, who had scored his maiden win in the most recent race at Las Vegas, was a scant 0.008s slower in his Van Diemen as the top seven contenders were all blanketed by less than a half-second.
The action began right away as Jaeger used his youthful aggression to good effect by sneaking past Phillips going into Turn One. Behind, there was a virtual traffic jam as third-fastest qualifier Forest found himself ambushed by John Lombardo Jr. and Bruce Binnquist, who both made excellent getaways from fourth and fifth on the grid, respectively.
Jaeger took advantage of his initial jump to put some space between himself and his pursuers in the early laps. Forest, meanwhile, managed to squeeze back into third place at the exit of Turn One and soon began to put pressure on Phillips for second. On lap four, Forest made his move under braking for Turn One.
By now the man on the move was 18-year-old Travis Irving, who was thoroughly enjoying his first car race in over three years and had lost no time at all in getting up to speed in one of Dave Freitas Racing's Van Diemens. Irving had proven fastest of all in testing on Friday, held in wet conditions, only for an electrical gremlin to cost him valuable track time in qualifying which restricted him to an unrepresentative seventh on the grid. Irving actually lost a couple of positions in the first-corner bottleneck but quickly worked his way forward and eventually snuck past Phillips for third.
A mid-race full-course caution enabled Forest to get back on terms with Jaeger, whereupon he pulled off an audacious pass for the lead in Turn One.
"I left my braking really late and I was just able to bend my car in a little earlier than he was," related the Canadian.
"I would've liked to stay out front but I didn't to do anything stupid and he made a nice pass on me," said Jaeger graciously.
Forest held onto his slender lead until the finish and was a little fortunate to do so, because his car was leaking oil in the closing stages.
"Another few laps and we might have been struggling," said Forest after claiming a well-deserved maiden victory. "It's great to win. I knew it was coming and we were able to keep the PR1 streak alive."
Irving turned up the wick dramatically in the closing stages and ended up just over one second adrift of Jaeger at the checkered flag in third place.
"Two more laps and we'd have had 'em," reckoned Irving.
Polesitter Phillips, meanwhile, had to settle for a nonetheless extremely respectable fourth -- no mean feat in such talented company: "The kids were a little bolder than I was, so they beat me," noted Phillips.
An incident between Binnquist and Al Salvo cost both of them a chance at a top-five finish and left the way clear for John Gluckin, who emerged narrowly ahead of Lombardo. Mark Peller once again was the fastest Pinto contender, despite having to ease his pace in the closing stages when his neck muscles began to wilt under the intense g-loadings.
The grid for Race Two on Sunday saw Jaeger on the pole ahead of Binnquist, Irving, Salvo, Forest and Peller -- all six separated by less than six-tenths of a second.
Jaeger once again leapt into the lead at the start, and this time he was able to maintain it throughout the 30-lap race to earn his second victory of the season. Jaeger also moved into the championship points lead for the first time.
"It was a great overall weekend," said the Pennsylvanian.
The only time Jaeger was seriously challenged was immediately following a brief full-course caution, when Binnquist and Irving simultaneously made a bid for the lead going into Turn One. The trio briefly ran three abreast before settling into their previous order. Binnquist never got quite so close Jaeger again but still finished an excellent second, leaving Irving to fall into the clutches of Forest, who finally made a successful bid for second place coming onto the main straightaway.
"It was still a great weekend," said Irving after finishing fourth. "I had a blast and I have to say thank you to McGuire Builders, Grand Products and Dave Freitas for making this possible for me. I hope I can pull something together and do this again."
Salvo displayed the benefits of having tested with Oergel's PR1 organization by claiming a career-best fifth, while Mike Rodney finished a solid sixth. Peller's hopes of scoring a sixth consecutive Pinto "class win" went out of the window when his engine dropped a cylinder after half-distance, leaving the way clear for Tom Hope to claim the honors in eighth place overall.
Race 1. Mike Forest (Van Diemen RF03 Zetec), 30 laps in 33m35.879s, 80.898mph; 2. Brad Jaeger (Van Diemen RF02 Zetec), +0.265s; 3. Travis Irving (Van Diemen RF01 Zetec); 4. Les Phillips (Mygale SJ01 Zetec); 5. John Gluckin (Van Diemen RF01 Zetec); 6. John Lombardo Jr. (Van Diemen RF03 Zetec); 7. Mark Peller (Van Diemen RF01 Pinto); 8. Tom Hope (Van Diemen RF98 Pinto); 9. Mike Rodney (Van Diemen RF01 Zetec); 10. Jim Bryant (Van Diemen Pinto); 11. Fiorenzo Tirinnanzi (Van Diemen RF03 Zetec); 12. Al Salvo (Van Diemen RF03 Zetec); 13. Carl Scott (Van Diemen RF96 Pinto); 14.Dwight Rider (Van Diemen RF02 Zetec), 29 laps; 15 Bruce Binnquist (Van Diemen RF03 Zetec), 28 laps; 16 Jeffry Mann (Van Diemen RF98 Pinto), 11 laps, not running; 17. Douglas Da Costa (Van Diemen RF01 Pinto), 8 laps, not running; 18 Gary Peterson (Crossle 71F Pinto), 3 laps, not running. Fastest lap: Forest, 1m00.854s, 89.329mph (establishes record).
Race 2 1. Jaeger, 30 laps in 33m15.558s, 81.722mph; 2. Bruce Binnquist, +1.349s; 3. Forest; 4. Irving; 5. Salvo; 6. Rodney; 7. Lombardo; 8. Hope; 9. Phillips; 10. Bryant; 11. Rider; 12. Da Costa; 13. Tirinnanzi, 29 laps; 14. Mann, 29 laps; 15. Scott, 28 laps, not running; 16. Peller, 15 laps, not running; 17. Gluckin, 10 laps, not running; NS Peterson. Fastest lap: Jaeger, 1m00.552s, 89.774mph (record).
See Ya Motorhomes Pacific F2000 Series unofficial points, after six of 12 races: 1. Jaeger, 552; 2. Forest, 527; 3. Wade Van Hooser, 401; 4. Peller, 390; 5. Lombardo, 360; 6. Joel Miller, 307; 7. Phillips, 300; 8. Binnquist, 295; 9. Hope & Scott, 260; etc.
Next races: Portland, Ore., June 5/6.