Watkins Glen, NY – Ahead of the F2000 Championship Series season finale at Watkins Glen International, 2012 Champion Robert La Rocca paced the final 35-car-strong Friday practice session on a frigid day in New York.
La Rocca’s fast lap of 1:52.275 was turned just hours after sleet poured down on the 3.4-mile 11-turn road course. The Venezuelan was quickest ahead of Summit Point winner Niki Coello in a shortened final practice session prior to qualifying rounds and races on Saturday and Sunday.
Coello was the fastest RFR in second, and hopes to wrangle the second place points position away from rookie Wyatt Gooden.
While it was La Rocca and Coello one-two against the backdrop of fall foliage, Kyle Connery followed in third after missing the morning session in the No. 91 RFR. Connery easily won both races at Watkins Glen in October last year, but in a different chassis, a Van Diemen.
Zach Craigo was fourth quick in the second session for Front Range Motorsports, with 2012 Atlantic Series Champion David Grant an impressive fifth in his F2000 debut for Ohio-based Polestar Racing Group.
Cesar Lapoint, La Rocca’s HP-Tech Motorsport teammate, was sixth, with Tim Paul, former Watkins Glen pole winner Chris Livengood, Kevin Kopp and Dean Baker rounding out the top ten in a session that ended early when Tom Schwietz went off the course.
Rookie Kopp’s ninth place practice run marked his first day running laps around Watkins Glen.
Back for the first time in F2000 since a one-off in 2010 is 2009 title-runner-up Matthew Inge, driving for LTD Motorsports in a Van Diemen. Inge finished second at Watkins Glen in 2009, winning multiple races during the season.
After a top five effort in the morning practice session in the No. 20 entry, Inge’s fast lap in the afternoon was good enough for 15th.
Twenty-two-year-old Matt Machiko made his F2000 debut for John Walko Racing, putting in a respectable first practice day to end up 16th on the time sheets in the afternoon. Machiko comes out of karting with a handful of SCCA races under his belt.
Wyatt Gooden, meanwhile, battling flu-like symptoms, only ran a handful of laps, missing the first session, and ended up 21st for Quantum Racing Services.
Despite the poor performance among the 35 cars that logged times, Gooden should factor in near the front of the F2000 grid, having won both F1600 Formula F Championship Series races in October for Quantum in 2011.
In 21st, Robert Wright was the fastest of the four Radon chassis on the track. R-Sport’s Metrik chassis did not run laps in the afternoon session, but is expected to qualify on Saturday with driver Keith McCrone.
The most talked about the factor of the day, however, was the weather, with temperatures starting in the 30s and never finding their way out of the 40s, with sleet and rain occasionally moving in during the day.
For Saturday, more low temperatures are expected, but without the precipitation.
The F2000 season finale doubleheader weekend continues at Watkins Glen with qualifying on Saturday morning at 9:40 local time followed by a 2:10 14-lap or 30-minute race, with Sunday seeing a similar schedule.