Di Cienzo and Atlantic Racing Team Score Podium Finish October 15, 2004 - Luca di Cienzo, competing in his first event outside of Italy, scored a podium finish on his maiden North American Formula Renault Championship race with Atlantic Racing...
Di Cienzo and Atlantic Racing Team Score Podium Finish
October 15, 2004 - Luca di Cienzo, competing in his first event outside of Italy, scored a podium finish on his maiden North American Formula Renault Championship race with Atlantic Racing Team this past weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. The nineteen year old Italian from Termoli entered Round Seven and Eight with the intention of gaining experience for next year's championship, but soon showed more experienced rival he was a force to be reckoned with.
After getting reacquainted with the details of the Tatuus built Formula Renault chassis during Thursday's open test day, di Cienzo felt prepared to battle the competition as the official race weekend began. Friday's schedule would be divided into two sessions; practice and qualifying for Saturday's Round Seven. Qualifying for Round Eight was to be done on Saturday morning.
With new tires and a few minor changes to the car set-up, di Cienzo took to the track for Round Seven qualifying. The session was momentarily stopped when another driver briefly went off course, however the team optimized the situation by making some changes to the car. For the remainder of the session, di Cienzo occupied the 7th spot on the grid, until the last lap when he jumped into the top 5. So the top five on the grid were Gomes, Wilkins, Bessette, Ponte, and di Cienzo.
Qualifying for Round Eight was completed in not-so-ideal conditions as tropical storm Matthew's effects were felt in Birmingham. A full rain set-up was the only way to guarantee a successful qualifying run. Having tested in the rain in Nova Scotia, the team's headquarters, di Cienzo was confident of continuing a strong showing for team. The end result was a 5th place spot with Bessette taking the pole ahead of Thomas, Imery, and Wilkins.
The track dried enough for Round Seven to be contested on dry Michelin tires under a gloomy sky. A bad start due to di Cienzo's experience meant that the Italian would drop to 9th place and would have his work cut out for him. With focus and determination, he passed Imery and made up another spot when Yeager from Team Gelles retired with shifter problems. Di Cienzo looked set to pass Braun for 6th place when a short in the fuel system slowed his final 2 laps. The race was won by Gomes leading Wilkins, Bessette, Ponte, Thomas, Braun, di Cienzo, Imery, Siska, and Dodds.
With all the clear weather in the past, Round Eight was a duplication of the qualifying session for the race: rain, rain, and more rain. Di Cienzo made an improved start, but excessive wheel-spin forced him back to 7th place at the end of the first lap. The race saw two full-course cautions that bunched the field up in an enormous amount of wheel spray. The first was caused by Imery when he beached himself at the hairpin and the second happened when Gelles driver Yeager retired with impact damage. At the second restart, with only three laps remaining, di Cienzo optimized his race position by passing a group of cars as they became bunched up. This would promote him to 3rd place and he would maintain that position till the end to claim his first podium in only his second race. The race was dominated by Bessette, claiming his first win over Gomes, di Cienzo, Wilkins, Ponte, Thomas, Siska, Imery, Braun, and Yeager.
After his successful weekend with Atlantic Racing Team, di Cienzo is looking forward to Rounds Nine and Ten at California Speedway at Fontana.