NA 2000: Ponte takes points lead

The first race of the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship saw Juan Ponte surge to the top of the season points standings after he led from lights out to the checkered flag at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. Ponte is on top...

The first race of the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship saw Juan Ponte surge to the top of the season points standings after he led from lights out to the checkered flag at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. Ponte is on top after netting a total of 37 points for the weekend, taking 32 for the win, and a further 5 points for earning the pole position in qualifying.

Ponte knows that the drivers chasing the $315,000 prize package for the season will not relent, and that anything can happen during the season, so he was pleased to emerge from the first race weekend atop the standings.

"It's very important for me and my team to take the lead here in the opening round," said Ponte. "Now everyone will be chasing us. If you are good at a track, you have to make the most of it and score as many points as possible, as you never know what might happen in the next round. I would like it if we did this every weekend," said a smiling Ponte, "...but I know that the drivers in this series are very good and very competitive, so we will have to fight for every point we can get."

Aim Autosport's Mark Wilkins is second in the points despite finishing third in the race, thanks to the five bonus points he scored for his fastest lap of the race with a 59.534 second tour of the 1.51-mile infield road course at Phoenix International Raceway. Brazilian Marcos Gomes is probably not a fan of the bonus point system at the moment after he scored second in the race but lies third in the standings, nine points behind Ponte.

Formula Renault V6 Test Laps

The drivers were not only racing for points and cash, but they were also chasing the opportunity to get seat time in the high-technology Formula Renault V6, as test laps in the car are part of the comprehensive prize package for the series.

Ponte earned ten test laps for taking the win, and an additional five laps for his efforts in qualifying. Wilkins also scored his opportunity to test the Formula Renault V6 with his 59.534 second tour of the 1.51-mile infield road course at Phoenix International Raceway during the race.

Michelins Awarded

The opening race was also the debut for the recently announced Michelin support program, which awarded a set of race tires for fourth-place finisher Ricardo Imery of Eurointernational.

In addition, two drivers won a set of tires each in the drivers meeting which opened up the weekend with a random draw, as Gelles Racing's Brandon Thomas and Aim Autosport's Dan McMullen each collected a set of Michelins after getting lucky early in the weekend. Unfortunately for McMullen, this was all the luck he had for the weekend, as his race was over before it even started when he was knocked out of contention only a few hundred yards into the event.

The North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship will race next at Mont Tremblant in Canada on the weekend of May 21-23.

The North American Formula Renault Championships are sanctioned by Grand American, and provide a ladder for drivers to develop their talent, with a full in-house open-wheel progression available. The 2004 season will get underway April 8-10 at Phoenix International Raceway.

The Formula Renault V6 Championship is the top rung on the North American Formula Renault Championship ladder, which also includes the North American Formula Renault 1600 Championship and the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship. The Formula Renault V6 is expected to make its North American competition debut in the latter stages of the2004 North American Formula Renault 2000 season.

<pre> Top Ten after round 1: 1 Juan Martin Ponte 37 2 Mark Wilkins 30 3 Marcos Gomes 28 4 Ricardo Imery 22 5 Renato Jader David 20 6 Antoine Bessette 18 7 Nick Bussell 16 8 Gustavo Sondermann 14 9 Michael Yager (R) 12 10 Scott Robertson 11

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About this article
Series Formula Renault
Drivers Dan McMullen , Antoine Bessette , Juan Martin Ponte , Ricardo Imery , Scott Robertson , Mark Wilkins , Nick Bussell , Marcos Gomes