NA 2000: Watkins Glen race notes

WATKINS GLEN, NY (19 June 04) Juan Martin Ponte took his second win of the season with a victory at the Glen in round three of the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship on Saturday, with teammate Ricardo Imery coming home in second...

WATKINS GLEN, NY (19 June 04) Juan Martin Ponte took his second win of the season with a victory at the Glen in round three of the North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship on Saturday, with teammate Ricardo Imery coming home in second place. Antoine Bessette marked his debut race with AIM Autosport with a fine third place to make his first podium appearance of the season. The Eurointernational 1-2 result was particularly special for team owner Antonio Ferrari, who was celebrating his teams 200th race weekend.

"This is so fantastic to get the win for Antonio in his 200th race!" exclaimed the Argentinean race winner. "After being so competitive at Tremblant, but not getting the result we deserved, this just feels great! I had to be careful at the end, as I had some damage to my rear wing, but the Renault is so strong, it wasn't an issue."

Imery was likewise pleased with his first podium of the season after scoring two fourth place finishes in the opening rounds of the season.

"I have been working with the championship in mind all the time, and just shooting for consistent top-five finishes every time, and doing so has put me in a very competitive position, so I am proud of the progress, and of this team, too- a 1-2 finish is just a perfect way to mark the 200th race for Eurointernational!"

Canadian Antoine Bessette, who admitted that he would have preferred the race be held under rainy conditions, was no less pleased to score a podium in his first event with AIM Autosport.

"This race was really very exciting," a wide-eyed Bessette said. "I knew that we had a big opportunity with the late-race restart, and I was trying to make the most of it, but I saw that Gelinas, he was too hungry for the position, so I backed off, and when he spun, I had to work hard to make sure I didn't hit him!"

The fickle weather patterns in the upstate New York area were once again a factor, as rain fell in the morning, leaving the drivers to decide whether to start the race with slicks or rain tires as the track was beginning to show signs of drying.

Pole sitter Marcos Gomes took the lead at the start, with Mark Wilkins taking up the battle from second position as Ponte began to set a series of fast laps from third position. Gomes kept his gap to the pack, but a full course yellow erased his lead after series newcomer Stephan Roy spun off in a section of the track that had not fully dried.

On the restart, Gomes led the field to the green flag, but the field was not well aligned, and several cars made contact, taking out three racers-Renato Jader David, Mark Wilkins, and Patricio Jourdain, Jr. Wilkins and Jader were extremely frustrated with the turn of events, and Jourdain, who had started the race on rain tires and ran competitively before capitalizing on the caution to make the switch to dries, was done for the day.

The field circulated for two laps as the cars of Wilkins and Jourdain Jr. were removed from the track, setting the stage for a one-lap dash to the finish. Gomes once again led the field back to the green, with Ponte chasing him as Imery, Bessette, and Gelinas all fought for position, with Gelinas spinning off into turn one when he left his braking too late, leaving Bessette and Imery to take the remaining podium positions.

Gomes was found to have been in violation of the rules regarding restarts, and so was given a 15 second penalty post race.

"I accept the ruling of the officials--there are slightly different regulations here than in the Brazilian Formula Renault championship, so I learned the hard way what the rules are here," said a disappointed Gomes. "But it is of course good to know that we had the car to beat today, and so I am looking forward to the race in Toronto."

Gelles Racing's Michael Yager netted the best result of his young career with a fourth place run ahead of Robert Siska in fifth. Series newcomer Phillippe Gelinas finished sixth ahead of pole sitter Marcos Gomes in seventh, with rookie Adam Dodds taking eighth in his first top-ten finish of the season. Renato Jader David finished in ninth, with outside pole starter Mark Wilkins finishing in tenth.

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.

The series will meet again for round four of the championship as part of the Champ Car Molson Indy Toronto event on the weekend of July 9-11.

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Series Formula Renault
Drivers Antoine Bessette , Juan Martin Ponte , Ricardo Imery , Mark Wilkins , Robert Siska , Stéphane Roy , Marcos Gomes