Wilkins looking to keep momentum (16 June 04)--The North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship will return to action for round three of the 2004 championship this weekend at the famed Watkins Glen International facility as part of the ...
Wilkins looking to keep momentum
(16 June 04)--The North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship will return to action for round three of the 2004 championship this weekend at the famed Watkins Glen International facility as part of the Grand American 'Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen' race weekend. The event will be the first visit to the track for many of the drivers in the field, all of whom are relishing the opportunity to add their names to the list of famous racers who have won at the Glen in the facilities' storied history.
Mark Wilkins of Woodbridge, Ontario, leads the championship heading into the weekend after his breakthrough win at Mt Tremblant in round two took him to the top of the standings, building on his strong podium finish at Phoenix International Raceway in April in the debut race for North American Formula 2000. Wilkins now knows what it takes to get to the top step of the podium, and the AIM Autosport pilot is hungry to keep the momentum up and grow his lead, but he knows he is now the target for everyone else.
"The Glen is a very special track and I know that the Formula Renault is going to be a blast to drive there with so many fast corners and long straits," said Wilkins. "It's going to be important to get a good balance in the car for the race, but we will get a lot of testing time to get the car right, so I am very confident heading into the weekend. I know there are a lot of guys who will be trying to narrow the points gap to me, so it should be an interesting race!"
Two of those competitors hunting Wilkins and the points lead will be Eurointernational racers Juan Martin Ponte of Argentina and Ricardo Imery of Venezuela, who sit third and fourth in the points respectively. Ponte took the pole and won the first race of the season, and was fighting for a win in round two, but suffered from contact after making a decisive pass for the lead on the outside of the super-fast turn one at Tremblant, ending his bid. Imery has shown both speed and patience thus far this season, and has been rewarded with a pair of fourth place finishes. The drivers will be hoping to make the weekend one to remember for team owner Antonio Ferrari, who is celebrating his teams 200th race this weekend.
Gelinas and Roy will race at the Glen with Gelles Racing
Former karting star Philippe Gelinas and experienced Formula Atlantic pilot Stephan C. Roy will join Gelles Racing for the Watkins Glen race for their Formula Renault 2000 debuts. Both are from the Trois-Rivières area and will race with the Virginia-based team in late July at the 35th annual Grand-Prix. Gelinas tested with the team last week, and Canadians are both looking forward to getting more seat time in the car.
"We have been talking with Stephan for a while and we are happy to announce he will become a regular for a good part of the season," said team owner Bob Gelles. "Stephan has a lot of experience and will be an immediate contender in the series. On the other hand, we were impressed with Philippe, with the maturity he shows for a 19-year old and for his capacity to get to speed with a Renault car. Our team is happy to have four cars racing this weekend."
Close racing and international interest
The Watkins Glen weekend is expected to provide some intense competition, as the Formula Renault 2000 rules package emphasizes parity, and the season has demonstrated how evenly matched the drivers and cars are, with the top ten drivers qualifying within one second of the pole position in both races this season.
The North American Formula Renault 2000 Championship has attracted international interest and participation, with three Canadians, three Brazilians, two Americans, one Argentinean, and one Venezuelan comprising the top ten in the points standings.
Reliable Renault Racers
Cost containment is an important element of the Formula Renault package, and center to this is the reliability of the cars. The opening race weekend featured a promoter test day in advance of the race meeting and saw the field complete over 2400 timed laps in total during the weekend, or more than 3,700 miles, without a single engine or transmission problem. Series officials were pleased with the race weekend, and are looking forward to the rest of the season. 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 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.