Inaugural Formula Renault Winter Invitational Wins Rave Reviews from Drivers and Teams The inaugural Formula Renault Winter Invitational Championship, which saw drivers from fifteen different countries contest a five-round championship for a...
Inaugural Formula Renault Winter Invitational Wins Rave Reviews from Drivers and Teams
The inaugural Formula Renault Winter Invitational Championship, which saw drivers from fifteen different countries contest a five-round championship for a prize package worth over $150,000, received positive reviews from the participants, as the drivers and teams were impressed with the organization of the championship, as well as the quality of the competition, and are expecting to see the same for the 2004 North American Formula Renault Championship.
The winter series featured the opening two rounds at the historic Sebring International Raceway before reconvening at Homestead Miami Speedway for the final three rounds, including two track configurations, the second of which utilized the high banking on the newly reconfigured south Florida facility, providing extremely close racing and a new learning experience for the drivers.
The competition was particularly intense during the Formula Renault Winter Invitational, as the full fields of Formula Renaults piloted by hungry young racers often saw the top ten cars qualify within one second of the pole sitter. The level of racing was also very high, with the final race providing a nail biting finish for on lookers as series champion Junior Strous edged Dan McMullen to the finish line by just .013 of a second.
Gelles Racing pilot Gustavo Sondermann, who won round two and finished third in the championship, felt as through he had learned greatly by contesting so many laps wheel-to-wheel with his competitors, whom he thought helped him raise his game.
"This was a strong championship because the cars were so equal, and the drivers were so good," said Sondermann. "It really helped me improve and get even faster! One of the drivers in the series (Can Artam) is heading right to F3000 from here, and I think that shows how good the level of competitors was. I feel proud to have done well in the championship and to have won a race here, and am looking very much forward to the summer season!"
The team principles were also pleased with the Formula Renault Winter Invitational from an operational standpoint.
Ian Willis of Aim Autosport, who campaigned Canadians Dan McMullen (fourth in the championship), and Mark Wilkins (who scored a podium at Homestead), was impressed with the Winter Invitational, and is already looking ahead not only to the 2004 North American Formula Renault Championship, but also to the 2005 Formula Renault V6 Championship as well.
"We put on a fantastic show every race, which is not surprising given the excellent parity of the cars and the impressive skill levels of these young drivers," said Willis. "Rules enforcement on the technical side is very good, and that is an important consideration for the team owners. The team that John (Kolody, president of North American Formula Renault promoter RaceTeam Promotions) has assembled works very well together. Like everybody, we are also excited about the introduction of the Formula Renault V6, and will be visiting a round of the Eurocup this season to learn more about what is needed to assemble a competitive team."
Bob Gelles, of Gelles Racing, also came away from the Winter Invitational impressed, and ready to prepare for the summer season.
"John Wardle (Formula Renault Technical Director) does a great job administering the technical aspect of the series, which is so important to have someone knowledgeable in that position," said Gelles. "The overall level of organization was very strong and we are busy preparing for the 2004 season. The category is so well-proven and well known--Formula Renault UK is bulging at the seams--its important to have this category run in North America with the high level of organization and professionalism that John (Kolody) and his team are able to provide. The on-track action was also unbelievable, and to have drivers from fifteen different countries really shows the international nature of the category and also how much drivers want to prove themselves here in the North American market."
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 the 2004 North American Formula Renault 2000 season.