Surprise : Hall is Champion! St. Petersburg, Florida, February 23, 2003 -- As expected, the decisive race of the 2003 Fran-Am 2000 and Formula Renault 2000 World Winter Series held in St. Petersburg today turned out to be a nail biting event...
Surprise : Hall is Champion!
St. Petersburg, Florida, February 23, 2003 -- As expected, the decisive race of the 2003 Fran-Am 2000 and Formula Renault 2000 World Winter Series held in St. Petersburg today turned out to be a nail biting event and proved that 'anything can happen in motor sport'. Before the St. Petersburg event Argentina's Juan Martin Ponte enjoyed a 39-point advantage over British driver Robert Bell. However, Ponte's weekend started on a disappointing note as he qualified a lowly 21st .
From the green, the 17-year old Ponte began to slice through the field and gained numerous positions on this fast street course. He was running in 9th place with just one lap to complete in the race, giving him enough point to secure the title whatever the number of points the other drivers would score. Amazingly, Ponte collided with another competitor on the last lap. He quickly recovered from the spin and returned into action. He crossed the line in 13th place. Meanwhile, Charles Hall won the race and scored enough points to clinch the title ahead of Ponte.
Twenty-year old Charles Hall -- who has raced Formula 3 in Great Britain last season -- qualified second for the race behind American Jeff Simmons. Simmons controlled the race until a full course yellow. At the restart, Simmons lost places, allowing Hall to take the lead of the race. Hall led until the finish, winning in second race in succession. Nineteen-year old Mike Conway drove a strong race to finish second. Simmons arrived home in third place but his car was disqualified after the race due to a technical infringement. British driver Dave Lloyd was therefore promoted to third place while his countryman Robert Bell -- second in the point standings before the St. Petersburg event -- crashed in the race.
WINNER AND CHAMPION -- CHARLES HALL
"It's fantastic! I talked to the Fran-Am coach before the race to know how to attack this street course and I knew I had to take things easy. From the start of the weekend the team told me to go slowly and to keep it nice and tidy. We haven't changed the car since Homestead and it was working very well here. We had a perfect weekend and to win the title is simply extraordinary."
In the final standings, Charles Hall is first, followed by Juan Martin Ponte and Dave Lloyd.
This event concludes the 2003 Fran-Am 2000 and Formula Renault 2000 World Winter Series. The drivers competed for a cash prize fund of U.S. $100,000 and a free test drive in the new Formula Renault V6 car in Europe.
The 13-race 2003 North American Pro Fran-Am 2000 Series will begin May 3rd on Phoenix International Raceway's road course.
Winter World Series
Final championship positions (top 4)
1. Charles Hall, Great Britain, 276 points
2. Juan Martin Ponte, Argentina, 269
3. Dave Lloyd (Great Britain), 216
4. Robert Bell (Great Britain), 215