NA: Winter Series finale in St. Pete preview

Montreal, Canada, February 20, 2003 -- The highly exciting 2003 Fran-Am 2000 and Formula Renault 2000 World Championship Winter Series will conclude this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida with the presentation of the fifth and championship...

Montreal, Canada, February 20, 2003 -- The highly exciting 2003 Fran-Am 2000 and Formula Renault 2000 World Championship Winter Series will conclude this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida with the presentation of the fifth and championship deciding round. The Fran-Am and Formula Renault drivers will be part of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - the opening round of the prestigious 2003 CART Champ Car Series.

The points battle is incredibly tight as only 58 points separate the top five drivers in the standings. With a win worth 80 points, the title is far from being decided and the St. Petersburg event will be hotly contested. The drivers will also compete for a prize fund of US$100,000, with US$36,000 to be given to the champion. Additionally, the first three drivers in the championship standings will be awarded a test in the new Formula Renault V-6 racer in Europe -- a single seater powered by a 372-horsepower V-6 engine.

Seventeen-year old Argentine driver Juan Martin Ponte leads the standings with a total of 245 points. Ponte, the only two-time race winner in the Winter Series, drives for Antonio Ferrari's Eurointernational stable. Ponte also finished fourth in Miami-Homestead this past weekend, scoring valuable championship points.

Second in the standings - just 39 points behind Ponte - is Britain's Robert Bell. The 23-year old driver from West Hunsbury, Great Britain captured victory in the opening race in Sebring and then finished third and fourth in Rounds 2 and 3. Bell, a two-time British Formula Renault Winter Series champion, looks forward to a great performance on St. Petersburg's new street course.

Italian Giorgio Mondini -- the other driver of team Eurointernational -- has been very consistent so far this year. The 22-year old driver has competed in the European Formula Renault 2000 series last season, ranking 12th in the championship. In the Winter Series, Mondini finished fifth in Sebring's second race, and then was second in Rounds 3 and 4. At this moment, it is not possible to confirm Giorgio Mondini's participation in the St. Petersburg finale. Giorgio left Florida for Italy immediately after the second Miami Homestead race last Sunday, his younger brother having been tragically killed in a car accident.

Great Britain's Charles Hall won Round 4 in Homestead and lies fourth in the standings, just eight points behind Mondini. The 20-year old Hall -- who has raced Formula 3 in Great Britain last year -- may well cause another surprise in St. Petersburg.

Other drivers to watch for in this fifth and final race of the Fran-Am and Formula Renault Winter Series include Robert Scott (Ireland, Team Motaworld), Tim Barber (USA, Gelles Racing), Alex Lloyd (Great Britain, Team Motaworld), James Murphy (Ireland, Team Firstair) and Michele Bartyan (Italy, Project Italia).

To make things even more exciting, the series' organisers invite only the top 30 drivers in the standings to compete in the St. Petersburg's finale. "Only the top 30 drivers are invited to compete. If, for some reason, one driver cannot come, we'll invite the 31st driver and so on," explained Andrew Field, Director of Marketing at Fran-Am. "We'll have 30 drivers for qualifying but only the 26 fastest will be allowed to take the start of the race. With so much money up for grabs and the unique chance to test a Renault V-6 car in Europe, it will undoubtedly be a very exciting race in St. Petersburg!"

The World Winter Series
The Winter Series is opened to Fran-Am and Formula Renault single seaters powered by two-litre engines. These race cars are powered by 186-horsepower, four-cylinder Renault engines, are fitted with front and rear wings and are shod on slick Michelin tires. The competitors are amongst the world's best up and coming race car drivers who will soon be the next Formula 1 and CART Series' drivers.

Provisional point standings (unofficial top 5)
After round 4 out of 5

1 Juan Martin Ponte (Argentina), 245 points
2 Robert Bell (Great Britain), 206
3 Giorgio Mondini (Italy), 204
4 Charles Hall (Great Britain), 196
5 James Murphy (Ireland), 187

-fran am-

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About this article
Series Formula Renault
Drivers Robert Scott , Charles Hall , Alex Lloyd , James Murphy , Tim Barber , Juan Martin Ponte , Giorgio Mondini