NA: Winter Series Sebring wrap up

Britain's Robert Bell takes victory in Round 1 of Winter Series. Sebring, Florida, January 25, 2003 -- British driver Robert Bell captured victory in the opening round of the 2003 Fran-Am and Formula Renault 2000 World Championship Winter Series...

Britain's Robert Bell takes victory in Round 1 of Winter Series.

Sebring, Florida, January 25, 2003 -- British driver Robert Bell captured victory in the opening round of the 2003 Fran-Am and Formula Renault 2000 World Championship Winter Series held Saturday at Sebring International Raceway.

The weather was fine and warm in Sebring, Florida when the cars lined up on the grid for the start of the 12-lap race. The field of 36 cars took the standing start with Argentina's Juan Martin Ponte on pole position. The race was hard-fought, especially at the front of the field. Ponte -- who competed in the Italian Formula Renault Championship last year -- and Bell -- a two-time British Formula Renault Winter Series Champion -- battled fiercely for the lead all race long.

However, at the drop of the checkered flag, a winner could not immediately be crowned. A malfunction of the electronic timing system forced race stewards to double check the teams' manual lap charts to verify the position of each car at each lap. Additionally, a post race technical disqualification affected the official results.

When all the results were confirmed, it was 23-year old Robert Bell -- driving for British Team Firstair -- who claimed the victory. Condor Motorsports driver Jeff Simmons from New York finished in second place, followed by Bell's Firstair teammate, 21-year old James Murphy from Ireland. Britain's Mike Conway came through in fourth while Canadian Dan McMullen rounded out the top five.

Round 2 of the Winter Series will be run on Sunday afternoon.

The Winter Series is open to Fran-Am and Formula Renault single seaters powered by two-litre, 186-horsepower, four-cylinder Renault engines. The cars are fitted with front and rear wings and feature spec Michelin racing tires. The competitors, amongst the world's best up and coming race car drivers, compete for a cash prize fund of U.S. $100,000 and a free test drive in the new Formula Renault V6 car in Europe.

Argentinian Juan Martin Ponte claims win in Round 2 of Winter Series.

Sebring, Florida, January 26, 2003 -- In a stunning drive, 17-year old Argentinean Juan Martin Ponte captured a brilliant victory in Round 2 of the 2003 Fran-Am and Formula Renault 2000 World Championship Winter Series held Sunday at Sebring International Raceway.

Ponte, who lives in Entre Rios, Argentina, started his racing career driving Formula Renault in Argentina and contested the last two seasons in the hotly disputed Italian Formula Renault Championship.

Moments before the standing start, second-place qualifier, Giorgio Mondini stalled his engine. Instead of putting him at the back of the grid for the restart, Mondini was given a stop-and-go penalty to be executed during the race.

At the green, Mondini immediately took first place and the 22-year old Italian did not surrender it until he came onto pit lane to serve his penalty. This gave the lead to Ponte and the Argentinean, driving for Antonio Ferrari's Eurointernational, controlled the race all the way to the checkered flag, scoring his first podium in the series.

Eighteen-year old British driver Alex Lloyd of Motaworld Racing scored his first points in the Winter Series with a second place finish. The winner of Round 1, Team Firstair's Robert Bell rounded out the top three, and took the lead in the standings with a total of 146 points with his second straight podium finish .

QUOTES

WINNER -- JUAN MARTIN PONTE (Argentina)
"It was a very fun race. It's great to win after such a hard fight. To win like this is extremely satisfying. I hope the championship will continue like this! After what happened yesterday, I'm really happy to finish first today. I want to thanks the mechanics and my sponsors. I will work harder to win again in Miami."

SECOND PLACE -- ALEX LLOYD (Great Britain)
"I had a good race. There was a lot of action everywhere on the track. I took the start in third place but lost one spot to run fourth in the early laps. Some guys fell off and I managed to make it to second position. However, the leader was just a bit too fast for us today and I was not able to catch him. But my goal was to finish on the podium and to score points. Only the top 25 drivers in the standings will be allowed to race in St. Petersburg and I wanted to be one of them."

THIRD PLACE -- ROBERT BELL (Great Britain)
"I'm not really surprised with the intense level of competition of this series. There are five or six guys who are really on it and we expected that. I'm really happy to stand on top of the point standings after two races. We won't be testing before Homestead. We're going back to England and we'll return here just a few days before the race. My goal is to win in Homestead. I cannot drive too cautiously. I'll go for the victory."

Rounds 3 and 4 will be held in two weeks, on February 15 and 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

The Winter Series is open to Fran-Am and Formula Renault single seaters powered by two-litre, 186-horsepower, four-cylinder Renault engines. The cars are fitted with front and rear wings and feature spec Michelin racing tires. The competitors, amongst the world's best up and coming race car drivers, compete for a cash prize fund of U.S. $100,000 and a free test drive in the new Formula Renault V6 car in Europe.

-franAm-

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About this article
Series Formula Renault
Drivers Jeff Simmons , Alex Lloyd , Mike Conway , James Murphy , Juan Martin Ponte