Another second gives Road America honours to Daniel Erickson The F2000 Championship Series podium is becoming familiar territory to Daniel Erickson - his second place in Round 12 at Road America today was his third in as many rounds! But...
Another second gives Road America honours to Daniel Erickson
The F2000 Championship Series podium is becoming familiar territory to Daniel Erickson - his second place in Round 12 at Road America today was his third in as many rounds!
But while the young Sydney driver's previous two races (Round 11 on Saturday at Road America, and Round 10 at Lime Rock Park) were tough, this one was by far the toughest.
It featured a race-long lead battle that started with three cars, added a fourth and then lost two, leaving Erickson and American Jonathon Scarollo to slug it out over the concluding laps.
That Erickson, recently reconfirmed as an Australian Motor Sport Foundation International Rising Star, managed to stay in contention throughout the 12-lap, 78km race was a minor miracle.
A steering problem on his Primus/Quantum Racing Van Diemen during qualifying restricted him to a handful of laps, forcing the team to make an educated guess on the car's race set-up.
Consequently the handling wasn't spot-on, but despite that handicap he defended a tenuous lead until Scarallo snuck by to win by less than two seconds.
Erickson's 87-point haul (42 for each second place, and three for the Round 11 pole) was the weekend's highest, making him the unofficial Road America 'winner'.
The results moved him from sixth to equal-fourth position in the aggregate pointscore, but importantly he's now third on 'corrected' points after each driver's two worst rounds (including non-scoring ones) have been deducted under the championship rules.
Erickson's car problems carried over from Saturday's race, in which a loose suspension joint prevented him from taking the fight up to championship leader Victor Carbone.
This time a bent steering arm ended his session after just five laps of the daunting 6.5km Wisconsin racetrack.
Even so, he manhandled the wayward machine to a second-fastest qualifying time of 2min. 16.096.
He trailed pole winner Scarallo by 0.446sec. - a remarkably small gap on such a long circuit under the circumstances - with 2007 champion Cole Morgan another 0.328sec. further back.
A 'green' track washed by overnight rain dropped most drivers' lap times by several tenths of a second, if not more, from their Saturday marks.
The circuit's old-style 'ripple strip' kerbing was taking its toll on the F2000 cars, too.
"It was a tough session," Erickson said. "The ripple strips are really beating up these cars - they're falling apart!
"We had a problem with the steering; the wheel is turned to the right when the front wheels are pointing straight ahead.
"I came into the pits to conserve the tyres, because I couldn't go any quicker and more laps it would have ruined the front tyres."
The Quantum Racing crew fixed the steering in time for the race, but having done so few laps in qualifying Erickson lined up for the start not knowing whether his car had the optimum set-up.
Nevertheless, he started well by grabbing the early lead from Scarallo at Turn 2.
Scarallo also lost second place to Morgan, who tucked into Erickson's slipstream down the long back straight.
For the first half of the race, the three drivers engaged in a furious tussle for the lead that captivated the attention of everyone at the circuit.
F2000 Championship Series media and communications man Monty Mathison frantically described the scene to Internet race fans on the championship's Twitter page:
"Erickson back around Scarallo for P2. A highly entertaining battle as the top three are nose to tail jockeying in the draft.
"Leaders now THREE wide down the back stretch.
"What a race for the lead at Road America! Scarallo alongside Erickson for the lead into turn one. Morgan back to third."
Erickson held a slender lead at half-distance, but with an ill-handling car he couldn't break free of his pursuers.
The front running threesome's antics slowed them down enough for Chris Livengood to catch up and join in the battle.
Still Erickson led, but only just, as he drove defensively to keep the three faster cars behind.
On lap eight Livengood tangled with Morgan at Turn 5, putting both of them off the track and leaving Erickson and Scarallo to settle the issue among themselves.
The next time around, Scarallo dived past Erickson under brakes, but the Aussie clung onto the orange Van Diemen's tail like a limpet.
Very fast and 6.5km (4.05 miles) long, Road America is one of the world's most demanding road circuits.
When the white flag waved to signal the last lap, he had almost half a second to make up.
Faced with the choice of driving at 11/10ths (ie. beyond his capability) to make up the deficit, or settle for second place and a swag of points, Erickson chose the latter.
His disastrous last-lap challenge on Morgan for the lead in Round 9 at Lime Rock Park had taught him that heroics rarely pay off on the racetrack.
They crossed the line just 1.89 seconds after the most nail-biting race of the 2010 F2000 Championship Series championship so far.
Erickson conceded that retaking the lead from Scarallo was a tall order.
"I tried everything I could to get past him again, but we just weren't fast enough today."
Typically, Erickson was dissatisfied with anything other than victory.
"Although I'm grateful for another second place, I really wanted at least one win this weekend to acknowledge the recent support from the Australian Motor Sport Foundation," he said.
"The race was a real challenge, which wasn't totally unexpected after qualifying.
"We had to decide which way to go with the race set-up, and it turned out to be not quite right.
"But we're within sight of our goal for the championship, which is to finish in the top three even after missing four rounds, so I have to thank Jon Baytos of Primus Racing as well as Wendell and Slade Miller of Quantum Racing for that.
"Today we were 'close, but no cigar'; now we're looking forward to finishing on a high at Mid Ohio next month."
-source: daniel erickson PR