NA-F2000: Mid-Ohio Morioka report 97-08-09

For more information: Linda Mansfield, Pager (new no.): 1-800-632-5531 E-mail: lindamansfield@CompuServe.com Morioka Nails Down Provisional Pole Friday at Mid-Ohio in U.S. FF2000 LEXINGTON, Ohio, Aug. 8 - On Friday afternoon Zak...

For more information: Linda Mansfield, Pager (new no.): 1-800-632-5531 E-mail: lindamansfield@CompuServe.com

Morioka Nails Down Provisional Pole Friday at Mid-Ohio in U.S. FF2000

LEXINGTON, Ohio, Aug. 8 - On Friday afternoon Zak Morioka earned the provisional pole for Saturday afternoon's U.S. Formula Ford 2000 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

He accomplished it with a sizzling lap of 1:24.172 in his Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil/A.M.E. Sports Van Diemen Quicksilver Ford for an average speed of 96.573 mph over the 2.258-mile road course. That was just a tick slower than Steve Knapp's qualifying record here of 96.586 mph set last August.

Morioka tops the qualifying standings for now, but another qualifying session is set for early Saturday morning. Most railbirds believe the drivers will go faster in the latter stages of that session, once the early-morning dew rises.

The top five in the first round of qualifying were Morioka, Andy Lally (1:24.416); Duncan Dayton (1:24.519); Jeff Shafer (1:24.523) and Matt Sielsky (1:24.668). Jeff Simmons (former champion Chris' brother), was sixth with a 2:24.668 in only his first U.S. FF2000 race.

"The car was great; the handling was perfect," said Morioka, thanking his Hayes Motorsports crew. "It was even better than this morning." Morioka was fourth-fastest in the morning practice session, behind Sielsky, Andrea De Lorenzi and Lally.

"We had a little bit of understeer during the qualifying, and we changed the car a couple of times in the session," he disclosed. "With 20 minutes left in the session we already had run one of the quickest laps, so we played with the car. Then with 4 minutes to go I was a little more aggressive because I already had one good lap and I had a clear track in front of me, and that last lap was our best. There is still more left in the car, too," he said with a big grin.

"Now we'll just have to keep it up for tomorrow," he added realistically. "It's easier for us now than for the other people because we have a good lap already. But we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I think everybody will be faster tomorrow, so this could mean nothing other than we're definitely contenders. It's good, but nothing counts yet.

"I think this set-up will be good for the race tomorrow, though," he added. "I don't think it's going to rain. We should be one of the fastest, but it's a long race and anything could happen. This makes it easier for us, but it's a long race and we still have to finish."

"Qualifying is very important here though," he added. "The track is very tight to pass; it's a high-speed track and there are just too many cars."

Fifty cars are entered in the event, which is being billed as the VGX Brake Pads FF2000 Classic presented by the New Line Cinema release "Money Talks."

"If we win the pole tomorrow, we would earn one point, which would make us just one point behind Buddy [Rice] going into the race tomorrow afternoon," Morioka added. "But there are lots of good drivers out there, like Buddy, Duncan Dayton, Matt Sielsky, Ryan Hampton and others, and that's too many people!"

A total of 18 drivers are still in contention for the overall championship prior to Saturday's race, the third-to-last in the series.

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Duncan Dayton , Andy Lally , Steve Knapp , Ryan Hampton , Jeff Simmons , Jeff Shafer