NA-F2000: Morioka Phoenix qualifying PR

For more information: Linda Mansfield ( Morioka Qualifies Sixth and Second For Phoenix FF2000 Doubleheader PHOENIX, April 18 - Zak Morioka of Miami, Fla., and Sao Paulo, Brazil, will start sixth in Saturday's U.S.

For more information: Linda Mansfield (

Morioka Qualifies Sixth and Second For Phoenix FF2000 Doubleheader

PHOENIX, April 18 - Zak Morioka of Miami, Fla., and Sao Paulo, Brazil, will start sixth in Saturday's U.S. Formula Ford 2000 race and second in a similar 30-lap/45-mile event Sunday at Phoenix Int'l Raceway (PIR). The doubleheader is part of the Chevy Trucks Desert Star Classic.

The 18-year-old driver of the Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil/A.M.E. Sports Van Diemen No. 27 earned those starting spots in twin qualifying sessions Friday at PIR.

His best lap in the qualifying session for the first race on PIR's 11-turn, 1.51-mile road course was a circuit at 90.444 mph (1:00.103), making him one of six drivers in that qualifying session to break the previous track qualifying record of 1:00.127 seconds set by Greg Moore on Oct. 4, 1992.

To earn the outside starting spot in the front row for Sunday's race, Morioka turned a lap at 90.836 mph (59.844 seconds), only 0.529 mph (0.347 seconds) off polesitter Dayton Duncan's lap at 91.365 mph (59.497 seconds). Dayton's performance broke the record Buddy Rice set a couple hours earlier and gave him his first U.S. FF2000 career pole.

The second-starting spot in the second race duplicates Morioka's series-best qualifying effort, which occurred on the oval here March 23. Morioka finished third in that race, which was his best finish in this series too.

Morioka spun once in turn two during the first qualifying session, but continued almost immediately. There was a full-course caution for John Miller's spin in turn three late in that session which allowed many teams, including Morioka's, to make aerodynamic changes in the pits which helped improve their results drastically. Morioka had been 14th before the pause in the action.

Buddy Rice won the pole for the first race with a lap at 90.945 mph (59.772 seconds).

Following the first qualifying session, Morioka said, "It's pretty slippery out there. I blistered the tires. I never really had a clear path to run fast. We'll make some changes for the next qualifying session."

That they did, picking up 0.392 mph between the first and second qualifying periods. The track was very slippery during both periods, but it was a bit cooler in the second qualifying session than the first. The Phoenix area is enjoying 90-degree Fahrenheit temperatures this weekend.

Among the changes made between the practice sessions and the qualifying sessions on Friday was a change in shock absorbers, which Morioka said proved to be critical.

"I have to thank my engineer, John Hayes," he said. "It was his idea to change the shocks. I didn't believe it would help so much, but it worked."

The second qualifying session was full of drama for Morioka. "We started the session on scrubbed tires and ran a minute flat. We came in and went to sticker tires, and went out and clocked our quick lap. Then, on the third lap with the sticker tires, the gearbox blew up and we were done."

The Hayes Motorsports crew went to work immediately after the qualifying session was concluded to change gearboxes. The one they're installing has never been run before.

Morioka also disclosed that the radiator was leaking water the entire second qualifying session. "We set the fast lap while we were leaking water, and I was watching it and wondering how long we could continue," he said. "Between that and the track being so slippery, it was something."

Morioka added that he thought turn seven was the most treacherous spot on the course, while Dayton gave his vote to turn one.

Regarding the duplication of his best qualifying results on the oval here a month ago, Morioka said, "It's the same as the last time, only turn one on the road course here is like a funnel. It's going to be a lottery. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, I guess. I must try my best not to be involved in any accidents in the first race so that I can reap the benefits of starting second in Sunday's race."

Morioka was fifth in the first practice session Friday morning, and ninth in the second practice session a couple of hours later. He turned a lap at 59.972 (91.117 mph) in the early session and dropped to 1:00.151 (90.548 mph) in the second session. (The fastest driver in both practice sessions, Dayton, was also slower in the second practice than the first.)

In the first practice session Friday, Morioka was one of 11 drivers to beat the existing track record with his fifth-fastest time. Only six drivers accomplished that in the second practice session Friday.

Morioka was also interviewed by veteran broadcaster David Hobbs Friday morning for an upcoming broadcast of the PIR doubleheader on Speedvision.

The all-day practice session on Thursday was challenging. The car developed clutch problems at one point and later Morioka and another driver made contact, damaging the front suspension and nose of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Van Diemen Quicksilver Ford. He didn't touch the wall in that incident, however, and the Hayes Motorsports team made repairs quickly.

Saturday's race is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.; Sunday's will start 24 hours later.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Duncan Dayton , David Hobbs , Buddy Rice , Greg Moore