NA-F2000: Morioka PR 97-05-13

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com Practice Just May Make Perfect This Weekend at Savannah SAVANNAH, Ga., May 13 - Quickly figuring out the best set-up and the fastest way around the track will...

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com

Practice Just May Make Perfect This Weekend at Savannah

SAVANNAH, Ga., May 13 - Quickly figuring out the best set-up and the fastest way around the track will be of paramount importance this weekend for Zak Morioka and the Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil/A.M.E. Sports U.S. Formula Ford 2000 team.

Morioka's team and its competitors will only have one half-hour practice session Friday morning at 10 a.m. at the brand-new street course at Savannah Harbor on Hutchison Island here prior to qualifying for Saturday's FF2000 race. The 25-lap race, which is part of the Dixie Crystals Grand Prix, gets the green flag on Saturday at 4:20 p.m.

Both the 2-mile road course and the event, which is headlined by a PPG Firestone Indy Lights race on Sunday, are brand new.

Two half-hour FF2000 qualifying sessions - one at 3:15 p.m. on Friday and one at 8 a.m. on Saturday - will determine the starting line-up for Saturday afternoon's FF2000 race. It's no secret that having a good practice session and qualifying up front are big advantages in any auto race.

Coming up with a set-up which is both fast and comfortable for the driver will be of paramount importance for Morioka and Hayes Motorsports of Aurora, Colo., which fields his white and red No. 27.

The driver and crew which choose the right settings for the track conditions and their car's chassis, the correct wing angles and gear ratios, the best shock absorbers for the track, etc., and make the best use of the data they receive from their on-board computer will have a far better chance to qualify well and to do well in the race itself. And since the track is so close to the ocean, another variable which will most likely change the track conditions between practice, the two qualifying sessions and the race will be the ocean winds and blowing sand.

"Since the track is new and no one in FF2000 has tested on it, everyone will be on even ground going into the weekend," Morioka said. "Practice will be even more important than usual, and the team that arrives at a good set-up quickly will have an advantage. I have every confidence in Rick and John Hayes, who prepare and field my car, so I feel we should be contenders right from the start."

Morioka has qualified second twice this year - once on the oval at Phoenix Int'l Raceway and once on Phoenix's road course. So far his best finish was a third in March in an event which supported the Phoenix 200 Indy Racing League race. He is currently tied for sixth in the series' overall point standings. Saturday's race at Savannah is the sixth of 12 events this year in the FF2000 series.

He finished 11th in the overall point standings last year, when his best finish was a fourth. His rookie season in FF2000 was in 1995. He began his racing career by racing go-karts in Brazil in 1993, and he was immediately successful.

Morioka, who resides in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Miami, Fla., is only 18 years old. He regularly competes against drivers two- and even three-times his age. His ultimate goal is Indy cars, and the FF2000 class is considered to be an excellent training ground prior to the SCCA Kool/Toyota Atlantic series or Indy Lights, the official development series for the CART Indy car series. Sometimes drivers even jump from FF2000 right into Indy cars, which is the case of Jim Guthrie and Sam Schmidt, both of whom plan to compete in the Indy 500 this Memorial Day.

Morioka's primary car is a 1997 Van Diemen with a Quicksilver-prepared Ford four-cylinder engine.

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Jim Guthrie , Sam Schmidt