NA-F2000: Ricardo Vassmer Cleveland race notes

Vassmer Gets on the Podium In Cooper Tires FF2000 Action At Grand Prix of Cleveland CLEVELAND, June 26 - Despite never driving on the course before, Ricardo Vassmer got on the podium in NASA Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 action at...

Vassmer Gets on the Podium In Cooper Tires FF2000 Action At Grand Prix of Cleveland

CLEVELAND, June 26 - Despite never driving on the course before, Ricardo Vassmer got on the podium in NASA Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 action at Burke Lakefront Airport here over the weekend.

In only his second weekend with JDC Motorsports, Vassmer finished fourth in Saturday's race and third in Sunday's race for his sponsors, Meridiano Television, Santa Barbara Airlines and Zoom. Both 21-lap events supported the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland.

Vassmer, who lives in Coral Springs, Fla. when he's not in his native Caracas, Venezuela, took quickly to the 2.106-mile temporary road course and qualified third. The Cape Motorsports cars of J.R. Hildebrand, Dane Cameron and Chris Meredith proved uncatchable in Saturday's non-stop race, but Vassmer took the checkered flag in fourth place, 10 seconds ahead of fifth-place finisher Jason Byers and Andy Knight in sixth.

"The car was good, however it started to push in the second half of the race," Vassmer said afterwards. "The start was slow, and I got caught in traffic. When I finally started to pull some free laps it was too late to go for a podium finish."

The starting grid for Sunday's race was established by each competitor's fastest lap during Saturday's race, putting Vassmer fifth as the field took the green.

The team had made some significant changes to the car's set-up for Sunday's race which improved its handling characteristics, but in the always hectic start two cars slipped by Vassmer in turn one to push him to seventh. Vassmer didn't let that affect his performance, however, and he showed his patience by running fast and consistent laps. After an exciting battle with Byers, Vassmer had moved into fourth place by lap 10, and then he set his sights on Knight, some 4 seconds ahead.

Vassmer reduced that gap by about a half-second per lap to pass Knight and nail down the final podium spot just three laps before the checkered.

"This was one of my best races this year," Vassmer said afterwards. "I drove at the limit for the entire race, and had a great shoot out with Jason Byers. Four laps of close racing with the super-fast point leader of the Master Cup was pure fun.

"Then I concentrated on hunting down Andy Knight, a top-three finisher in last year's Formula Toyota [Atlantic] series in New Zealand," he continued. "I got Andy on lap 18 in turn three with a clean pass, and I am happy for this first podium finish in front of my team, sponsors, and my friends in the Champ Car community.

"I am very happy for my team, which made a huge effort to set up my car for this race weekend," he said. "We are working well together, and they gave me a good car. They are closing the gap on the Cape cars, and I am looking forward to our next race in Toronto. My new sponsor, Zoom, brought good luck to the team and we will wear the Kangaroo logo for the rest of the season."

Vassmer said that one of the things he worked on this weekend was his approach to rolling starts. "I have refined my technique for rolling starts," he disclosed. "Of course the most important thing is to get a clean start. Cameron ran over my tire in the first race, but I was being very careful because I wanted to finish first and foremost. But I am improving my rolling starts, because that is critical."

Vassmer also noted that the FF2000 cars were faster at this circuit this year than they have ever been, as new marks were set in qualifying and for fastest race laps.

The circuit now moves to Exhibition Place in Toronto July 7-9 followed by Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario Sept. 1-3, and Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Sept. 22-24. Doubleheaders are held at each venue.

"I've never been to Toronto, but I'm looking forward to it and hope to get two more podiums," Vassmer said of the upcoming doubleheader on Toronto's 1.755-mile street circuit, which again supports a Champ Car World Series headliner.

For more information see ricardovassmer.com, cooperseries.com and eformulacarnews.com.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Dane Cameron , J.R. Hildebrand