Howard Wins Dramatic Season Opener at Road Atlanta Braselton, Ga. (April 15, 2005) -- Jay Howard made almost the perfect start to his season in the Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars by scoring a lights-to-flag victory...
Howard Wins Dramatic Season Opener at Road Atlanta
Braselton, Ga. (April 15, 2005) -- Jay Howard made almost the perfect start to his season in the Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars by scoring a lights-to-flag victory this afternoon at Road Atlanta.
"Very pleased. Just what I wanted to do," he said succinctly. "And (it's) the way I aim to continue. My aim is to win every race of the year, get pole at every race and get fastest lap at every race. If I don't get that, then I'm not happy."
Howard, 24, from Basildon, England, didn't quite achieve the trifecta, since he was narrowly beaten to the honor of fastest lap by his constant pursuer, Jason Bowles. Still, achieving two of his three goals ensured a maximum haul of 32 points -- 30 for winning the race plus one bonus point each for the pole and leading most laps.
Having posted the fastest lap in qualifying with Marshall Aiken's British Racing Drivers Club/2810 Web Design/Sutton Images Van Diemen RF02, Howard made an excellent getaway from the rolling start and seemed to be well in control at the halfway stage in the 30-minute race.
But then he began to encounter some slower traffic, and soon his margin of around one second was cut to merely a car's length: "You can't take for granted what (the slower cars are) going to do," he said. "Some guys make it easy, but some of the other guys were racing among themselves, so that's fair enough."
Bowles, 22, from Ontario, Calif., took advantage of the backmarkers to close onto Howard's tail. But his hopes of being able to challenge for the victory were ended when the race ended under a full-course caution after third-place runner Chris Guerrieri, from Pickering, Ont., Canada fell foul of a slower car in Turn Seven and crashed heavily. Bowles had to be content with second.
"All in all, not too bad," he summarized. "It's disappointing that it ended under yellow but I'm pleased with the way the race went. My car had a bit of understeer in the beginning but it just kept getting quicker and quicker. I really thought I might have been able to have a go at Jay, but we have another chance tomorrow."
Another Englishman, Joey Foster, qualified second for his first-ever race in North America, but lost out to Bowles on the run to the first corner. He settled in behind his Californian rival, only to make a mistake in Turn Three: "Jason got a little sideways in front of me, so I got up on the curb and it just threw the car up in the air," recounted a disgruntled Foster, whose Cape Motorsports Van Diemen suffered extensive damage.
Guerrieri took over the pursuit of Howard and Bowles. The 2003 Canadian Formula Ford Champion seemed well in control of third place until he collided with a slower car in Turn Seven.
The incident played into the hands of Venezuela's Enzo Potolicchio (Citgo/Stanford Financial Group/Cape Motorsports Van Diemen), who was thrilled to score his first-ever podium finish in a professional race.
"I came to the U.S. in 1994, but this is going to be my first full season," he said. "I was realistic with my expectations because we didn't do any testing before the first race. This was unexpected, to be honest."
Rookie Nick Haye also drove impressively, fighting his way from 10th on the grid to fourth in his first-ever professional race. The 17-year-old from Huntington Beach, Calif., enjoyed a lengthy tussle with veteran Jason Byers, who was the first Cooper Masters Series finisher (for drivers over 35) in fifth.
Colombian-based Venezuelan Ricardo Vassmer won the Cooper Gold Cup Series class (for older Pinto-engined cars) with a solid run to 13th overall among the 35-car field.
Time of race: 27 minutes, 00.488 seconds.
Average speed: 90.283 mph
Margin of victory: .69899 seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-16, #22 Jay Howard
Fastest race lap: #7 Jason Bowles, 1:24.681 (107.981 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #22 Jay Howard, 1:24.061 (108.778 mph)