Audette is coming off a double-win at Mid-Ohio
Six races down, eight to go, the F2000 Championship Series heads for the mid-point of the 2011 title fight this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Championship points’ leader Remy Audette is coming off a clean sweep at Watkins Glen one month ago, winning both races and extending his lead to 67 points over rookie Kyle Connery, who has two wins on the season to Audette’s three.
The biggest news coming into the Mid-Ohio doubleheader, however, is the schedule. A Thursday practice day will give way to dual qualifying sessions and races both on Friday and Saturday with just 30 minutes in-between sessions. The short turnaround time, much like a Saturday night short-track program, will not allow for any mistakes.
“Mid-Ohio is a fun track, and last year the car was really good, and this year, with the car we have, it should be even better,” said Audette, who has finished on the podium three straight years at the 13-turn course.
“With the schedule, the intensity level will be high. The key will be being prepared at the start of the first session. We need to have to a plan for the 30 minutes in between sessions. It would be good to win, but we want podiums and to be consistent for the championship,” continued Audette.
Last season, it was Chris Livengood who drove away from the field at Mid-Ohio. Livengood should be a favorite this weekend with a similar package in the #37 Work Racing/John Walko Racing Van Diemen.
“The schedule is tight but I don’t see any reason why it will change our strategy or decrease or effectiveness,” said Livengood.
“Having won at Mid-Ohio last year, I am going there with a fair amount of confidence as well. In my mind I have a strong understanding of what it takes to lay down a quick lap, and I hope that will translate into success.”
Kyle Connery sits second in the standings, but more than a full-race win adrift of Canadian Audette. However, the rookie swept both races at Road Atlanta and has been fast all year.
“With the madness of the schedule there is zero tolerance for any mistakes,” explained Connery. “From my end of the spectrum, I have to find a way to gain experience from what Remy has learned over the past three years before it happens, in order to beat him. With Mid-Ohio looking to be our last event (due to funding), I’m not looking at the championship. It’s about wins, fastest laps, and the track record!”
Tim Minor has a pile of podiums similar to Audette at Mid-Ohio, and is hoping to be a threat for the win.
“I am not a huge fan of the schedule, and some folks who don’t have a large crew may find it a bit too much,” he said. “I still believe Remy is going to be a challenge, but I will try to do a better job and certainly keep the pressure on, because I feel I am still a threat to win at any of these events.”
While he hasn’t won since Road America last year, Jonathan Scarallo did put in the Hard Charger drive of the year at Mid-Ohio, advancing 17 positions in the final race of 2010.
“Driver fatigue could come into play,” commented Scarallo. “It will most likely be hot and with not much time to rehydrate and rest between sessions, driver fitness can come into play.”
Scarallo hopes to bounce back after a rough weekend at Watkins Glen in the Primus Racing entry.
Robert La Rocca, driving the HP-Tech RFR, spent a brief time in the lead at Watkins Glen as the Florida-based team continues to develop the new RFR chassis with each race weekend.
La Rocca said that there are more updates coming for Mid-Ohio, and HP-Tech, after being dominant in Ferrari Challenge, is making a case for its first F2000 victory.
At Alegra Motorsports, Angel Benitez tied his best 2011 result at Watkins Glen with another four place effort.
“I want to be on the podium,” said Benitez. “We are working so hard, and I’m pushing as hard as I can.”
Teammate Gustavo Rizzo will join Benitez at Alegra for Mid-Ohio, both in Van Diemens. Rizzo ran strong at Watkins Glen in June before an incident sent him back through the field.
A late entry filed by ArmsUp Motorsports will add two cars to the sharp end of the grid for rookies Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot. Both drivers regularly race competitively in another F2000 championship for Andretti Autosport and look to experience a much larger, 32-car grid this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Honda Performance Development will have its hospitality unit on hand at Mid-Ohio, serving lunch and snacks to both the F2000 and F1600 paddocks.
Thursday June 30 features three official practice sessions, including two 45-minute sessions scheduled for 4:45 p.m. and 6:00 local time, and then a shorter, 30-minute session window at 7:15. Friday, July 1 continues with two 25-minute qualifying sessions, at 3:30 and 4:25, and the first race of the weekend 5:20.
Saturday’s schedule mimics the Friday schedule but with a 9:30 a.m. “Town Hall” style F2000 meeting so Series officials can request feedback on the direction of the Championship.
source: Monty Mathisen, mathisenmedia.com, photo: Valet