Franzoni captures race one win on streets of St. Petersburg, with Slaghekke adding top-10s
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. – The chase for Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda supremacy commenced in ideal fashion for Afterburner Autosport in Florida over the weekend (March 29-30), winning race one of 2014 season on the Streets of St. Petersburg. Brazilian rookie Victor Franzoni captured the race one victory via an impressive run in less than ideal wet conditions, while Jeroen Slaghekke added to the points haul in Florida, with two strong top-10 efforts. Gustavo Myasava and Felipe Donato were unable to showcase their true pace in the doubleheader following incidents.
After a race-winning pre-season effort that featured Franzoni taking victory in race one of the six-race Winterfest championship, Afterburner Autosport was excited to get the full 2014 USF2000 Championship underway on the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg street circuit. The Afterburner Autosport outfit quickly made its presence felt, having utilized the opening two practice runs to get acclimatized to the track and fine-tune the car setups. Piloting the No. 17 Vhero/Aflex/E-QUAL/Novac Sports entry, Franzoni proved to be the man to beat in qualifying, securing the pole position for race one of the twin bill. That, however, proved to be the highlight of the day for the skilled squad, as Slaghekke was unable to get the desired speed from his racer, ending 15th on the grid. For both Myasava and Donato, things did not go as planned as well, with their sessions ending with damaged cars. Donato's No. 11 Top House Design/Inova Mkt/Squadra Kart car unfortunately suffered extensive damage, ending his event prematurely.
After a multi-hour delay due to severe weather in the area, it was time to go racing, with Franzoni leading the talented USF2000 field to the green flag on a wet and treacherous track. What followed was a highly-entertaining fight for top honors. The Brazilian, having initially lost the lead, promptly showcased superb racecraft throughout the 15-lap affair, ultimately passing for the lead and pulling away to a superb season-opening win while setting the fastest race lap in the process. It was not just a one-man show by Afterburner Autosport though, with Slaghekke on the move right from the start of the race. The Dutch racer steadily worked his way forward as the race progressed, taking the checkered flag in a hard-fought ninth place. Repairs to Myasava's No. 15 Drugovich Auto Parts were not completed in time for the race, due to a forced evacuation because the inclement weather.
"The race was just perfect," stated Franzoni. "I won the first race at the [Cooper Tires] Winterfest and now to win here, this is a nice way to start the season and the championship chase. The conditions were difficult. It was raining and then it stopped, but the track was still wet. It was difficult to brake on the line. It was difficult, but in the end it was perfect."
Returning to the track one day later, clear and sunny skies greeted the Afterburner Autosport cars for race two of the Verizon IndyCar Series' opening event. Starting P1 once again, Franzoni got a good launch to hold the lead through the opening sequence of corners. That being said, just as a multi-car accident occurred behind the lead pack, Franzoni relinquished the top spot. This proved to be the turning point of the race, as when the action resumed, Franzoni was unable to maneuver into the lead position and ended in the second-place position. With this going on, attention under the team awning turned to Slaghekke. The Dutch racer once again showcased his race talents, making the most of every opportunity to move up the scoring charts. In the end, he secured a second top-10 result of the weekend with a seventh place finish. Myasava, having been part of the first turn melee, was classified 16th.
Post-race, officials altered the results, removing Franzoni from second due to a technical infraction, sending the race one winner to 18th on the scoresheet.
The Afterburner Autosport squad now takes a break until April 26-27, when the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title resumes at the Barber Motorsports Park road course in Alabama. Entering the doubleheader, the team sits fourth in the team standings, with Franzoni and Slaghekke fifth and sixth in the driver championship chase. Highlights from the USF2000 Championship doubleheader on the Streets of St. Petersburg will be air on NBC Sports on May 24 from 1:30
am to 2:30 am ET.
Additional information on Afterburner Autosport is available from the team’s website at AfterburnerAutosport.com For direct contact, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Brian Tomasi @ 630-251-1709 or Tim Walsh @ 612-581-2499.
Keep up to date via Twitter @ABautosport1 and Facebook page at Afterburner Autosport.
Learn more about Felipe Donato at FelipeDonato.com.br and keep up to date via Twitter @FelipeDonato51, Facebook at Felipe Donato, and YouTube at Felipe Donato.
Learn more about Victor Franzoni at VictorFranzoni.com and keep up to date via Twitter @VictorFranzoni and Facebook atVictor Franzoni.
Keep up to date with Gustavo Myasava via Twitter @GustavoMyasava and Facebook at Gustavo Myasava.
Learn more about Jeroen Slaghekke at JeroenSlaghekke.com and keep up to date via Twitter @JeroenSlaghekke, Facebook at Jeroen Slaghekke Racing, and YouTube at Jeroen Slaghekke.
About Afterburner Autosport:
Afterburner Autosport was formed in 2010 with the sole purpose of leading the way in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda competition. Under the guidance of two-time SCCA Formula Continental National Champion Brian Tomasi and fellow F2000 racer and engineer Tim Walsh, the team has over 20 years of experience in open-wheel competition. The Minnesota, Min.-based squad, having captured two podium finishes in its inaugural pro racing season in 2011, has continually developed and grown as it joined the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. In 2013, Afterburner Autosport scored its inaugural series wins with rookie Alex Baron. The highly regarded team returns to the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy program in 2014 via a talented multi-car effort.