Burkett posts top-10s while Slaghekke rebounds from DNF to salvage ninth in Race #2 TORONTO, ONT., CANADA – The Belardi Auto Racing team is a key component in the Mazda Road to Indy program, fielding teams in both the Indy Lights and USF2000 series. The Indiana-based squad is bringing a new generation of talented and impressive open wheel drivers through the ranks and this past weekend(July 18-20), they were on hand at the Honda Indy Toronto in Canada for the eighth and ninth rounds of this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered By Mazda. Representing Belardi Auto Racing on the streets of Toronto was a pair of young and very talented drivers in Dutch pilot Jeroen Slaghekke, and Canada’s own Daniel Burkett. Both drivers showed well, overcoming on-track carnage to salvage solid results overall. Burkett drove to a pair of top-10 finishes, while Slaghekke bounced back from a Race #1 disappointment to pick up a top-10 finish in the second main event.
Racing in his home country, it was noticeable that Burkett felt at ease, and he was prepared to do his job. Through the two Friday practice sessions, the 19-year-old found speed and improved his understanding of the track, and looked better with each passing lap. From session one to session two, Burkett was able to find the speed to cut a half-second off his best lap time to close on the pace of the leaders. Qualifying is key on a tight street circuit like Toronto and this is where Burkett really poured it on. After finishing the second practice session 13th on the timesheets, he dropped over a full second and wheeled his Belardi machine inside the top-10 as he ended qualifying as the ninth fastest driver in the 23-car field. Burkett’s second best lap in qualifying was good enough to earn him the ninth starting spot once again for Race #2. The plans to go racing late Saturday afternoon were scuttled when rainstorms hit the Toronto area, prompting Race Control to cancel the remainder of the day’s events, which pushed Saturday’s USF2000 race off to Sunday morning. The first race of the day was run on a rain-soaked track with the cars on the treaded Cooper wets, and Burkett was able to hold his position in ninth. In the second race, the Canadian laid down the second fastest lap of the race at the halfway point and picked up a position on-track to finish eighth. Burkett’s back-to-back top-10 finishes in Toronto have solidified his top-10 placement in the USF2000 championship standings. He currently sits eighth, just five points out of sixth.
“I was really pleased with the pace that I showed in our races on the weekend,” Burkett offered. “The Belardi cars are getting stronger and making progress towards a strong finish in 2014. I feel like I had top-five pace this weekend, but a few mistakes on my part cost me the results I wanted. I'm looking forward to Mid-Ohio in 10 days. I've got a lot of experience at that track and I feel confident in what Belardi can bring to the table."
Dutch racer Jeroen Slaghekke came to Toronto ready to work, motivated by recent testing speed and armed with the knowledge that he was quick on the street circuit in 2013. The weekend got started off on the right foot as he hit the track for the first practice session and posted the 10th fastest time. However, the second-year driver struggled to find open track in the second practice and was not able to improve his pace. Qualifying went very well for Slaghekke as he ran a 1:10.896 on lap 12 of the timed session, which was good enough to place him solidly inside the top-10 for the start of Race #1, rolling off eighth. Unfortunately, Slaghekke’s first race ended as soon as it began. He was pinched into the wall on the exit of turn one, damaging his suspension and ending his hopes of a good finish. The second race was eventful as well, although this time, Jeroen was able to avoid the mistakes of others, albeit with the penalty of having to take the runoff at the end of the backstretch to avoid a wreck. Once he got back on track, he knifed his way back into the top-10 to cap off his Toronto weekend with a ninth place finish.
“Coming to Toronto, I was feeling confident of a good result on the back of some very positive developments at Mid-Ohio back in June,” Slaghekke admitted. “For whatever reason, we never really had the pace in Toronto and paid the price for that in the races with bad starting positions. This put us right in the middle of incidents caused by other drivers, leaving us with nowhere to go on such a tight street circuit. Moving forward, we will analyze this as a team and I'm very confident that we can bounce back strong in Mid-Ohio.”
Brian Belardi and his team will now prepare for the final stages of the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, which will take them to Lexington, Ohio for Rounds 10, 11 and 12 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 1-3 and then Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., for the series finale on August 22-24.
About Belardi Auto Racing:
Belardi Auto Racing is an organization comprised of experienced individuals in the racing industry with an aggressive growth strategy and a strong commitment to finishing up front. No stranger to winning, team members having been achieving success in both the amateur and pro ranks for over a decade, winning numerous junior formula car races and championships. Based in Brownsburg, Ind., Belardi Auto Racing contests multi-car efforts in both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series. Goal-oriented and focused on developing the next stars of motorsports, Belardi Auto Racing won in both the Indy Lights and USF2000 Championships in 2013.