St. Petersburg, Fla. - Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda took place in St. Petersburg, Fla., this weekend with the Peninsula Pipeline Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Danilo Estrela came into this event with his head held high after receiving two third-place podiums in his #11 Belardi Auto Racing car the previous weekend in Sebring, Fla. However, the three-day weekend would hold its ups and downs for the 19-year-old Brazilian.
The first day held Practice 1 & 2 for the young drivers of the championship. Estrela placed P5 with a fast lap time of 1:15.138 during Practice 1 and P6 with a fast time of 1:14.262 during Practice 2.
"We were looking good in the beginning; there was traffic everywhere though," said Estrela. "I thought we were in good shape. I felt strong for the qualifying session."
The following day did bring an early qualifying session for which Estrela would qualify P9 with a fast lap time of 1:14.148.
"I made a mistake in qualifying and starting mid-pack didn't help any," he explained afterwards. "The car was good but we had a lot of understeer and I think my driving should have been a little bit better."
Race 1 would follow the qualifying session and prove to be quite eventful. On the first lap of the race, Cape Motorsports teammates Neil Alberico and Jeroen Slaghekke would come together in Turn One taking Alberico completely out of the race. Another incident further down the track involving several cars would bring out a two lap caution to clear debris. On the restart Estrela got into the back of his teammate, Daniel Burkett, which would result in Estrela getting hit from behind going into Turn One. Estela and Burkettl were both able to continue the race.
"On the restart I hit my teammate in the back and then got hit in the first corner myself," said Estrela.
At the finish line Estrela placed P21 and set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:14.180.
"Everyone was quick in the race," he said. "We were top-ten material until the accident, but the good thing is we set the fastest lap of the race."
The weather was the biggest competitor for Race 2 with high winds and a strong threat of rain. Thankfully the rain would hold off until the race was complete. Estrela started P7 with one goal in mind, to reach the front. With the fury of yesterday's race put to rest the Cooper Tire's USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda drivers were calm and consistent throughout. Estrela was able to make his way up to P4 and hold onto it after battling with Afterburner Autosport/BHA driver Brandon Newey for most of the race.
"We found the car has understeer in these (weather) conditions but I drove the best I could with the car I had," added Estrela.
Estrela left the Peninsula Pipeline Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a fourth-place position in the points standings. Overall the weekend was a success as far as gaining large amounts of knowledge for which Estrela is ready to apply to his next street course event. However, the next race will be at the lone oval on the schedule at Lucas Oil Raceway. Estrela will spend his free time working with Belardi Auto Racing on his #11 car to get it into top shape for the oval event.