British up-and-comer gained valuable experience during USF2000 Championship season-opening doubleheader
ST. ALBANS, ENGLAND – The pursuit of top honors commenced for British racer Michael Epps this past week (March 14-15), as the UK driver made his North American racing debut in the highly-regarded Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. As part of the famed 12 Hours of Sebring event, the 20 year-old went head-to-head against many of the top young drivers in North America, ultimately leaving the historic Sebring International Raceway road course with valuable experience. The PRL Motorsports rookie is now poised to build on the knowledge gained during season-opening doubleheader when the Mazda Road to Indy program resumes this weekend (March 23-24) on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in conjunction with IZOD IndyCar Series.
When the USF2000 Championship cars rolled on-course at Sebring to begin the 2013 campaign, Epps had a great deal to take in. While the talented Englishman, who also holds New Zealand citizenship, has enjoyed good success in both karts and cars over the course of his young motorsports career, he entered the central Florida doubleheader with no previous USF2000 race experience and no time on the fast and bumpy 3.7-mile Sebring road course. Given that fact, the goal throughout the two promoter's test sessions on Tuesday and two official practice runs on Wednesday was to not only get acclimated to his new surroundings, but to further develop the relationship with his PRL Motorsports crew, which was making the move up to the Championship class in 2013.
Despite battling brake issues through the majority of the opening two days of action, which slowed both his overall pace and finding the right setup, Epps was confident entering the lone qualifying session on Thursday. The former British Formula Vee Championship runner-up found more pace with each session and ultimately secured a row seven starting position with the 13th best time among the skilled 31-car field.
Returning to the cockpit of the No. 30 Anytime Fitness/P1 Sports/PRL Motorsports Van Diemen later in the day, the goal was to run a clean affair and make the most of every opportunity to move up the scoring sheets. As expected, Epps was engaged in a spirited battle for position right from the waving of the green flag. Epps’ car was a little off during the opening race as his Van Diemen was bottoming out and this slowed his true pace, although the talented pilot pushed all the way to the stripe, coming home 15th in his USF2000 and North American debut.
Following a night of further analysis and setup changes, the entire USF2000 Championship field returned to action on Friday, with the race two grid being determined by either each driver’s second best lap in qualifying, or their fastest lap in race one. As a result, Epps got the green flag from 17th place on the grid, but it was immediately apparent that the PRL Motorsports rookie had a car capable of moving forward. While an early full-course caution initially prevented the British driver from showcasing his racecraft skills, he was not to be denied. Attacking throughout the 12-lap affair, Epps ended up just missing his inaugural top-10 finish with a hard-fought 11th place result.
"It didn't go quite as we were hoping. We had tested against the Andretti guys at another circuit and we paced exactly the same, if not better,” commented Epps, who expects more success in St. Petersburg. “However, with the errors and issues we had to overcome, Sebring was a completely different story. I believe that we made a great effort in recovering, however, and I think that with a couple more runs we would've found it. St. Pete will once again be a different story, so we are hopefully as prepared as we can be. I'm looking forward to it."
Epps has little time to reflect on his North American debut, as the 14-race Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title chase resumes this weekend (March 23-24). As part of the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opener, Epps will take to the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The on-track action commences on Friday (March 22) with two practice sessions. One day later, the lone qualifying session will take place early in the morning, prior to Round Three at 12:15 pm local time. The Florida doubleheader, which features all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy program (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda Championship, USF2000 Championship) ends on Sunday (March 24) with Round Four at 9:30 am local time. Live timing and scoring will be available at www.f2000.com/Multimedia/Live.aspx
Those interested in supporting Michael Epps’ pursuit of the upper echelons of motorsports are encouraged to contact him directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss sponsorship opportunities. USF2000 Championship - Sebring Results
Qualifying - 13th (2:04.587)
Round 1 - 15th (2:05.300) / Started 13th
Round 2 - 11th (2:04.137) / Started 7th Learn more about Michael Epps through his social media outlets:
### About Michael Epps:
Born in St. Albans, England, Epps, who also retains New Zealand citizenship, first got behind the wheel at the age of 13, racing at his local kart club. Displaying talent right from the get go, he won multiple races in his rookie season. Advancing up to the Rotax Junior ranks in 2006, he captured the London Cup at Rye House, and finished second in the Brazilian Cup prior to making the move to Senior Rotax, where he scored the win in his class debut at a Rye House club event. Following another London Cup win and a runner-up finish in a Le Mans 24-hour kart race, Epps tested his first formula car in 2010. Transitioning to car competition in 2011, the teenager finished second in the British Formula Vee Championship. Epps further advanced up the junior formula car ladder in 2012, contesting the Formula Renault BARC UK Championship, earning five consecutive top-10 finishes to end the season.