USF2000 Championship rookie makes street racing debut in conjunction with IZOD IndyCar Series opener HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, ENGLAND – UK racer Michael Epps made his street racing debut this past weekend (March 23-24), contesting Rounds Three and Four of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on streets of St. Petersburg. The 20-year-old needed to fight through some handling and mechanical issues, but did what he could to make the most of every session behind the wheel of his PRL Motorsports entry. The weekend featured highs and lows, including getting caught in a wreck not of his own making, but ultimately, Epps gained valuable points and further experience and knowledge in his first season of Mazda Road to Indy competition.
A little over a week after making his first junior formula car start in North America, Epps was back in his PRL Van Diemen ready to showcase his talents in the highly-competitive USF2000 Championship. In stark contrast to the season-opening races at the historic Sebring road course, the third and fourth races on the series calendar featured action within the tight concrete confines of the St. Petersburg street circuit. Given that Epps had previously raced exclusively on wide-open road courses in Great Britain, the opening day's two practice sessions were spent getting familiarized to the 1.8-mile track configuration, the fine details of driving on a street circuit, and finding the right balance for his car. Impressing many onlookers, the former British Formula Vee runner-up was eighth quickest at the conclusion of the first session.
When the talent-laden 31-car field rolled back on-course on Saturday morning for the lone qualifying session, the goal was to steadily gain speed by finding a gap in traffic to turn multiple flying laps. Epps, despite having no previous street racing experience to draw upon, showed good pace in the session, ending with the 13th quickest lap, and a row seven starting position was secured for race one later in the day.
After spending time to go over any further changes to the car and race strategy with his PRL Motorsports crew, Epps was back in the cockpit confident he could work his way forward in the 21-lap race. The No. 30 Anytime Fitness/P1 Sports/PRL Motorsports racer, however, did not get the opportunity, as almost immediately upon getting the green flag he was involved in a multi-car incident, ending his race before the completion of a single lap. Epps was helpless in trying to slip by the incident, and his day ended when his car made contact with another entry.
Epps was disappointed that he did not get the chance to further showcase his racecraft skills, but with the results of race one behind him, he turned his focus to a more reflective run in race two.
Thanks to the new series rule that utilizes the quicker of each driver's second best qualifying lap or fast race lap, Round Four commenced with Epps getting the green on row eight rather than the rear of the field, due to his Race #1 DNF. The UK racer, who also holds New Zealand citizenship, promptly became involved in a spirited multi-car dice for position. With passing opportunities at a premium, lap after lap featured Epps pressuring the car ahead while defending attacks from behind. Epps in the end crossed the line in 15th, taking home not only valuable points, but perhaps more importantly pertinent race experience and knowledge.
"I really enjoyed driving around the streets of a town I've been living at recently, that's such a cool thing to do," commented Epps. “It was an awfully tough weekend for us though. With the shunt in round 3 on Saturday, it was going to be hard to get the car properly sorted for round 4 on Sunday and I think it showed. I had a problem in the final race and was losing time off slow corners. Not sure if there was an issue with the differential or the clutch or alignment, but something wasn't quite right. Still, it made for a great test of my attacking and defending skills on track and probably wasn't a bad show for spectators either.
“A big thanks goes to PRL Motorsports for their hard work so far and my family also who sadly don't get to experience it all from across the pond,” he continued. “I’d also like to thank my partners - UNATION, iRacing, IGNITE Software Solutions, P1 Sports and Anytime Fitness have been hugely supportive so far this season and I hope to continue working with them throughout and beyond 2013. Bring on the oval!"
Epps now has a break in series action until May 25th, when the talented PRL Motorsports rookie faces his next challenge... oval racing. As part of the Indianapolis 500 festivities, Round Five of the 14-race Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda takes place during the famed 'Night Before the 500' event at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval.
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 - St. Petersburg Results Qualifying - 13th (1:14.653) Round 3 - 30th (No-time) / Started 13th Round 4 - 15th (1:14.999) / Started 16th Learn more about Michael Epps through his social media outlets: Website: MichaelEpps.co.uk Twitter: MichaelEppsRace Facebook: MichaelEppsRacing
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.