St. Petersburg, Fla. – RC Enerson was pleased with his second-place finish in yesterday’s first leg of the Peninsula Pipeline Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but he was ecstatic this morning after clinching his first regular season victory in Round 2 of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
The 16-year-old high school student from nearby New Port Richey, Fla., started on the outside of the front row for this morning’s race, which was held in cool, dry, sunny conditions – in stark contrast to the rain-slickened surface yesterday afternoon. He then grasped the lead on the first lap and never looked back. Enerson, now in his second season in the Championship class, had won two races in the recent Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series, but this morning’s performance aboard the #7 Team E Racing/Patriot Bank Van Diemen-Mazda represented his first appearance on the top step of the podium in the “main” championship.
Yesterday’s winner Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) started from the pole this morning but was unable either to keep his rival behind at the start or match his pace in the early stages. The first six laps were run under caution following a major pile-up at Turn Four on the first lap which eliminated six of the 18 starters. Enerson put his head down at the restart and quickly established a small but decisive advantage over Franzoni and the remainder of the field.
Enerson eventually took the checkered flag with a 1.4289-second margin of victory.
Franzoni was later disqualified from the results after his car failed post-race technical inspection.
Jake Eidson, driving for the St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing team, moved from fourth to third on the opening lap and remained there throughout the 21-lap race to secure his first podium finish.
Frenchman Florian Latorre (Belardi Auto Racing) slipped a couple of seconds in arrears of Eidson as the race progressed but held onto fourth (which became third following Franzoni’s disqualification), narrowly ahead of rookie Adrian Starrantino (JAY Motorsports), who rounded out a fine first weekend at this level with his second consecutive top-six finish.
Texan Clark Toppe finished fifth for JDC Motorsports, well clear of Pabst Racing’s Will Owen.
Contingency awards included the Tilton Hard Charger Award to Santiago Lozano of M2 Autosport for a gain of 10 positions from 19th to ninth; the PFC Award and customized Race Energy BCM21 charger – the official battery of the ladder series – to Team E Racing; and the Staubli Award to Enerson. The Replay XD Move of the Race was awarded to Latorre who went from seventh to fourth through a pack of battling cars on the outside of Turn One on the opening lap.
Enerson takes an early lead in the championship standings with a 13-point margin over Eidson as the championship heads next to Barber Motorsports Park for two more races which will also be held in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the entire Mazda Road to Indy ladder system on April 26/27.
RC Enerson, #7 Peninsula Pipeline/Patriot Bank/Tampa Bay Rays/Bell Helmets/Sparco (Team E Racing): “I feel great. We had a pretty flawless race. I took the lead at the start and I was able to hold my gap a bit. A full course yellow came out but I made a good restart and then started pulling a gap and was able to hold it. It was a great race. I was pretty flat out the whole race, pushing all the way.
About Peninsula Pipeline: Peninsula Pipeline was established in 2005 and serves large industrial customers, electric generators and local distribution companies throughout Florida. The company plays a significant role in improving Florida's fuel diversity and competitiveness by increasing the availability of natural gas in areas not currently served. Its parent company Chesapeake Utilities has a solid footprint in Florida acquiring Florida Public Utilities Company in 2009, which has been providing energy to homes and businesses throughout the state since 1924. For more information, visit www.chpk.com.
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The series also is part of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder program which assists young drivers in advancing from the Skip Barber Racing School to USF2000. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.com.
About Mazda: Mazda is the number-one brand for road-racers across North America. Thousands of Mazda powered grassroots racers compete in various classes with the SCCA and NASA highlighted by Spec Miata,
the world’s largest spec class with over 2,500 cars built. In 2006 Mazda established the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder to assist racers in moving up through the ranks. In 2010 this was expanded to include the Mazda Road to Indy. Key to Mazda’s success is strategic partnerships with the Skip Barber Racing School and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
MAZDASPEED Motorsports is managed by Mazda North American Operations (MNAO). MNAO is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City. Consumer information can be found at www.mazdausa.com with press information at www.mazdausamedia.com. Racers and fans can follow the action on Facebook (Mazdaspeed Motorsports).
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (NYSE: CTB) is a global company with affiliates, subsidiaries and joint ventures that specialize in the design, manufacture, marketing and sales of passenger car and light truck tires. The company also has subsidiaries that specialize in medium truck, motorcycle and racing tires. With headquarters in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper Tire has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities within its family of companies located in 11 countries around the world. Additional information can be found at www.us.coopertire.com