Valuable information and experience gained by Johnson, Oliveira, Rzadzinski, and Toppe during Sebring doubleheader
MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – The 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda commenced for JDC MotorSports this past week (March 14-15) with a solid effort at the historic Sebring International Raceway in Florida. With the skilled foursome of Michael Johnson, Arthur Oliveira, Stefan Rzadzinski, and Clark Toppe in the cockpits, the Minnesota squad not only gathered valuable information and experience for the 14-race title fight, but also emerged with a top-five and top-10 result.
The start of the racing season is always an exciting affair, though it often features plenty of obstacles to overcome. For multiple junior formula car champion JDC MotorSports, the biggest challenge entering the opening two rounds of the USF2000 Championship during the prestigious Twelve Hours of Sebring event was driver experience. Only one racer under the team awning, Johnson, rolled on-course in Florida with any real USF2000 seat time of note, having made his series debut with JDC Motorsports last season. Oliveira, Rzadzinski, and Toppe meanwhile had only contested the pre-season Cooper Tires Winterfest series and some selected private testing prior to going head-to-head against some of the premier up-and-coming drivers in North America. Given all this, it was not a surprise that both the promoter's test sessions, and the two official practice runs around the fast and bumpy 3.7-mile road course were spent focusing on driver and car development rather than an outright fast lap. Learning a good deal both in and out the cockpits, the sessions proved valuable, highlighted by an impressive fourth-place result in the final practice run by the No. 93 CanTorque/Christenson Developments/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports entry of Rzadzinski.
When the 31-car field rolled on-course for the lone qualifying session on Thursday morning, setting the grid for race one, the JDC racers continued to develop their racing steeds. Rzadzinski again led the four-car effort in the timed run via the fourth best time, while Johnson, who's No. 54 Universal Coating/SpeediCath/FlatOutNation.com/Red Line Oil/Bell Racing/Alpinestars/JDC MotorSports car features hand controls for the lone paralyzed racer in the Mazda Road to Indy program, found additional pace to secure a seventh row starting position. Toppe and Oliveira were not much further back on the timesheets, earning row nine and 11 starting positions.
As expected, when the green flag waved for Round One a short-time later, the action immediately heated up on track. All four JDC drivers were involved in multi-car dices for positions throughout the 12-lap affair. In the end, Rzadzinski was the first of the foursome to the checkered flag, taking home a well deserved top-five finish. The 15 year-old Toppe, gaining speed and confidence each time he gets behind the wheel, was next to the stripe in his No. 19 Toppe Motorsports/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports entry in 14th. Johnson followed close behind in 16th, while Oliveira worked his up to 20th at the line.
With either each driver's fastest lap in race one, or second best lap in qualifying setting the grid for race two, the JDC racers were keen to continue their progression in Round Two on Friday. The 12-lap race proved to be a somewhat chaotic affair, as the combination of a lengthy early full-course caution and some minor incidents on track resulted in mixed results for the JDC contingent. Rzadzinski was again the team leader with a ninth place finish, having run closer to front in the earlier stages. Oliveira's No. 12 Hula Veiculos/Future Stars Development/JZ Concepts/Racelite Protection/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports steed was next to the line, thanks to a great charge from 23rd on the grid all the way up to 14th. Just a few car lengths further adrift, Johnson came home in 17th, while Toppe was classified 27th, having ended the race prematurely.
"Sebring had ups and downs for us this past week, but overall I’m happy to come out of there relatively unscathed," said Rzadzinski. "We had a good car, but a bit of bad luck made the results a bit harder to come by. I loved racing at St. Petersburg last year, and I can’t wait to get on track in the No. 93 CanTorque/Christenson Developments/JDC Motorsports car. The team was awesome all week in Sebring, and we’ll be pushing to the front as best we can this weekend."
"Sebring was a decent weekend considering some of the problems I was having with the track and getting up to speed," stated Johnson. "Sebring has always been a struggle, but I finished both races and got good points heading into St. Pete. I think there is more out of me and the car, so I'm looking forward to showing what I have."
"I'm very happy, as I managed to score my first points at Sebring," commented Oliveira. "I'm still adapting to the car and gaining experience every time I go out. My focus is to get as much seat time as I can, and improve my qualifying positions. The series has an exceptional level of drivers, which forces me to improve my performance. The next race will be, without doubt, a great new challenge. Hopefully good results will happen."
"Sebring was a very good learning experience for me," added Toppe. "I consistently improved throughout the weekend thanks to Phil Lombardi of JJRD and JDC. They always gave me the best coaching and best car in which to compete. I was aiming for a top-10 finish in race two, but had some bad luck and didn't get to finish the race. St. Petersburg will be a challenge being a street course, but I know JDC will put the best car underneath me and help me to be successful there."
JDC MotorSports and its talented foursome of Johnson, Oliveira, Rzadzinski, and Toppe will immediately look to build of the experiences gained at Sebring this coming weekend (March 23-24), when Rounds Three and Four of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda are contested on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. As part of the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opener, the quest for series success commences on Friday (March 22) with a pair of practice sessions. A morning qualifying session and Round Three at 12:15 pm local time follows on day two. The street race doubleheader 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
JDC MotorSports races with associate sponsorship from www.RedLineOil.com.
Additional information on JDC MotorSports can be obtained from the team’s website @ www.jdcmotorsports.com For direct contact, please contact John Church @ 952-233-3075.
Learn more about Michael Johnson at michaeljohnsonracing.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ Racer54isCool and Facebook @ Michael-Johnson-Racing.
Learn more about Stefan Rzadzinski at www.rzadracing.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ rzadracing and Facebook @ Stefan-Rzadzinski.
Learn more about Clark Toppe via Twitter @ ClarkToppe and Facebook @ Clark-Toppe-Motorsports.
### About JDC MotorSports:
Involved in formula car racing since its inception in 1994, JDC MotorSports has established itself as one of the leading junior open-wheel teams in North America. Initially making its mark in the F2000 class of club racing competition, JDC MotorSports was soon a team worth watching in the pro ranks. Competing in the Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship, the team not only won races, but also helped develop multiple young drivers. In 2005, JDC MotorSports expanded its efforts, entering the Star Mazda Championship. Quickly becoming one of the top teams in the series, JDC captured both the driver and team titles in 2007, as well as Rookie of the Year honors, with Dane Cameron scoring a series-high three wins. In 2008, JDC MotorSports was the runner-up in the Star Mazda Championship and finished fourth in its inaugural season of F2000 Championship Series competition. The Minnesota-based team won the Star Mazda Championship title with Rookie of the Year Adam Christodoulou, and the F2000 Championship Series title with Chris Miller in 2009. The following year, JDC continued its winning ways, earning the Rookie of the Year award in the Star Mazda Championship with Connor De Phillippi, and scoring a non-points win in the USF2000 National Championship. In 2011, the Minneapolis-based squad captured its third Star Mazda Championship title with Tristan Vautier, scored a win in the USF2000 National Championship, and made its Prototype Lites Championship debut, earning five podium finishes. JDC MotorSports added to its Star Mazda Championship win tally, USF2000 Championship podium total, and finished as the Prototype Lites Championship runner-up in 2012.