French rookie scored second win in four races during Round 14 finale
FRANCE – French racer Alex Baron further strengthened his position as a junior formula car rising talent on October 5-6, with a win in the season-finale of the highly-regarded Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. In only his second-ever event in North America, the Afterburner Autosport racer proved unbeatable in the wet on the streets of Houston, Texas, scoring a very dominating victory in the last round. With this impressive performance, Baron is now poised to challenge for a Mazda Road to Indy series title in 2014, having won two of the four races he contested since making the move from Europe.
With a race win already on his resume, having captured the victory in his first career USF2000 Championship start one month ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Baron was excited about the opportunity to return action in the No. 18 Afterburner Autosport/13th Avenue entry in Houston, Texas. With none of the talented field having previously raced on the 1.7-mile concrete-lined circuit around Reliant Park, the 18 year-old was confident he could once again challenge for top honors.
Baron, making full use of his previous winning street circuit experience on famed Pau track in France, was immediately a driver worth watching in Texas. Overcoming the obstacles presented by a temporary street circuit, the French racer ended the opening practice run at the top of the timecharts. The 2012 International Auto Sport Academy F4 Champion (with nine victories and 11 pole positions in 12 races) further highlighted his pace and skill in the lone qualifying run late Friday afternoon, turning the third quickest lap. Unfortunately, the excitement of a strong outing was not to last, as a technical error by his team resulted in a loss of times and a grid position, placing Baron at the rear of the field for race one of the doubleheader.
Quick to put the disappointment behind him, Baron focused on further developing his racing steed via discussions with the talented Afterburner crew. Baron, aware that passing opportunities are at premium around the Texas street circuit, promptly used Round 13 to further fine-tune his car, and post some fast laps in order to secure a great starting position for race two. The up-and-coming teenage racer in the end did just that, turning the third quickest lap, while passing drivers on each lap of the race.
Returning to the cockpits one day later, the USF2000 Championship field was greeted with rain and a very slick track. Baron, unlike many of his competitors, relished the opportunity to do battle in the less than ideal conditions. That became readily apparent when the green flag waved, as Baron almost immediately took over the lead. Turning lap times upwards of two to three seconds faster than any other driver in the early stages, Baron rapidly established an impressive gap on his nearest pursuers. While a mid-race full-course caution bunched the field back together, Baron proved unbeatable, once again building a gap on the ensuing restart, prior to taking a dominating victory.
"The car was very good, and I would like to thank my team for that," stated Baron. "It was a perfect race for me. I tried to pull away as far as possible for the first laps and be careful for the rest of the race, because I know this track is quite tricky in some areas, and I didn’t want to lose the win with a simple mistake. I would like to thank Afterburner Autosport and everyone that surrounds me."
With the win, Baron ends the 2013 season having stood on the top step of the podium twice in only four USF2000 Championship races. The French driver who has impressed the entire paddock since his arrival at Laguna Seca will now begin preparations for the 2014 season, with the goal of competing for a championship title in a Mazda Road to Indy series.