NEW ORLEANS – American teenagers R.C. Enerson and Clark Toppe scored emphatic victories as the first three races of the Cooper Tires Winterfest for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda concluded today at NOLA Motorsports Park.
The 17-car field enjoyed cool, clear conditions today at the 16-turn, 2.75-mile road course situated just across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans. They certainly proved to the liking of 16-year-old Enerson, who started from the pole in Round 2 and quickly established his superiority over an extremely competitive field.
His advantage grew to as much as three seconds by lap 11, whereupon yesterday’s winner, Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) fully hit his stride and began to whittle away at the deficit. The gap was down to 1.4 seconds with just two laps remaining, but Franzoni’s hopes of being able to mount a serious challenge were dashed by a full-course caution after the erstwhile third-placed car of Danilo Estrela (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) ground to a halt on the backside of the race track.
Enerson was therefore assured of a well-deserved first victory both for himself and Team E Racing. Franzoni had to settle for second, while Estrela’s teammate, Jake Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., completed the podium finishers.
Scott Andrews (JDC MotorSports), from Torquay, Victoria, Australia, finished a strong fourth to complete a fine comeback following a disappointing first race yesterday when he was involved in an accident on the first lap. Norway’s Henrik Furuseth (JAY Motorsports) and Frenchman Florian Latorre (Belardi Auto Racing) ensured there were six different teams represented among the top six.
Aaron Telitz (ArmsUp Motorsports) started from the pole for this afternoon’s final race by virtue of posting the fastest race lap in Race 2, whereupon a self confessed “lack of aggression” saw him relegated to seventh on the opening lap.
Toppe, 16, who started alongside on the front row, took full advantage, taking the lead at Turn One and pulling inexorably away from his rivals to score an accomplished victory for JDC MotorSports.
Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, continued his excellent form by running second in the early stages, only to make a mistake on Lap 6 which saw him off-course in Turn Six. Eidson, the winner of last year’s F1600 Championship Series, took over in second and held off a race-long challenge from Englishman Michael Epps (Belardi Auto Racing), who became the weekend’s sixth different podium finisher.
Andrews again ran fourth after a protracted battle with the recovering Telitz, who overtook Enerson on Lap 9 but was unable to find a way past Epps.
Enerson, who finished third in yesterday’s mini-series opener and sixth in Race 3, holds a slim six-point advantage, 70-64 over Eidson, with Franzoni, 61, Toppe, 58, and Furuseth, 56, also in close contention as the action moves on to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for three more races next Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 25-26