TORONTO – Danilo Estrela emerged from a dramatic seventh round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda to claim a well-deserved first series victory in Saturday’s second leg of the Analytic Systems USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto at Exhibition Place.
Estrela ran second for much of the caution-interrupted race which was held in hot, humid conditions. He slipped to third following one of the restarts, but charged back to take the lead with a scintillating outside-line pass of erstwhile pacesetter Neil Alberico in turn three on lap 17.
Estrela (Belardi Auto Racing) took advantage of the jostling of positions in his wake to pull out an appreciable advantage, and even though series leader Scott Hargrove (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) was able to break clear of the pack and close rapidly in the final couple of laps, Estrela had enough in hand to secure the victory.
“I tried to pass [Scott] Hargrove on the outside the lap before and it didn’t work out so I figured if I could break a little bit later and turn later, I could run on the tarmac and not on the concrete and I would have the run on the outside of the corner,” Estrela said. “Neil [Alberico] did what I expected him to do and went to the inside so I braked late into Turn One and overtook him. I couldn’t be more happy. The track is amazing; the event is amazing and the car was really good. We have been trying very hard and I have to thank Brian [Belardi] for helping me. The team won at Mid-Ohio, our next race, last year and I am very excited to go there and try for another win.”
Florian Latorre slipped from third to sixth in the opening laps before charging back to snare his second podium finish in as many days for JAY Motorsports.
Peter Portante, in a second Belardi Auto Racing Van Diemen-Mazda, somehow battled his way to second place, behind Estrela, following the final restart. The youngster from Plainville, Conn., winner of last year’s Skip Barber Racing Scholarship, was bundled down to fourth at the finish, just ahead of a snarling pack which included Alberico (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), who had been shuffled down the order at Turn Five at the final restart, Garett Grist, Felipe Donato, Michael Epps, Dalton Kellett, Brandon Newey and Daniel Burkett, all of whom were blanketed by a meager 2.543 seconds at the checkered flag.