SONOMA, Calif. -- Florian Latorre allowed for a brief display of emotion as his mother entered stage right with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda championship trophy.
Hearty congratulations were in order for the 17-year-old from Libourne, France, who wrapped up the series title with a hard-fought victory in the season finale on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course.
He earned the MAZDASPEED Driver Development Scholarship, worth in excess of $375,000, to graduate to the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2015. Latorre became the fourth driver in as many years to win the USF2000 title for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, following in the footsteps of Petri Suvanto, Matthew Brabham and Scott Hargrove.
Latorre finished nine points clear of RC Enerson in the standings and 19 points ahead of Jake Eidson, who finished second and third in the 15-lap race. The three young talents entered the back end of a weekend doubleheader separated by 10 points after Enerson won his fifth race of the season and Eidson finished third. Latorre, who started on the front row, retired on the first lap because of contact with Enerson's car in Turn 2 of the natural-terrain course.
In the title-deciding race, Enerson held the lead until the slow-speed, right-hand Turn 7 where Latorre passed for the lead under braking on Lap 11 of 15. He went on to win by 2.943 seconds.
"At Barber I was 32 points back of RC, so I had to finish all the races and get good points," Latorre said. "It was hard to catch RC. I think this race was the best race of the year; it was an amazing battle. He took the lead into the first corner but I was faster than him this weekend so I tried to put pressure on him and he locked up. I don't know if it was from my pressure or just a mistake, but I was able to pass him going into Turn 7.
"I am happy to do this for the Cape guys. They work very hard and know this series very well. It was a good season. Also, my parents have given everything for me to realize my dream, so I am happy to win the championship and take the scholarship and go to Pro Mazda next year. My parents helped me this year, but I had to get the scholarship to go to the next level. So I am very happy that I can follow my dream."
Combined, the top three won 10 of the 14 races. Enerson entered the final weekend 31 points arrears.
"We knew that we had to win both races and have Florian finish fifth or worse, and (Aug. 22) was kind of the worse that could happen for him," said Enerson, 17, of New Port Richey, Fla., driving for Team E Racing. "It ended up in our favor and really made the last race of the season for everything."
Drivers and teams will be honored at the Mazda Road to Indy banquet Aug. 24.