St. Petersburg, Fla. - RC Enerson was pleased with his second-place finish in yesterday's first leg of the Peninsula Pipeline Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but he was ecstatic this morning after clinching his first "regular season" victory in Round 2 of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
The 16-year-old high school student from nearby New Port Richey, Fla., started on the outside of the front row for this morning's race, which was held in cool, dry, sunny conditions - in stark contrast to the rain-slickened surface yesterday afternoon. He then grasped the lead on the first lap and never looked back. Enerson, now in his second season in the Championship class, had won two races in the recent Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series, but this morning's performance aboard the #7 Team E Racing/Patriot Bank Van Diemen-Mazda represented his first appearance on the top step of the podium in the "main" championship.
Yesterday's winner Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) started from the pole this morning but was unable either to keep his rival behind at the start or match his pace in the early stages. The first six laps were run under caution following a major pile-up at Turn Four on the first lap which eliminated six of the 18 starters. Enerson put his head down at the restart and quickly established a small but decisive advantage over Franzoni and the remainder of the field.
Enerson eventually took the checkered flag with a 1.4289-second margin of victory.
Franzoni was later disqualified from the results after his car failed post-race technical inspection.
Jake Eidson, driving for the St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing team, moved from fourth to third on the opening lap and remained there throughout the 21-lap race to secure his first podium finish.
Frenchman Florian Latorre (Belardi Auto Racing) slipped a couple of seconds in arrears of Eidson as the race progressed but held onto fourth (which became third following Franzoni's disqualification), narrowly ahead of rookie Adrian Starrantino (JAY Motorsports), who rounded out a fine first weekend at this level with his second consecutive top-six finish.
Texan Clark Toppe finished fifth for JDC Motorsports, well clear of Pabst Racing's Will Owen.
Contingency awards included the Tilton Hard Charger Award to Santiago Lozano of M2 Autosport for a gain of 10 positions from 19th to ninth; the PFC Award and customized Race Energy BCM21 charger - the official battery of the ladder series - to Team E Racing; and the Staubli Award to Enerson. The Replay XD Move of the Race was awarded to Latorre who went from seventh to fourth through a pack of battling cars on the outside of Turn One on the opening lap.
Enerson takes an early lead in the championship standings with a 13-point margin over Eidson as the championship heads next to Barber Motorsports Park for two more races which will also be held in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the entire Mazda Road to Indy ladder system on April 26/27.