New Orleans, La. – Second-year drivers put their experience to good use in this morning’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Louisiana, held in extremely wet conditions. Brazilian Victor Franzoni proved to be the cream of the crop as he rose from second on the grid to take his first win of the young season for Afterburner Autosport.
Franzoni was pushed to the limit by yesterday’s winner in dry conditions, Frenchman Nico Jamin (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), as championship leader Jake Eidson (Pabst Racing) trailed in third. The result moved Jamin to within seven points of Eidson, 108-101, after three rounds of the 16-race Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season.
Jamin’s teammate, Aaron Telitz, started from the pole by virtue of posting the fastest lap during yesterday’s race, but his advantage lasted for only two laps before Franzoni found a way past in Turn Four. Moments later, Telitz slithered off the track in Turn Seven to bring out a full-course caution. The miscue ended the Wisconsin native’s sequence of second-place finishes.
Franzoni kept his nerve at the restart, despite intense pressure from Jamin as the two leaders quickly distanced themselves from Eidson in third. Jamin was slightly quicker on Lap Nine, but Franzoni responded in fine style by proving slightly faster on each of the final two laps of the weather-shortened race to secure the victory by 1.0153 seconds.
Australian rookie Jordan Lloyd rose as high as fourth for John Cummiskey Racing before sliding off the road during the caution and falling to eighth. Garth Rickards (Team Pelfrey) took up the running, only to spin at Turn Eight soon after the restart. Instead it was Canadian Parker Thompson who emerged in a fine fourth for JDC MotorSports. The young Canadian rookie, who is mentored by 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, drove impressively after a quick spin in the treacherous conditions had dropped him to 11th in the early stages.
Lloyd recovered to sixth place, crossing the finish line virtually alongside teammate Anthony Martin, who claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after making up five positions from 10th on the grid. Another strong run saw 15-year-old German Keyvan Andres Soori finish seventh for ArmsUp Motorsports.
Other contingency awards included the PFC Award to the winning car owner, Tim Walsh of Afterburner Autosport, and the Staubli Award to Franzoni, who also claimed the Replay XD Move of the Race for his pass for the lead on Lap Three.
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will continue in two weeks’ time at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., where all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will run in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Victor Franzoni (#17 Novac Sports/XYV Talents/E-QUAL-Afterburner Autosport): “I finished fourth yesterday but we had a mechanical problem and it took until 11:00 p.m. last night to fix it. The Afterburner guys worked so hard and I’m very grateful to them. I started second and at the race start, I couldn’t see anything with all the spray. Then, when I took the lead, I had Nico pushing me, so I had to keep racing hard! It was a very difficult race, with the track so wet, but I’m very happy to be back on the podium and to win my first race this season.”