Fontana, CA – The Pacific Formula F1600/F2000 Championship opened its eleventh season at the 2.880 mile infield road course at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Saturday afternoon. The series running this season with the SCCA U.S. Majors Tours events to qualify series drivers for the season ending Run-Offs to be held on the West Coast for the first time in forty-six years, last held at Riverside International Raceway in 1968.
This year the F1600 and F2000 groups will not be running together and will run in groups established by the sanctioning club. The F2000 group will run as FC along with FA, FB, FM, P1 and P2 in the run group established by Cal Club.
Back in the F2000 group this season will be PR1 Motorsports with two entries for Peter Thomas, back after a year hiatus and Andrew Evans graduating from the F1600 group. PR1 is running Van Diemens on Goodyear tires.
Dave Freitas Racing brought two cars to Fontana for long time series participant Peter West and Harindra de Silva, also in Van Diemens, will be running on Hoosier tires.
Independent entries include defending series champion Bob Negron, Van Diemen, Hoosier; Les Phillips, Van Diemen, Goodyear; Jim Stewart, Van Diemen, Goodyear; Tom Hope, Carbir, Avon; James Hakewill, Van Diemen, Avon; Bill Kincaid, Van Diemen, Cooper and Robert Armington, Van Diemen, Hoosier.
Friday’s 25 minute qualifying session began at 2:20pm under sunny skies and warm temperatures as the cars rolled off the grid. Six laps into the session Les Phillip set a time of 1m41.771s in his #2, Swiss Implants, Porterfield Brakes, Van Diemen to take the provisional pole ahead of Bob Negron, #8, Terri Negron Web Design, Van Diemen, 1m42.255s and James Hakewill, #88 Van Diemen, 1m42.359s. These three were followed by Andrew Evans, #27 PR1 Van Diemen; Harindra de Silva, #6 DFR Van Diemen; Peter West, #99 Kodenko Jeans, Frank Monise Motors, Zombo.com, DFR Van Diemen; Peter Thomas, #7 Refrigeration Control Co., PR1 Van Diemen; Robert Armington, #111 Premium Power Systems Inc., Metro Cab SF, MCI Van Diemen and Jim Stewart, #38 True Ventures Van Diemen. Tom Hope coasted to a stop in his #18 H & M Racing Carbir during the session when the engine on his Carbir holed a piston.
Saturday morning qualifying was only 15 minutes long and began at 9:00am, with cooler temperatures and sunny skies and again it was Phillips improving on his Friday time to take pole at 1m40.154s improving his Friday time as did many of the competitors. Tom Hope was out of his Carbir and into a DFR Van Diemen thanks to Ira Fierberg who allowed the use of his car and Robert Podlesni who retrieved the car from their shop in Santa Fe Springs. Bob Negron only managed one timed lap as mechanical issues brought his qualifying to an end. Peter West also was unable to better his time when he crashed under braking at turn three, damaging the nose and removing the right front suspension from the car.
Under now clear and sunny skies and temperatures in the mid eighties the field rolled off the grid for the pace lap and when they took the green Les Phillips used the advantage of his pole position to lead the Formula F2000 group as they headed off the oval into the infield section on the first lap. Phillips continued to lead as the field completed the first lap. He was followed by Hope, Evans, DeSilva up three positions, Negron, Hakewill, West down two spots in his newly repaired Van Diemen, Armington down three spots, Thomas, Kincaid and Stewart.
These positions continued until lap 5 when Armington got by West and Thomas passed Kincaid.
As the field began to string out toward the rear, at the front things were getting tighter as Negron passed Hope for third place and began his pursuit of Evans who was holding a steady second place and even closing some on Phillips in the lead.
Les Phillips appeared dominant and maintained the lead to the finish to claim his first Pacific Series victory, although a late race spin cost him nearly all of his lead and he finished a scant 0.162s ahead of Evans in second place. Phillips’ win also gave his the Masters Class trophy.
Andrew Evans, from Sammamish, WA, drove consistently from the start and takes his first podium in his first outing in the F2000 car.
Bob Negron finished third from his sixth starting spot, the only other driver to complete the full race distance and had to be pleased considering in the two qualifying sessions mechanical problems allowed him to complete a total of four laps.
Tom Hope was buoyed by the performance of the #18 DFR Van Diemen during the race and finished a fine fourth which also gave him the Expert Class win. A good result considering the bleak outcome of Friday’s qualifying.
James Hakewill finished in fifth place and was followed by Peter Thomas sixth, newcomer Robert Armington seventh, Harindra DeSilva eighth, Bill Kincaid ninth, Jim Stewart tenth and Peter West eleventh.