SONOMA, Calif. – official release — Al Steinberg photo — The battle for this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda fittingly came down to Saturday’s USF2000 Grand Prix of Sonoma finale at Sonoma Raceway with the three title contenders running 1-2-3 at the front of the 21-car field.
Friday’s winner, RC Enerson, grabbed the initiative for Team E Racing by finding a way past polesitter and points leader Florian Latorre at the start, but the 17-year-old Frenchman never allowed his rival to relax and finally forced Enerson into a mistake, then capitalized with a bold pass for the lead at turn seven.
Once into the lead, Latorre put his head down, grabbed another bonus point by virtue of posting the fastest lap of the race, then controlled the remainder of the 15-lap outing. Latorre’s third win of the season earned him the championship title and 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, from Libourne, France, 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 led Enerson by just four points following yesterday’s dramatic race at the challenging 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course, and Enerson knew what he had to do to wrest away the championship. He had to win. The 17-year-old from New Port Richey, Fla., pounced immediately at the start, grabbing the lead as the field accelerated through turn one, only for the race to be neutralized just a few seconds later due to a multi-car incident in turn two.
Enerson continued to lead at the restart but he was never able to pull out any breathing space over Latorre. Finally, on Lap 11, the pressure told as Enerson locked up his brakes and slid a little wide at the downhill turn four. Latorre was immediately alongside, hunting for a way through.
Enerson held him off through turn five and the sweeping, left-handed Carousel at turn six, but Latorre made a good run onto the uphill straightaway leading toward turn seven and knew his time had come. Diving to the inside, Latorre pulled off a clean pass for the lead and never looked back.
“At Barber I was 32 points back of R.C. [Enerson], so I had to finish all the races and get good points. It was hard to catch R.C. 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,” said Latorre. “I don’t know if it was from my pressure or just a mistake, but I was able to pass him going into turn seven. 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,” said Latorre.
Enerson had to be content with second in the race, ultimately losing the title by a nine-point margin, 310-301.
The third championship contender, Jake Eidson (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), also remained in contention throughout the 15-lap race but, unlike his teammate, was unable to find a way past Enerson.
Aaron Telitz continued his fine run of results for ArmsUp Motorsports by finishing fourth, which was enough to comfortably clinch Rookie of the Year honors over Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) who ran sixth until experiencing a problem with a few laps remaining.
Norway’s Henrik Furuseth capped a disappointing year with a strong fifth for JAY Motorsports, followed by teammate Adrian Starrantino and Clark Toppe (JDC Motorsports).