Carbone and Alegra: Undisputed 2010 Champions
Carbone put the final touches on a successful 2010 F2000 Championship Series season by taking the overall championship at Mid-Ohio. Carbone amassed six wins in 14 races, controlling the series the entire year in his Alegra Motorsports #23 Van Diemen/Zetec. An opening season victory at VIR was followed by a sweep of Road Atlanta and single victories at Mosport, Lime Rock and Road America, and only a single DNF, which gave the Alegra crew, led by Bob Knox, Andy Greene and Tony Ditto, its first F2000 title.
Carbone’s second F2000 season was a 180 degree turn from the start of his rookie season in 2009. The Brazilian showed up with a rookie team, the now savvy Alegra Motorsports, in the VIR paddock on a chilly April weekend and struggled, failing to finish each race. The following event at Lime Rock took its toll too, with a blown motor and more problems. After his first four F2000 races, Carbone’s best finish was a distant 22nd.
Win five came at Lime Rock after Carbone's only DNF of the year. (click for high-res). (photo: Janice Eakin).
“I showed up at VIR and had very little formula car experience, only half a year of Skip Barber,” said Carbone. “The F2000 car was totally different. I had no testing in it, and I didn’t know the team, and they didn’t know me. I made a lot of rookie mistakes, and then at Lime Rock we had bad luck with a blown motor and a second motor that wouldn’t start. I was pretty frustrated at that point to say the least and realized that I needed to use the rest of the year to learn more about these cars for 2010.”
Alegra Motorsports, with teammate Fabio Orsolon, started picking up speed at Mosport, where Orsolon notched Alegra’s first pair of podiums, while Carbone scored a seventh and a fifth. For the rest of 2009, Orsolon would be a regular visitor on the podium with Carbone slowly moving up in the finishing order.
Posing for a team photo at Lime Rock in 2009. (click for high-res). (photo: Janice Eakin).
“Even with the bad results to start 2009, I did get laps in the car,” continued Carbone. “And then at Mosport, Joe (Stimola) and Bob (Knox) knew what I wanted the chassis to do and nothing went wrong, and we were competitive. It was suddenly like we knew we could be fast and run at the front.”
As for the team, Carbone commented: “I don’t think the Alegra team could be better. Andy has experience in everything and knows what it takes to win. And no one works harder than Tony does, and I actually think he wanted the championship just as much as I did.
“Having Fabio as a teammate was a huge help too. He has lots of experience and was the guy I would go to for help, and even now he is faster than me here and there, and we share data and best practices,” continued Carbone.
On grid at Mosport. (click for high-res). (photo: Janice Eakin).
The 2009 season rolled on with the new champion missing Watkins Glen due to age restrictions.
“I missed Watkins Glen due to the age rules, but was able to run a regional there so I learned the track for this year,” he added.
“Then, at Mid-Ohio, I scored my best result last year with a fourth place in the second race, and that was my first finish ahead of Fabio; that was a big turning point.”
Carbone started 2010 with a bang. Following no offseason testing in an F2000 car, Carbone promptly qualified second for the first race of the year and took rookie Daniel Erickson to school on a rolling start, controlling the opening event of the year for his first victory. Teammate Orsolon would come home third. It was a big day for Alegra Motorsports, taking their first F2000 win following the tragic passing of the team’s engineer, Joe Stimola, whom they dedicated the 2010 season to.
Carbone and Orsolon running together during qualifying, as usual. (click for high-res). (photo: Janice Eakin).
“This season is clearly for Joe. I only knew him for a year, but he wasn’t just the engineer, he was a friend,” noted Carbone. “Bob took charge of the team before VIR, it was a good decision.
“For the season opener at VIR, we were fast, but we weren’t the fastest. By qualifying, we had tweaked the setup to the point where the car was really good, and I managed to go on and win the race, but it was far from easy. At that point I knew I had to really fight for the title. Nothing over the offseason changed, the team and I just kept getting better and better,” Carbone continued.
From there it seemed like Carbone was in control of an ultra competitive F2000 grid. He took more points with a top-five in race two at VIR and then took two wins at Road Atlanta, where Alegra Motorsports was fastest in every single official session of the weekend.
“Road Atlanta was the highlight of the year,” he added. “I won both races, took both poles and set fast laps. That was the weekend we put our names on the title.”
Another win came easily at Mosport in June. And while Carbone wasn’t able to add to his victory trophy collection at Watkins Glen with the IndyCars, he didn’t miss out on generating any buzz. In the second race, Carbone wasted no time in cutting Daniel Erickson’s lead from a few seconds down to no seconds, and went wheel-to-wheel with the Australian for the win in the last three laps.
On the way to two poles and the 2010 title at Mid-Ohio. (click for high-res). (photo: Janice Eakin).
“It started out as a tough weekend, I had visa problems leaving Brazil and missed the testing session, and when I finally got in the car the suspension broke,” explained Carbone. “That brought out the black flag and we were penalized two grid positions.”
Carbone came from eighth on the grid to finish fourth in that race, before nearly winning the second round on Sunday morning.
The first DNF of 2010 came at Lime Rock, and with almost no damage to his Van Diemen for the year, Carbone was an innocent bystander to an incident in turn one. He brushed it off, winning from pole a few hours later.
Carbone with his #23 Alegra Van Diemen. (click for high-res). (photo: Janice Eakin).
“It was frustrating to be taken out there, especially because Cole (Morgan) won the race and took back some of my championship lead. In the break between the races I decided I needed to win the second race. I forgot about the championship, and pulled a huge gap on the field, and that was win number five.”
Two weeks later when the Series was at Road America, Carbone easily took the lead from a third-place starting position and broke the draft, winning by four seconds over Erickson.
Carbone showed up at the season finale in Mid-Ohio with a solid 79-point lead over Cole Morgan in the title race, with the goal of winning the championship on Saturday.
He put his Van Diemen on the pole in the final seconds of qualifying by two hundredths of a second and followed through with a smart drive, bringing the car home in fifth to clinch the 2010 F2000 Championship Series title with one round to spare.
“It feels amazing to have won the F2000 Championship,” he said. “It’s the result of two seasons of very hard work from everyone on the Alegra team, and sums up the dedication level of the guys.”
The shark nose. (click for high-res). (photo: Janice Eakin).
Talking about the F2000 Championship Series, Carbone added: “The competition in 2010 is a bit different, it’s tougher. Chris Miller and Matthew Inge are gone, but we have more fast young kids, and some that have gotten much faster since last year. And then you mix in the Masters Class guys who are fast and able to teach us. They’ve been around and know what works and what doesn’t; it’s a tough field.”
As far as the ultimate question of “where will you be next year?” Carbone replied: “For 2011, we’ll have to see what opportunities there are and what doors open. I want to be a professional driver and there are more opportunities to do that in the United States than anywhere else.”