PALMETTO, Fla. – Florida-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing is virtually assured of a sixth successive Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title. The only question is whether Australia’s Anthony Martin or Canadian teammate Parker Thompson will claim the top honors and a substantial Mazda Scholarship to advance onto the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder – the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – in 2017.
All will be decided during a pair of 30-minute races which will comprise this weekend’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda as part of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires “Soul Red Finale" at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on September 2-4.
The title rivals have traded the lead back and forth during the previous 14 rounds, but Martin, 21, from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, holds a 21-point advantage – with 66 points available – following a string of seven wins from the last 10 races. The team run by brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape dominated last year’s races at Mazda Raceway with Nico Jamin clinching the title in style by winning both races and teammate Aaron Telitz adding a fourth and a second.
"The biggest thing is to minimize mistakes and have a good qualifying session," declared Martin. “It’s a difficult track to pass on, so qualifying is key. The Cape boys have been dominant in the past at Mazda Raceway, so I know that Parker will be good as well. It would mean everything to win the championship and the Mazda scholarship. I know what I need to do and I’ll do everything I can to make it happen."
Thompson, 18, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, knows he has an uphill battle but, equally, the former karting ace knows he has the pace, as evidenced by his four wins and 10 front row starts this season.
"Throughout my karting career and my car racing career, I’ve thrived off of pressure," said Thompson. “I know that if I win everything – pole, race, get fastest lap and lead the most laps – and Anthony finishes second, that still leaves me five points back. I’m just focused on going into Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and putting on the best performance of my career. We’ve seen how fast the championship can change, with one mechanical issue or one disagreement on the track. I have to come out swinging. All I can do is my best and then it’s up to Lady Luck."
Smiling Brazilian Victor Franzoni also has a chance of the title, but will need to overcome a 53-point deficit in his ArmsUp Motorsports Van Diemen-Mazda.
Franzoni’s win at Toronto in July marked the only time the Cape team has been beaten since the opening weekend of the season, when Pabst Racing teammates Jordan Lloyd, from Toowoomba, Australia, and Beijing-born Yufeng Luo shared the victories on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
A deep field also will include yet another gifted young Australian, Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports), plus New Yorker Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey), rapidly improving Californian Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner Autosport) and Pennsylvanian Garth Rickards (Pabst Racing), who claimed his first podium in the most recent race at Mid-Ohio.
Rookie Tazio Ottis (JDC MotorSports), from Alameda, Calif., is excited about racing at his home track for the first time in USF2000. In addition, the series will welcome a trio of talented newcomers in local driver Phillippe Denes, from Carmel, Calif., and fellow teenager Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., who will make their debuts with Team Pelfrey after displaying race-winning form in the East Coast-based F1600 Championship Series, and Michael Scott (John Cummiskey Racing), who won this year’s New Zealand Formula Ford 1600 Championship to earn an invitation to the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout which will take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in December.
The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda will start with a pair of half-hour practice sessions on Friday, September 9. Qualifying will take place at 10:05 a.m. on Saturday, followed by Race One at 4:05 p.m. The 16th and final race of the season will start at 11:20 a.m. on Sunday. All times are PDT. Live timing and streaming shows of all sessions will be available on the Road To Indy TV App and at usf2000.com and racecontrol.indycar.com.