Last year’s Series Champion, Remy Audette, has graduated to sports cars, leaving the Championship wide open for a new title holder.
Rookie Wyatt Gooden is the biggest new addition to the field, having gone four-for-four in the F1600 Formula F Championship Series in 2011, winning all four races he entered for Quantum Racing Services.
Gooden moves up in the No.6, with the same team behind him, and the squad will not dump its Van Diemen like a badly floated 40-cent stock, opting to stay with the tried and true package.
Van Diemens have won every race in Series history, and the 23-year-old is confident in his team and chassis, having recently completed a pre-season test.
“I want to do the best within my capacity and take to the car as quickly as possible," said Gooden. “I have a lot to learn so I have to be careful not to try too hard.
“I believe everything is in place for us to contend for the Championship," he continued. “Coming in as a rookie it’s going to be a steep hill to climb, but I’m up for the challenge and fortunate to even be out there."
While Gooden moves up from the F1600 Series, which F2000 shares some nine hours of total track time with this weekend (four and a half hours for each series), he started in sim racing, dominating online, before he took his skills to a real race track.
Gooden will be joined by 2011 title-runner-up Chris Livengood, who has switched to a heavily-updated RFR chassis, as has Kyle Connery, who won a number of races in 2011, but faced ups and downs, fueled by various on-track incidents.
“Overall I feel the driver, crew, and car combination we have this year will prove to be a winning package and competitive at all events," commented Connery.
Robert La Rocca will be back in the RFR to challenge the previously mentioned aspiring drivers, and his Ft. Lauderdale-based HP-Tech squad will add two more cars, for fellow Venezuelan rookies Francisco Cerullo and Jose Montiel.
Montiel moves up from the Skip Barber series.
“The F2000 car is much more advanced, compared to Skip Barber, you get a little more power and slick tires, which means more grip, and more focus on balance and suspension," he explained. “In addition are the better brakes, aero settings and more; it brings drivers into the set-up process and teaches us how to communicate with the team."
Montiel added his goal for the weekend was to get as much seat time as possible, following a pre-season test in Florida.
Tim Paul is the highest placing finisher in the 2011 Championship to return with the same equipment, his No. 06 Van Diemen for SMR and GTP.
“We ran well at Sebring in January," said the former sprint car pilot. “I’m confident we can parlay that into a great year."
On the topic of the new cars, he added: “I think other chassis are good for the series. As far as whether or not they worry me, no, I think that we can run our cars competitively for quite some time yet. There's a lot of leg work to be done on the other cars. Of course, the fast guys are going to be up front no matter what contraption is underneath them."
The new car storyline continues with the controversial Radon chassis, which will be out in force with a number of entries at VIR, headlined by returning Brazilian Fabio Orsolon in the No. 77.
“I love VIR, it’s like a big karting track," said Orsolon. “I hope to be able to give the GTP team good feedback from the start, so we can go the right way with the car and setup and try to put it on the podium for the first time."
2011 Masters Class Champion Tim Minor returns for what he hopes is an overall Championship effort in 2012. Minor has taken a different path, however, switching to the Citation chassis from his No. 88 Van Diemen.
“The Citation is a really good package aero-wise, but it is much different than the Van Diemen," stated Minor. “I wanted to try something new and the car fits my driving style."
Minor’s entry will be engineered by Eric Langbein, who will also oversee a number of Citation entries in the F1600 Series.
Shaun Miller will begin his rookie campaign in Virginia, the 22 year old joins Work Racing and Jay Motorsports for 2012, moving up from the FE class.
Other notables include Polestar Racing Group, back for 2012 with a three-car Masters Class effort, along with Primus Racing, who has confirmed Australian Nathan Morcom, and hopes to add another entry before the weekend.
Colorado-based Front Range Motorsports will load into the VIR paddock with a strong three car effort, led by Zach Craigo, Jose Gerardo and John Brumder.
Niki Coello also hopes to run a full 2012 program in the F2000 Series, upgrading from an appearance or two over the previous seasons.
“The RFR was quick last year and has since seen some updates to enhance its straight line speed," said Coello, a former National Champion. “Preseason testing has shown some nice improvements."
Another rookie joining the F2000 ranks is Kevin Kopp, with the new Wisko F2000 team. The 23 year old moves up to the F2000 Series after years of karting and the Playboy MX-5 Cup
The weekend commences with testing on Thursday, April 12. Friday features practice sessions while both Saturday and Sunday see a morning qualifying session followed by an afternoon race. Live audio, commentary, photos and more are available on www.F2000Series.com.