Pre Season – I began my pre season testing with PR1 Motorsports in late November and tested through early February. Throughout the winter I worked with team owner Bobby Oergel and engineers John Hayes and Andy Garvey. I participated in exercises such as simulated qualifying runs and learned the importance of giving feedback and communicating with everyone on and off track. I developed a strong friendship with my teammates, Thomas Merrill and Shaun Modisette, over the winter. I knew we were going to push each other, in terms of performance throughout the season to come and regardless of our friendships each of us wanted to out perform the other.
First Half of the Pacific F2000 Season – My Pacific F2000 Championship Season began strong in early March with a convincing win in race one and a second place in race two at California Speedway in Fontana. Rounds Three and Four were held at the historic Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California in early April. There, I qualified on the front row twice, in second, and claimed a second place finish on Saturday and a first place on Sunday.
Leading up to Rounds Five and Six at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in central California, I had a healthy lead in the championship point standings over Chris Spreitzer. For race one I qualified on pole position ahead of my teammate Merrill. After a lengthy red flag for a first turn, first lap pile up, the race was shortened to seven laps. At the restart I was able to hold off all challenges for the lead, pull a sizable gap over Merrill, set fastest lap, and claim my third victory of the season. In race two it was nearly an identical performance where I qualified first, led every lap and eventually won, while the two bonus points for fastest lap went to Merrill. After the sixth race of the season [out of the twelve race series], I had a comfortable lead in the championship points.
MX-5 Cup Races – During the two month break in the Pacific F2000 Series schedule I decided to participate in two SCCA Pro Mazda MX-5 Cup Series races. My first sedan race would be with Team MER [Motorsports Enterprises Racing] in mid May at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Despite not having previous tested the MX-5 Cup car, it didn’t take long for me to get up to speed with the other 30 competitors in the series. I qualified a respectable ninth for my first sedan race but everything changed once the race got underway. At the start I was brake checked and fell back to 17th position. I fought my way up to seventh place but with ten minutes remaining the engine ‘expired’ forcing me to retire from the race.
One month later it was time for Round Four in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series at Portland International Raceway in Oregon. I was consistently running times in the top ten throughout practice but the highlight of the weekend came in Saturday qualifying. The rain arrived early Saturday morning and made the qualifying session wet and tricky. Fortunately, my rain experience paid off and I started Sunday’s race in fifth position. The green flag fell for the race but a mistake at the start cost me two positions. I was able to claw my way up to fourth, but half way through the race an issue with the brakes caused me to spin into the third place car and fall all the way back to 10th. I put my head down and was able to gain one position to ninth and set third fastest lap.
Last Half of Pacific F2000 Season – The Pacific F2000 Series continued in mid July at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. The weekend started out strong for the PR1 Motorsports team with Merrill and myself pacing the field 1-2 in Thursday’s practice sessions. On Friday I qualified my car on pole position and was able to pull a healthy lead over second place at the start of race one. Two safety car periods and two restarts later I sailed to my fifth Pacific F2000 win of the season. Race two saw a slightly different outcome with my teammate Merrill taking his second pole position of the year, and once the race came there was nothing I could do to challenge Thomas for the win. I finished second.
The next event took place at my home track, Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California in mid September, three weeks after my eighteenth birthday. I topped the time sheets in a wet Saturday morning warm-up, nine seconds clear of the second fastest driver. In qualifying I dominated the session by posting a time which was a half a second faster than my teammate Merrill. Once the green flag dropped I immediately pulled a healthy lead over second place Jeff Westphal. I drove a consistent race and finished seven seconds ahead of Westphal. For race two I qualified on pole again, but Merrill was a close second. I got a great start and pulled a two second gap by lap one. I led every lap and went on to win my seventh race of the year and claim the 2007 Pacific F200 Championship. three weeks after my eighteenth birthday.
The final race weekend of the year was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada. I was determined to end the season with an exclamation point, but the rest of the competition was determined as well. On Saturday I claimed my sixth pole position of the season beating Wesphal by one-tenth of a second. When race one got underway I pulled out to a three second lead over new second place driver, Merrill. The gap stayed the same until the safety car came out with four laps to go. Merrill got a run on me at the restart and took the lead, but not for long. We went side-by-side for nearly half a lap and I was able to take the lead with two laps remaining and claim my eighth victory of the season. Sunday was the final day of competition in the Pacific F2000 Championship, and it was going to be an eventful day with Merrill claiming his second pole position of the season and myself along side in second, only one-tenth of a second slower. At the start to the final round of the season, Merrill and I went side-by-side through turn one and turn two. Half way through turn two we made contact [my right rear/his left front tire] and my car was spun around. I fell back to dead last [18th] but was able to claw my way up to seventh place and set fastest lap.
It was an eventful season competing in the Pacific F2000 Championship Series, but more importantly it was a successful season. I learned a lot working with PR1 Motorsports and made a lot of friends along the way, some who I hope to stay in touch with for as long as possible. Competing in the Pacific F2000 Series taught me a great deal about formula car racing and how to deal with the team environment and race engineers.
Team USA Scholarship – It was announced in mid August at the Champ Car World Series event at Road America in Wisconsin that Joel Miller and myself were the winners of the Team USA Scholarships. We were sent to England to participate in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy to represent the United States and get our feet wet in European formula car racing.
The first weekend of racing took place at a rain soaked Brands Hatch Circuit for Rounds One through Three. Qualifying was held in the dry and I was able to post reasonable times in all three session, lining up ninth for race one, sixth for race two and ninth for race three. When race day arrived, so did the rain and the weather stayed the same throughout the day. In race one I made a clean get-a-way to sixth position, but two laps later, contact was made between two other drivers and myself and I ended up beached in a gravel trap. I was able to continue, but two laps behind the leader. I would finish 21st out of 22. In race two I made another great start and found myself in fifth place, but two laps later, entering turn one I slid off the track and was once again stuck in the gravel ending my race. In the third and final race I was running as high as seventh, but a ‘spin-and-continue’ dropped me back to ninth position where I would finish the race.
The second and final race weekend of the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy was held at the Snetterton Race Circuit. The weather was cold, but dry with no threat of rain. Saturday qualifying proved to be much more challenging than the previous weekend because of the added competition for the FPA Shootout and the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. Some of the best young formula car drivers in the UK were competing in a shootout for the 6th and final slot among candidates for the coveted award.
For race one I started tenth, race two in ninth and race three in 12th. In race one I didn’t get the best start off the line where by the end of lap one, I found myself in 12th position. Just after the half way point in the race I made a mistake going into turn three and spun the car around. I was able to rejoin the race but only to finish a disappointing 17th. Another bad start in race two saw me drop down to 12th, but I quickly made my way back up to the top 10 and eventually finishing in a much deserved sixth position. The final race of the Autumn Trophy wasn’t necessarily the most exciting race of the weekend but a solid seventh place finish just ahead of my teammate secured me a respectable 11th in the driver’s championship point standings.
Wrap up – 2007 was an unforgettable year, but 2008 is expected to be even better. This year I will be participating in the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series GT class with PR1 Motorsports. We will campaign a Pontiac GXP.R. This is a tube frame, carbon fiber body race car with a 6 liter V-8 that produces 450 horsepower. I’ll be competing against cars such as Porsche GT3s, Corvettes, Ford Mustangs, and Mazda RX-8s and will be on track with the 650 horsepower Daytona Prototype class. Ours will be endurance events, 3 to 6 hours long. I’ll be co-driving with Champ Car Atlantic veteran Mike Forest of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. You’ll be able to see our races live on Speed Channel.
Thanks to everyone who followed my progress and supported me in 2007. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date throughout the season. You can see my latest news at PatrickBarrettRacing.com.