Prime among those who will be seeking to start out the season with a victory are talented teenagers Patrick Barrett (from Los Osos, Calif.), Philip Metzger (Greenwood Village, Colo.), Shaun Modisette (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) and Chris Spreitzer (Phoenix, Ariz). There are plenty of other likely challengers, however, including such accomplished veterans as former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick (Santa Monica, Calif.) and Peter Hansel (Huntington Beach, Calif.), who finished on the podium in his last race at California Speedway.
"Pacific F2000 will be full of competitive drivers this year and a lot of us have shown well in testing, so it’s hard to tell who’s the strongest," declared Barrett, 17, who followed in the footsteps of current Red Bull Formula 1 driver Scott Speed and runaway 2006 Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Champion J.R. Hildebrand by winning last year’s Formula Russell Championship. Barrett also made a stunning Pacific F2000 debut, winning twice at Infineon Raceway in September. This year he will drive a Van Diemen for 2004 champion team, PR1 Motorsports. "I go into every race with the determination to win. If I can walk way from this weekend with both wins, I’ll be quite pleased."
Metzger, 17, has two seasons of racing under his belt with San Clemente, Calif.-based Team G.FRO, and is also confident of success: "I’m hoping to come out strong at the first race and set the tone for the season. We’ve been testing a lot and I’ve been training hard over the winter, and I think I’ve got a good shot at the championship."
Modisette’s preparations were thrown off kilter when he contracted mononucleosis toward the end of last year, but he displayed prodigious pace aboard his #26 Carson Trailer/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen in a test last week at Buttonwillow Raceway and is now raring to go.
"I went quicker than I’ve ever gone before so I can’t wait to get to California Speedway," said 19-year-old Modisette, who secured his first podium finish last year at Buttonwillow.
Spreitzer, 19, won a race at California Speedway last summer, en route to fourth in the final championship standings. He, too, will be a sure-fire front-runner this weekend aboard the #7 BWM Engineering/Anglo American Racing Van Diemen.
Another youngster to watch will be Mitchell Cunningham, 20, from Auckland, New Zealand. The younger brother of former FF2000 front-runner and 2005 Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham has never raced a car before but is a veteran of the karting scene and has driven for the factory CRG team in Europe for the past three years. Cunningham will drive the same Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen that won the championship last year.
Entering its fourth season, Pacific F2000 already has established an excellent reputation for providing exciting open-wheel competition at modest cost, and ensuring a valuable first step on the auto racing ladder for potential open-wheel stars of the future. Inaugural champion Brad Jaeger is set to contest this year’s Indy Pro Series Championship. 2005 champion Mike Forest will compete in the burgeoning Champ Car Atlantic Series Powered by Mazda, while last year’s champion, Robert Podlesni, displayed his capabilities in Europe last fall after winning a prestigious Team USA Scholarship and is intending to contest this year’s Star Mazda Championship.
F2000 represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel auto racing ladder in North America and has provided the launching pad for the careers of many top racers, including Champ Car World Series champions Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy, and Indianapolis 500 winners Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr.