MEET THE CONTENDERS: VICTOR FRANZONI

Victor Franzoni is third in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title chase as the series heads to its doubleheader season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this week.

PALMETTO, Fla. – For the three championship contenders, an entire season is on the line this week in the “Soul Red Finale” at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. At stake is the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title and the Mazda scholarship that will take the winner into the 2017 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

Victor Franzoni lies third in the title chase, 53 points behind Anthony Martin and 32 points behind Parker Thompson, with two races remaining. The personable young Brazilian, who always seems to have a smile on his face, jokingly vows to go from “easy guy” to “crazy guy” in order to eclipse his rivals and take the top spot for himself.

Admittedly, Franzoni has a good-sized mountain to climb in order to attain his goal. But given the twists and turns this championship has taken over the course of 14 races, a wild closing weekend is not only possible, but probable.

Franzoni, 20, burst on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires scene two years ago, taking victory in his first USF2000 race at St. Petersburg. In 2015, he was the only driver to break the Nico Jamin-Aaron Telitz-Jake Eidson stranglehold on the top spot of the podium, and since the opening weekend at St. Pete this season, Franzoni is the only driver to win other than Martin or Thompson. He returned to USF2000 this season after a mid-season switch to Pro Mazda last year – which made for an interesting first weekend back in a USF2000 car.

Signing late with Gregg Borland’s Wisconsin-based ArmsUp Motorsports, Franzoni found the going difficult at first – though he eventually found that you can go home again.

“I finished 2015 in the Pro Mazda series but decided to go with USF2000 and ArmsUp this year,” said Franzoni. “We signed just two weeks before the season began. The first weekend was not so good for us, because I was getting used to being back in the USF2000 car. It’s easier to go from USF2000 to Pro Mazda because the Pro Mazda car has more grip and more power – but not too much. It drives easier, so you can brake later and feel more hold. Coming back to USF2000 was hard at first. St. Petersburg is not a racetrack, it’s a city street, so there really was no grip. So being my first race back in the car, it was hard to find the limit again.

“But since St. Pete, it has been an amazing season – really, the best season of my life. We have been really fast and have finished all the races up till now. ArmsUp has done a great job, and they were the right choice for me. They’re great to work with and they’re really fun!”

Franzoni is the only driver to finish every race this season and, since the opener, has finished on the podium in nine of 12 races, including a victory at Toronto. With teammate Max Hanratty splitting time between USF2000 and IMSA’s Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires series, Franzoni and ArmsUp have been a one-car team for five of those races. The team has done, as they say, a lot with a little.

“Toronto was the best moment of the year for us. We didn’t have the money to go to Canada, but the vintage drivers who race with ArmsUp sponsored us, so it was so important for us to do well. We were fighting for the victory all season, starting second, third, fourth, but we weren’t able to break through. In Toronto, we took the win – I really needed that, and so did ArmsUp.
“We haven’t been able to do any testing so we have to fight with what we have; and what we have is a fast car,” continued Franzoni. “I knew I had to finish the races, because if I crashed, I’d be out of the championship. I had to be consistent, and I have been. ArmsUp has given me a good car all year so I just need to focus on not crashing, and making the opportunities work. I’ve taken everything that I’ve learned in all my years of motorsports and put it to work this year so even if I don’t win, I’m happy because I know we’ve done the best that we could do.”

With the ground he has to make up in the championship, Franzoni heads to Mazda Raceway knowing that only victories will do, as finishing behind Martin and Thompson will mean the end to his title hopes. Given his consistently positive attitude, Franzoni sees his road as almost easier than that of his rivals.

“I really think it’s easier for me than for Anthony and Parker, because I just have to go from ‘easy guy’ to ‘crazy guy’ while they still have to think a little bit more. I don’t have to think; I just need to go. All season, I have been thinking about not making any mistakes, not crashing, and finishing the race in the top three. Now, it’s first or nothing. I have to be aggressive, so if I see that I can go, I’m going. It’s an easy situation – much easier for me than for them.”

Simply put, Franzoni loves to drive. On any given weekend this summer, you could find him at the track, either racing himself or in his new calling as a driver coach. Since moving from Indianapolis to Florida last year, Franzoni has found himself in charge of a small cadre of young karting talent, which keeps him more than busy.

“I moved to Miami last year, where I have more friends from Brazil and there are more opportunities to race. I started racing karts again, and then some kids asked me to coach them. So now, I coach a lot of kids in karting, including Emerson Fittipaldi (son of Formula One and IndyCar legend of the same name). I’ve been coaching for a while. I have five kids in Micro karting and it’s really fun. It’s been really cool working with them on things like overtaking. The kids are great and they learn so easily. And they do what I say. I get to drive almost every day which is good for me since it means I’m always practicing.

“I think there have been only three or four weekends this year that I haven’t been at the racetrack. I have been racing the USF2000 car, karts and the vintage car, and when I haven’t been driving, I’ve been coaching. In the last month, I raced shifter karts in Mexico, I coached at Homestead, and I coached in Indiana. This weekend, I will just sit by the pool – and get ready for Monterey.”

Melhores momentos da Angie´s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Na proxima semana os carros da ProMazda vão pra pista no primeiro circuito oval da temporada de 2015 – Lucas Oil Raceway

Enquanto isso, ficamos com o Video dos melhores momentos do Grand Prix de Indianapolis Angie´s List

 

FRANZONI WINS USF2000 IN NEW ORLEANS FOR AFTERBURNER AUTOSPORT

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Brazilian tops field in challenging wet weather main event

NEW ORLEANS, La – In motorsports, they say that rain is the ‘great equalizer’ and that true talent comes to the forefront when wet weather puts the emphasis directly on the driver. Afterburner Autosport’s Victor Franzoni once again proved his immense talent in Sunday’s running of the fourth round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at NOLA Motorsports Park. The Brazilian started on the off-pole for the second event of the doubleheader, thanks to posting a fast time in Saturday’s opening race, in which is he finished a strong fourth. In Sunday’s wet race, Franzoni took the lead early in the 20-minute event and masterfully handled the challenging conditions to score his first win of the year.

“This is an incredible way to end the weekend, because our team put in a ton of hours at this event to give Victor the best car we could,” offered Tim Walsh, Afterburner Autosport Team Principal. “We swapped cars, changed motors, and went back and forth between wet and dry set-ups.  Saturday’s top-five was good, but Sunday’s win in the rain was very satisfying. Our goal will be to take this victory and ride the momentum through to Barber in two weeks.”

As stated, it was a long weekend for the Afterburner crew, who elected to move Victor to their #14 car after the Thursday promoters test day.  In the new car, which was re-badged with his #17 decal, Franzoni was strong from the onset of the weekend, running the second quickest times in both of Friday’s practice sessions.  In Saturday morning qualifying stint, the team elected to use just a single set of new sticker Cooper tires to save fresh rubber for the races as Victor would lay down a 1:38.992 that put him sixth on the grid for Race 1.  In that 30-minute race, Franzoni was ultra-quick and advanced to fourth, although he was unable to close on the lead trio and finished in that position.  In the process of his fourth place run, he turned in the second quickest lap of the race to secure a front row starting position for Race 2 on Sunday morning. Following the race, the team went over the data and elected to make an engine change, which the team took care of into the late evening.

The rains that affected the start of Sunday’s IndyCar race began early in the morning, and the USF2000 drivers hit the track at 8:30 a.m. for a shortened 20-minute race.  In full wet conditions, Franzoni settled into second on the opening lap and then went into attack mode to takeover the point.  On lap three, he slipped inside Aaron Telitz to assume the lead and would go on to a 1.015-second triumph.  Victor was challenged aggressively by Saturday winner Nico Jamin in the late-going, but the Brazilian was too much for Jamin and cruised over the final corners to his first win of the year.

The team will now tear down their cars in preparation for the next event on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda circuit, which will take place at Barber Motorsports Park on April 24-26.  Afterburner has two race-ready cars available for the remainder of the 2015 season, if any interested drivers would like to team with a USF2000 race winner like Victor Franzoni on a race-winning squad. These cars are prepped and ready to race for drivers looking to gain experience in the USF2000 program, whether it be through a focused testing program and in official series action. Drivers interested in these seats should contact Tim Walsh directly.

AFTERBURNER AUTOSPORT – DRIVER INFORMATION:

Victor Franzoni – #17

Qualifying: 6th – 1:38.992 (+0.774 secs)

Race #1: 4th

Race #2: 1st

Driver Quote: “The weekend was very difficult, but in the end, we got what we needed. We started the weekend changing the car, because we had a problem in the primary car that I was running. After I finished Race 1 in 4th place, Afterburner and I decided to change the motor for the Race 2. I’m so happy that we did.  I had everything perfect – the good car, the motor and the weather that I love, rain. Now we are ready for Barber. I think we´ll do a great job there and get closer in the points.”

About Afterburner Autosport:

Afterburner Autosport was formed in 2010 with the sole purpose of leading the way in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda competition. Under the guidance of former F2000 racer and engineer Tim Walsh, the team has over 20 years of experience in open-wheel competition and can field up to four cars in competition. The Minnesota, Min.-based squad has continually developed and grown since joining the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and has multiple series victories, finishing fifth overall in the series championship in 2014 with Victor Franzoni.