SEBRING, Fla—Neil Alberico seems right at home with his new race team, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. In his first USF2000 race with his new crew, Alberico aced the opposition by a cool ten seconds, leading flag to flag in the 2013 season opener at Sebring International Raceway Tuesday afternoon.
“We knew going into this race, starting from the pole that we wanted to get out front, be consistent and turn some fast lap times and that’s all we can do,” Alberico explained. “Dominic and Nicolas Cape and their team make it real easy for me to do my job and that’s what we did today. Hopefully we can duplicate it tomorrow.”
Trailing Alberico was his team mate Scott Hargrove, also a newcomer at Cap Motorsports. Hargrove turned in a similarly dominating performance, finishing a further 18 seconds ahead of third-place Danilo Estrela of Belardi Auto Racing.
“The transition to Cape Motorsports this year has been seamless, and ever since the first laps we were just killer quick,” Hargrove said after the race. “It was good to see Neil and I out front. I didn’t quite have enough for him but there is still more racing at this event, so …”
Alberico qualified quickest with a record-setting lap of 2:03.855 at 108.708 mph around the 3.74-mile Sebring Raceway’s 17 bumpy turns. Hargrove was second at 2:04.168 108.434.
Once the green flag waved, this pair checked out, reeling off a string of fast laps and leaving everyone behind.
The pair is young—Alberico is 20, Hargrove just 17—and obviously talented. Alberioca, form Los Gatosd, Calif., was a 2011 winner of the prestigious Team USA scholarship for outstanding young racers. Hargrove,a resident of Vancouver, B.C. won the 2010 MazdaSpeed Motorsports/FIA Motorsports Safety Development Fund/Skip Barber Racing School scholarship and claimed rookie of the year in the Skip Barber Summer Series.
Both young men are in their second seasons in USF2000.
Obviously Cape Motorsports and its new dynamic duo have announced their intentions; now the rest of the field has two more races on Wednesday to catch up.
That “rest of the field” might not have matched the Cape Motorsports pair on Tuesday, but it contains some very quick drivers.
Finishing third was 19-year-old Danilo Estrela, from Goiania Brazil, driving for his new team Belardi Auto Racing. Estrela, in his first USF2000 race, qualified fifth and earned his podium finish by coming out best in a lengthy scrap with fourth-place finisher Stefan Rzadzinski—an excellent result for a rookie debut.
Rzadzinski qualified third but dropped to fourth in the first lap, after which he doggedly pursued Estrela, trying to get his position back. The 20-year-old Canadian from Edmonton, Alberta stayed on Estrela’s win until the final three laps, when Rzadzinski pushed a little too hard, letting R.C. Enerson claim fourth place—briefly. The Canadian driver fought back at the end to reclaim the position, barely missing a podium finish for his team JDC Racing.
USF2000 is the first run of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder program which trains talented young drivers to compete in increasingly fast and technologically advanced open-wheel racers. The ladder progresses to Star Mazda, Indy Lights, and then to IndyCar. A future Indy 500 winner might be racing around Sebring Wednesday; don’t miss it.
USF2000 races twice more Wednesday, at 1:20 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. Tickets are only ten dollars at the Sebring International Raceway box office or at sebringraceway.com.
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