Talented foursome of Epps, Latorre, Jamin, and Burkett take home two wins and four additional podium finishes in Louisiana and Alabama BROWNSBURG, Ind.
– The 2014 season has commenced in championship-winning fashion for Belardi Auto Racing, with the highly-regarded junior formula car team capturing the Cooper Tires Winterfest for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda team title. British racer Michael Epps, French pilots Nico Jamin and Florian Latorre, and Canadian Daniel Burkett were among those challenging for top honors throughout the six-race series, securing one podium finish and six more top-10s at NOLA Motorsports Park (February 21-22), before visiting victory lane twice and standing on the podium three additional times at Barber Motorsports Park (February 25-26). The stage is now set for the Indiana-based team to add to its winning resume, and be part of the title fight in the upcoming Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
The goal of every driver and team is to win races and championships, but that requires lots of hard work and preparation. For squads in the USF2000 Championship, the annual Winterfest series provides a great opportunity to do just that in a championship environment.
Belardi Auto Racing and its talented line-up of drivers and crew traveled to NOLA Motorsports Park just outside of New Orleans excited about getting its 2014 campaign underway. While the ultimate focus was to work on car and driver development for the upcoming full USF2000 Championship season, everyone under the awning was keen to challenge for top honors as well.
The triple bill at the 2.75-mile Louisiana road course ultimately proved to be a successful affair. Latorre, Jamin, and Epps showed good pace in qualifying, ending the timed run in eighth, ninth, and 10th respectively. On a track that had limited passing opportunities, this subsequently resulted in three top-10 finishes (Jamin sixth, Epps seventh, and Latorre ninth) in the opening affair. Starting in similar positions among the 17-car field for race two, Latorre (sixth) and Jamin (seventh) added two more top-10 finishes. The NOLA finale, however, highlighted what was to come in Alabama, as Epps took home his inaugural trip to the USF2000 podium with a third place finish. Latorre continued his run of form as well, with a third consecutive top-10 result, while Jamin was poised to match the feat, before retiring after nine laps.
Three days later, the Belardi cars were back on track, with Burkett joining his teammates on the undulating 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course. Right from the get go, it was evident the squad would be in contention for race wins. Epps secured his first series pole in the lone qualifying session, while Latorre was third quickest. Come race one of the tripleheader, it was a Belardi fight for the win in the wet, with Epps in the end holding off his teammate for his first series win, and a Belardi 1-2 result. Getting the green flag from a dry front-row in race two, the duo once again dueled for supremacy. Epps further showcased his talents, winning for a second straight race, while Latorre joined him on the podium yet again, this time in third place. The Barber finale featured the duo for a third time as part of the mix for top honors. Epps concluded his superb outing in Alabama with a runner-up finish, while Latorre came home in a hard-fought fifth.
"I'm just delighted," stated Epps, who drives the No. 44 P1 Sports/UNATION/iRacing/Anytime Fitness UK entry. "We went from struggle to success at the Winterfest, and I'm really happy overall with how we all performed. Tough times throughout the year kept us down all weekend during some of the 2013 rounds, whereas we really got our stuff together and fought back here, and I think all the work over the winter has contributed to our improved ability to adapt to the ever-changing conditions and circumstances. We are now a strong force for 2014, and I'm in a strong position to challenge for the title. Now it’s working towards the first rounds in St. Petersburg!"
For Burkett and Jamin, things did not go as planned during the Barber tripleheader. A mixture of misfortunes meant the skilled duo did not garner the results desired. That being said, both racers gained valuable experience ahead of the upcoming full season, and helped Belardi Auto Racing taking home its first honors of the season...the Winterfest Team Championship title.
"The Barber rounds of the Winterfest series were very successful for Belardi, although my car had some issues," commented Burkett. "We worked through it all, and ended making up a lot of ground from where I started. I was viewing this as more of a testing experience, as I didn't attend the NOLA rounds, and I think we made good progress with our car. I'm looking forward to St. Pete."
In addition to the USF2000 races, Belardi Auto Racing's Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires program took part in Winterfest testing. Testing in a Belardi car, Gabby Chaves proved to be a leading force at NOLA Motorsports Park, topping the speedcharts after four sessions. The 20 year-old continued to show off his pace at the Barber Motorsports Park, ending the two-day run with the second-quickest lap. Alex Baron, who is making the jump up from USF2000 this coming season, also displayed his talents, posting the fifth best time in Louisiana, and sixth fastest lap in Alabama.
Belardi Auto Racing now turns its attention to the start of the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season. The quest for wins and a series title commences on March 29-30, with the opening doubleheader on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., as part of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IZOD IndyCar Series opener. The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will also commence its 2014 campaign at the same event.
Additional information on Belardi Auto Racing can be obtained from their website, BelardiAutoRacing.com or by contacting Brian Belardi at 317-456-2816 / firstname.lastname@example.org Keep up to date via Twitter @BelardiAutoRacing and on Facebook page @ Belardi Auto Racing
Keep up to date with Daniel Burkett via Twitter @DannyBurks and on Facebook @ Daniel Burkett Racing
Learn more about Michael Epps at MichaelEpps.co.uk
and keep up to date via Twitter @MichaelEppsRace and on Facebook @ Michael Epps Racing
Keep up to date with Nico Jamin via Facebook @ Nico Jamin Racing
Learn more about Florian Latorre via Twitter @FlorianLATORRE and on Facebook @ Florian Latorre Pro
### About Belardi Auto Racing:
Belardi Auto Racing is an organization comprised of experienced individuals in the racing industry with an aggressive growth strategy and a strong commitment to finishing up front. No stranger to winning, team members having been achieving success in both the amateur and pro ranks for over a decade, winning numerous junior formula car races and championships. Based in Brownsburg, Ind., Belardi Auto Racing contests multi-car efforts in both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series. Goal-oriented and focused on developing the next stars of motorsports, Belardi Auto Racing won in both Indy Lights and USF2000 Championship in 2013.