Belardi Auto Racing drivers battle changing conditions at challenging circuit
LEXINGTON, OHIO – It was a busy weekend for Belardi Auto Racing and its USF2000 drivers as they battled through a tripleheader at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Daniel Burkett and Jeroen Slaghekke provided up-and-down performances in the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds of the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered By Mazda, which were plagued by rain and difficult track conditions. Burkett drove to a pair of top-six finishes in races one and three, while Dutch pilot Slaghekke scored a top-10 finish in the first race of the weekend and nearly repeated that accomplishment in race three.
Burkett began the weekend by taking part in the series’ test sessions on Thursday, July 31. The Canadian was fast out of the box, posting the fifth best time of the two sessions, so things were starting off on the right foot. In Friday qualifying, Burkett maintained his pace and placed his Belardi Auto Racing entry sixth on the starting grid for the weekend’s first race. The 19-year-old got an incredible start and advanced to second, but the arrival of rain did not suit the set-up on the car and while he battled limited traction, Daniel was still able to manage a strong sixth-place result. The second race of the weekend was run in full wet conditions on Saturday, in which Burkett would roll fifth off the grid. Despite advancing up to third in the early going, Burkett made a slight miscue that ended in contact with the wall, putting him out of the race early. The weekend’s final race on Sunday proved to be Daniel’s chance to show his resolve, as he fought back from the Saturday disappointment with great poise and the necessary dose of aggression. Driving to a fifth-place finish, Burkett left Mid-Ohio just four points out of sixth place in the championship chase. Burkett was also awarded the Staubli Contingency award for his efforts and now has eight top-10 finishes in the 12 races this year.
"I believe that we made big strides with the Belardi cars this weekend and I am looking forward to the finale in Sonoma,” offered the likeable Canadian. “We have good momentum heading into the California weekend and it seems this year that we have been better on the natural road courses, so I am confident we will be at the front."
Jeroen Slaghekke’s USF2000 steed was very quick off the trailer in Mid-Ohio, running in the top-five in the test and practice sessions. Moving to qualifying, the series sophomore improved slightly on his earlier pace but laid down only the 11th fastest time of the session, as the competition found more speed, putting Jeroen deeper in the field than he would have liked. The opening race was uneventful, although he was able to make two key passes to record an important top-10 with a ninth-place result. Much like his teammate, Slaghekke’s second race of the weekend ended disappointingly. The treacherous conditions and poor visibility made it extremely hard for Slaghekke, and he spun on lap two, retiring from the race. On Sunday, Slaghekke started 10th, but could not advance and hung on to take an 11th place finish, just barely missing out on his second top-10 of the weekend.
“It was a disappointing weekend for us,” Slaghekke admitted. “We were fast in all the tests leading up to the race, but it just never came together for us. We'll be analyzing where we need to improve so we can bounce back strongly in Sonoma.”
Belardi Auto Racing will now turn its focus to the final weekend of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered By Mazda, in Sonoma, California. The last two rounds of the championship will be run at the Sonoma Raceway, as a part of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
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.