Christodoulou Wins on Home Spoil in USF2000
 July 16, 2023| 
  • Series News
TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Nico Christodoulou this weekend took a break from his regular season of contesting the GB3 Championship in the UK, returned home to his native Toronto for a one-off return to USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires and claimed an impressive victory this morning for VRD Racing in the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Toronto.

Christodoulou, 18, took the lead with five laps remaining on a damp track when polesitter and championship leader Simon Sikes (Pabst Racing) made a slight error under braking for Turn Three. Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., held on for second, while Lochie Hughes, from Surfers Paradise, Australia, profited from some last-lap shenanigans to complete the podium for Jay Howard Driver Development.

Overnight rain meant the 1.786-mile temporary circuit in Exhibition Place, just a few miles from downtown Toronto, was treacherously slippery as the 19 cars lined up for their race at a little after 8 a.m. EDT. That was of no major concern for Sikes, who started as he finished yesterday’s race – at the front – after securing his seventh Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season during a dedicated qualifying session on Saturday morning.

A couple of single-car spins led the first three laps to be completed behind the Pace Car, after which Sikes took off confidently in the lead.

Sikes was helped when outside front row starter and Saturday polesitter Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Loveland, Ohio, made a mistake at Turn One, although it wasn’t long before Christodoulou began to loom large in his mirrors. Christodoulou, who had lined up fifth on the grid, profited firstly when VRD teammate Nikita Johnson, from Gulfport, Fla., experienced a mechanical problem even before the start. He then took advantage of Papasavvas’ error before slipping past Sikes’ teammate, New Zealander Jacob Douglas on the first lap of green-flag racing.

The pace increased steadily as the 20-lap race unfolded and the track slowly began to dry, although Sikes seemed to have matters under control, despite the close attentions of both Christodoulou and fellow Toronto area native Mac Clark (DEForce Racing). But on Lap 16, the leader left his braking a touch too late at Turn Three and ran slightly wide. Christodoulou needed no second bidding. He ducked instinctively to the inside and slipped through into the lead.

One brief caution period due to a single-car incident at the back of the field was cleared in time for a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. Christodoulou, who had contested a handful of USF2000 races in 2020 before heading to Europe, was up to the challenge, clearing off to take the victory by just over 1.5 seconds.

Clark had made a bid to overtake Sikes around the outside at Turn One, but after running side by side almost the full length of Lake Shore Boulevard, he instead found himself under attack from Sikes’ teammate Max Garcia, from Coconut Grove, Fla. Unfortunately, contact at Turn Three sent Clark spinning. In the chaos that ensued, Hughes vaulted from fifth to third, ending his poor sequence of results, while Mexico’s Jorge Garciarce (DEForce Racing) picked up the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 11th on the grid to fourth, equaling his best result of the season.

A delighted Dan Mitchell claimed the PFC Award as the winning car owner.

Second position for Sikes, his 11th podium finish of the season, means that he now holds a commanding 69-point lead over Hughes in his quest for a Discount Tire Driver Development Scholarship valued at $433,200 to ensure graduation onto the next step of the ladder, USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2024. In the Team Championship, a once clear advantage for Jay Howard Driver Development has now been trimmed to just a single point over Pabst Racing. The outcome of both titles will be decided in the tripleheader finale at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore., on September 2/3.

Provisional championship points after 15 of 18 races:
1. Simon Sikes, 368
2. Lochie Hughes, 299
3. Nikita Johnson, 289
4. Mac Clark, 274
5. Evagoras Papasavvas, 265
6. Chase Gardner, 193
7. Sam Corry, 191
8. Jorge Garciarce, 186
9. Max Garcia, 173
10. Jacob Douglas, 158

Nico Christodoulou (#2 VRD Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It was a really good race on home soil. I was super excited about today. As I was coming here, I knew the track would be pretty wet. Racing in England, pretty much all you get is wet weather racing and I was excited to take advantage of that. In the race, I was maintaining second for most of it. Simon ended up making a mistake and I took the lead. We had a Safety Car restart and I kept the lead and just pulled away. I really loved racing this weekend. The team put a great car together for me and all the sponsors and my family were here, so it was a super good weekend.”

Simon Sikes (#22 Big Check Race Fans/Doug Mockett & Company/ Racing Tatuus USF-22): “I am very happy with Race 2 here in Toronto. I started on pole and obviously, you want to go and win the race from there. In the big picture, we just needed good points out of the day. The race was wet the entire way through and it was a very slick track. I was just trying to manage the conditions. I lead a lot but Nico had a bit of pace on me. Eventually I made one small mistake in Turn Three and he was able to get by. After the Safety Car and the restart, I almost hit the wall but I was able to keep it together and hold P2. It was just a very good weekend overall and I can’t thank the Pabst organization enough, Doug Mockett and everyone that is making this happen. Now we can enjoy a lead going into Portland.”

Lochie Hughes (#8 JHDD/CSU One Cure/Lucas Oil Products/LHP-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus USF-22): “It was a very eventful race. I started ninth and was able to work my way up to fourth. I was struggling slightly, just trying to figure things out and fell back to fifth. On the restart, Max Garcia was ahead of me and we were catching the group ahead. Then there was another Safety Car and I just sent it around the outside of Turn Three on the restart and made my way up to third.”
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