Improvement Brings Nepveu Up Toward the Leaders
 April 26, 2021| 
  • Team News
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12th in race 1 – seventh in race 2 – Streets of St. Petersburg (Florida)

Oka (Quebec, Canada)
– Thomas Nepveu is more than happy with his past weekend performance in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship on the St. Petersburg urban track. Driving his #2 Cromwell | Karting Excellence | Home Hardware car, Thomas Nepveu showed his potential, especially in the second race with a very combative seventh-place finish in a group of eight cars running nose to tail after a restart on the 15th of the 20 laps.

The first race of the day was full of action and resulted in four caution periods (using up 11 of the 20-lap race). Nepveu was able to avoid the last incident and finished in 12th place after a comeback from the back of the pack (20th on lap 4). He was able to achieve his goal of another top-10 finish with a well-run seventh place in the second race after starting ninth on the grid. The challenge was to learn a bumpy and slippery urban track, to continue to familiarize himself with his car amongst the increasingly tough drivers in the top-10 group and to reduce his lap-time gap to the leaders.

Weekend Schedule
The organizers put on three track sessions for the USF2000 cars on Friday: a test session and two qualifying periods in preparation for the two races scheduled for Saturday. On Friday morning, Thomas Nepveu was faced with an imposing workload: familiarizing himself with the car while learning every detail of the track he was visiting for the first time.

Thomas Nepveu talks about what happened on the track:
Practice

"I had a lot to do in the 30-minute morning practice - learn the track, understand the behaviour of the car - all on a dirty and slippery surface - so my lap time was not as good as we expected. On the other hand, I learned a lot on the used tires."

Qualifying (Q1 and Q2)
"In preparation for Q1, I reviewed my notes and watched videos to analyse my lap times and trajectories by section and compared them to those of my teammates, to identify exactly where I could improve. I managed 14th place on the grid, less than a second off pole, a good improvement on the morning practice, but still not good enough. The same procedure in preparation for Q2 paid off with a ninth place on the grid for the second race, 0.5 second off pole. The team is continuing to work on the car's set-up in parallel. I'm in a good position to achieve my goal: a top-10 finish."

Races (R1 and R2)
"We made a good start from 14th in race one, taking two positions out of turn one. A traffic jam on the first straight caused an incident and a car in front of me cut my front left tire with its bodywork. After a pitstop for a new tire, I was back in the race in 20th position for the restart on lap 4. I then move up to 12th by 16, when the race is again yellow-flagged until the end on lap 20."

"The good thing about my result is that my Cromwell | Karting Excellence | Home Hardware Cromwell | Karting Excellence | Home Hardware car was running almost perfectly and I believed in my chances to finish in the top-10 or better before the puncture on lap one. On top of that, I was able to move up after the pit stop from 20th on lap 4 to 12th despite three more caution periods, so I couldn't overtake during the three stoppages on eight of the last 16 laps."

"In addition, I changed the tire strategy this morning and fitted four used tires for the first race. The aim was to save my last set of new tires for the second race, where I would start from ninth place with less work to do to catch the leaders. Chance and this decision worked out well, as two new tires on the left for the first race would not have had the impact I was hoping for as I struggled through the slower traffic at the back of the field. Now I have four good tires for race two. A few more tweaks to the set-up and we are ready to go!"

"I was looking for a good second race with a new set of tires and a good car. A minor mistake on the first lap caused me to lose a position (from ninth to 10th) and I managed to get back to ninth place with a decisive move on lap 9. An incident in front of me then allowed me to move up to seventh on lap 12, where I finished the race. I'm now running with fast drivers who make very few mistakes, which makes overtaking very difficult, even though my fastest lap time in the race is only 0.4 seconds off the fastest lap in the race. We got the car back in good shape and collected points in the championship so everyone on the team was happy," concluded a Thomas Nepveu happy with his performance.

Observations
After only four races in the Cooper Tires USF2000 series, we can see Thomas Nepveu's driving skills, his determination to do better every time out and the efficiency with which he learns and cuts fractions of a second off his lap times relative to the leaders. We are talking about tenths of a second that are becoming increasingly difficult to find. No doubt this improvement will continue and allow him to qualify further ahead and simplify his task in the race.
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