Finnish Star Suvanto Targets USF2000 Championship Title in Baltimore

Petri Suvanto has his sights set firmly on clinching the coveted Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda title this weekend when the series heads to Baltimore, Md., for the final two races of the season. The 18-year-old rising star from Nurmo, Finland – the latest in a long line of Flying Finns – has been the standout driver in this year’s championship which serves as the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system.

The USF2000 contenders will ply their trade in a pair of 30-minute races on a brand-new, 12-turn, 2.1-mile temporary street circuit centered upon Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in what promises to be an action-packed weekend featuring both the IZOD IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series.

By the Numbers
Suvanto’s fifth victory of the season, in the most recent race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., ensured him a commanding 39-point advantage over his nearest challenger. Suvanto’s fine debut campaign in North America, which follows a single year of Formula BMW in Europe after an impressive career in karting, also has included three second-place finishes and one third. From 10 races to date this season, he has failed to finish on the podium only once aboard Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s #3 Viseko Van Diemen-Mazda.

The only driver with a mathematical chance of beating Suvanto to the top award – a scholarship from Mazda to move up into the Star Mazda Championship, which represents the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy – is Spencer Pigot. The 17-year-old rookie talent from Windermere, Fla., has kept up the fight, guiding his Andretti Autosport #8 Team MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber entry to two poles and one win at Road America two weeks ago – his second victory of the season. Even so, the 2010 Skip Barber National Champion reduced the deficit to Suvanto by only four points.

With 30 points up for grabs to the winner of each race, plus bonus points for the pole, leading most laps and posting the fastest race lap, Suvanto will require a total of 27 points from the weekend – equivalent to a seventh and eighth-place finish – to put the title beyond Pigot’s grasp.

No Shortage of Challengers
Other likely front-runners who are battling for position in the final standings include Zach Veach, 16, from Stockdale, Ohio, who has claimed one win and three poles this season with the #7 Team Zakosi Data Backup/Andretti Autosport Van Diemen-Mazda; 2008 British Formula Ford Champion Wayne Boyd, 20, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who guided his #4 TheAppBuilder.com/Belardi Auto Racing machine to victory at the Milwaukee Mile oval; ultra-consistent 16-year-old Canadian Matthew Di Leo in the #33 Res Precast car; the JDC MotorSports pair of Juan Piedrahita from Mexico City and Las Vegas-based Australian Roman Lagudi; and Timmy Megenbier, 20, from Chicago, Ill., who has posted four consecutive top-five finishes in the distinctively liveried #17 Sick Tea/Rahal Foods/Caputo/Wiscon Corp entry.

Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Shannon McIntosh will be looking to rebound from a frustrating weekend in Road America aboard the #2 Glass Hammer Racing entry. The 22-year-old former midget racer, who is contesting her first road racing season, claimed her best result of the year of eighth at the last temporary street circuit event in St. Petersburg. Also looking to make gains on the learning curve is Luigi Biangardi of Belardi Auto Racing. The 15-year-old is preparing for his fifth USF2000 start in the #9 INJECT-IT.com/Gulfstream Properties entry and claimed a notable sixth-place finish at Mid-Ohio in August.

NYC Youngster Heads National Class Points
While the primary focus will be on the 2-liter Mazda MZR-powered Championship class at the front of the field, another talented teenager, Luca Forgeois, has taken control of the National division which features slightly less powerful Zetec engines and offers a cost-effective first step into the category. Forgeois, 16, from New York, N.Y., found himself embroiled in a multi-car melee on the opening lap of Race 1 at Road America, which restricted him to a sixth-in-class finish, but he bounced back in Race 2 to claim the sixth win of his strong rookie season. The second-generation racer currently holds a 30-point advantage over series veteran – and Pabst Racing Services teammate – J.R. Smart of Madison, Wis.

Forgeois and Smart are likely to face stiff opposition from Italian-born, Greenwich, Conn.-based racing veteran Joe Colasacco, who returns with his #11 Auriana Racing Van Diemen after winning both races on his debut at Mid-Ohio Sports Course in early August. Other challengers include AcceleRace Motorsports’ Ardie Greenamyer in the #28 imagePRO/Hi-Rise Equipment/Sabelt machine and Rodin Younessi in the Harley Davidson-liveried #16 JDC MotorSports entry.

Local Newcomers Set to Ensure 20-car Field for Final Weekend
A steady upsurge in interest in USF2000 has attracted a season-high 20-car field to the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. High school student Ryan Tveter, from Oyster Bay, N.Y., is set to make his series debut along with Jensen MotorSports team, whose owner Eric Jensen was a regular competitor in the now-defunct Atlantic Series. Tveter aims to lay some groundwork for an anticipated full season in 2012.

In addition, four locally based drivers will contest the National class for the first time this weekend: Bruce Hamilton, from Monkton, Md., and Joe Woodward, from Crownsville, Md., will drive for the Abbotstown, Pa.-based K-Hill Motorsports team, while Joe Blacker, from Columbia, Md., who campaigned several American Le Mans Series events almost a decade ago, will be joined by open-wheel veteran Eric Langbein, from Annapolis, Md., in a pair of MidAtlantic Motorsports/Eric Langbein Racing entries.

Weekend Schedule
All four steps of the Mazda Road to Indy will see action this weekend in Baltimore. After qualifying at 5:20 pm on Friday, the first USF2000 race will take the green flag at 2:15 pm on Saturday during the lead-up to the two-hour American Le Mans Series co-feature. Race 2 will start at 10:20 am on Sunday and will be followed by events for Star Mazda, Firestone Indy Lights and the IZOD IndyCar Series.

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