Team’s rookie driver assumes point lead after first weekend of the 2017 season
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – The opening round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda marked the official competition debut of the Tatuus USF-17 race car, and perennial series powerhouse Cape Motorsports did not skip a beat with the new chassis, scoring a race win with their rookie phenom Oliver Askew.
The young American, who won the Mazda MRTI $200,000 Scholarship Shootout, was at or near the top of the time charts all weekend. After finishing second in the opening race of the doubleheader on Saturday, the 20-year-old dominated the late-afternoon running of the Race #2, powering to a 1.2056-second triumph to leave St. Petersburg with the championship lead.
Askew’s teammate Ricky Donison had a rougher weekend, but after a tough start in practice and qualifying, he re-focused on maximizing seat time and ran a pair of clean races to begin his career in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
“Although the weekend started off on a rough note, the team as a group pulled together as they always do, and our drivers Oliver and Ricky hammered home great results at our home GP, so we couldn’t be happier,” commented Dominic and Nicholas Cape, Cape Motorsports Team Owners. “There’s a long way to go and a lot of fighting to do with so many good teams and drivers, so we are really looking forward to Barber.”
The opening practice session on Thursday afternoon was slowed by multiple red flags due to cars impacting the wall, including Donison. This resulted in minimal laps being turned, so neither of the Cape drivers were able to get into the groove to turn top times. This put both rookies behind the eight ball for qualifying.
When they got back on the track on Friday morning, Askew improved his pace with every successive lap and turned his fastest time on the last circuit to jump to third, which put him on the inside of the second row for the start of Race #1. Donison had a good qualifying effort as well, running the full session, and like Oliver, he turned his fastest lap just as the checkered flag was presented. Ricky would slot into the 12th position on the starting grid for the first race of the doubleheader.
In the second qualifying session, to set the grid for Race #2, Askew improved to second behind former Cape driver Parker Thompson. Donison pushed hard throughout the session and was inside the top-six in the late going, but he overcooked the entry to turn eight and ended up in the tire barrier, bringing out the red flag. As per the rules, he lost his fast time, which dropped him to 13th in the order.
The opening race enjoyed a clean start and would go green to checker, which allowed Askew to get out away from the field with the leaders. He set up shop in third and then went to work on Pabst Racing’s Calvin Ming for second eventually taking over the position. Oliver set the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of the leader, but came up just short at the checkered flag to earn his first USF2000 podium in his first start.
With a couple of incidents already under his belt, Donison learned from the experience and rebooted his mindset, dialing down his aggression to ensure that he finished both races. In the opening race of the weekend, he brought the car home in one piece with a 13th place finish. This was crucial, as the second race took place just 2.5 hours later. Damaging the car could have potential affected the opportunity to make it onto the grid for Race #2.
Both Cape cars rolled up later Saturday morning to cap the first weekend of the series, and Askew was on the attack from the get-go, grabbing hold of the lead at the opening corner when Thompson pushed wide. From there, Oliver set the pace to pull away before turning the fastest lap on lap 17 of 21 to take his first series win and the overall championship lead. Donison again focused on maximum seat time and finished 17th in the final tally.
The team is thrilled to be working with noted driving coach Jonatan Jorge of JJ Racing Development for the 2017 season. Jorge will be coaching all three Cape Motorsports drivers – Anthony Martin, Oliver Askew and Ricky Donison – and the results have already been stellar. Jonatan has been a very positive addition to the team.
Cape Motorsports will now look forward to the third and fourth rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series, which will take place on April 21-23 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
DRIVER PERFORMANCE / QUOTES
COOPER TIRES USF2000 CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA
ROUND #1 – MARCH 10-12, 2017
GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG – ST. PETERSBURG, FL
OLIVER ASKEW – USF2000 #2
Qualifying 1: 3rd – 1:15.5879
Qualifying 2: 2nd – 1:15.4995
Race 1: 2nd
Race 2: 1st
Driver Quote: “My mindset for the weekend was to start the season with good points. I understand that street races can be treacherous, so I didn’t push moving on with a deficit. I had a fantastic race car, which enabled me to finish well without having to take too many risks. To win on my debut is incredible, and I think this is just a glimpse of what is to come.”
RICKY DONISON – USF2000 #3
Qualifying 1: 12th – 1:16.4064
Qualifying 2: 13th – 1:16.3985
Race 1: 13th
Race 2: 17th
Driver Quote: “I was a bit nervous going into the round because it was my first time racing on a street circuit and there was absolutely no room for error and, being a new driver, I am still learning. My first session was where it all started and I ran a bit too wide coming off turn 10 causing me to retire from the session. I was disappointed in myself because I was trying to push from the first lap out and ultimately ended up in the wall. This meant I had to go into qualifying with a disadvantage, so in Q1 I was just building up to it and the session went quite well. Q2, however, didn’t go as well. I was running in the top-six and because I was pushing too hard I ended up in the wall coming out of turn 8. There was a lot of damage done to the car, but my team did an amazing job of getting the car back out for the first race. My focus for the rest of the weekend was just to finish both races, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t pushing as hard as I should have, but I didn’t want to wreck the car. The weekend could’ve gone better, but I’ve learned a lot and I’m looking forward to the next round at Barber.”