TORONTO, Ont., Canada – ArmsUp Motorsports has been a regular podium finisher in this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, and the enthusiastic little team from Sheboygan Falls Wis., finally broke through this afternoon when Victor Franzoni produced an impressive drive to win today’s Allied Building Products USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto.
The Brazilian’s opportunistic move on polesitter and joint championship leader Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) at the first corner translated into a well-earned victory when Martin later crashed out to leave Canadian teammate Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., to assume the championship lead with a third-place finish behind Australian Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing).
Martin and Thompson arrived in Ontario tied for the lead in the quest for a Mazda scholarship to graduate onto the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2017. That tie was broken this morning in qualifying when Martin earned a valuable championship point by posting the fastest lap and earning his fifth pole of the season.
Franzoni maintained his recent run of success by qualifying on the outside of the front row of the grid for the third successive race. This time he was bound and determined to translate his pace into an overdue victory. In what he later, half-jokingly, described as a “crazy” move at Turn One, Franzoni dived for the inside under braking at the last possible moment, catching his rival unawares and sneaking through into the lead. Thompson and Lloyd followed in grid formation, with Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner Autosport) moving up one place to fifth after displacing Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) on the opening lap.
The two leaders quickly pulled out a margin, with Martin anxiously looking to make a move for the lead, only to be rebuffed each time by Franzoni. The Australian redoubled his efforts after a brief full-course caution when Brendan Puderbach (Fat Boy Racing) spun in Turn One, but at the same time was struggling with an extremely painful left wrist which he had tweaked when he made contact with a wall in practice on Friday. Finally, on Lap 14, Martin lost control in Turn Eight and crashed out of the race.
After another caution to remove Martin’s stricken Van Diemen-Mazda, and with Martin having disappeared from his mirrors, Franzoni took off at the restart and earned victory by 2.226 seconds. Lloyd passed Thompson for position on Lap 6, lost his hard-earned advantage at the restart, then regained it with a bold pass around the outside under braking for Turn Three with five laps remaining.
Gabin ran a relatively quiet race to fourth place ahead of impressive teenager Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey), who lined up an unrepresentative 17th on the grid due to an electrical failure in qualifying before charging all the way to fifth place to earn himself a well-deserved Tilton Hard Charger Award. China’s Yufeng Luo (Pabst Racing) finished sixth ahead of Dickerson, who took home the Staubli Award after recording the best finish to date in his rookie season.
The PFC Award went to winning car owners Gregg and Brent Borland of ArmsUp Motorsports.
Eric Filgueiras of Spencer Racing claimed the National Class win with a 14th-place overall finish.
Thompson’s third-place finished moved him into the championship lead by 239 points to the 224 of Martin. Franzoni now lies just 18 points further drift going into the second part of the Allied Building Products USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto, for which the green flag is due to fall at 8:25 a.m. EDT tomorrow.
Victor Franzoni (#9 Rotary Systems Inc./Novac Sports/ArmsUp Motorsports): “I was crying like crazy at the finish! It’s been over a year since I won, so it means so much. It was a great day for me and for the ArmsUp team; they did a great job. It was a really hard race, maybe the hardest I’ve ever done. It was like qualifying the whole time! We were pushing so hard the whole race. I had to try something at the start and Jordan helped me get close to Anthony. When I saw a gap – a really small gap – I just went for it. This is the middle of the championship and I knew that if I didn’t finish up front, I would lose too much ground. I took a risk and it doesn’t always work, but today it did. Mazda gives us a really good scholarship and everyone is going for that.”
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