- Written by Jim Kearney for Sports Car Magazine
- 14 December 2012
Venezuela’s Robert “The Rock” LaRocca may not be a Bo Diddley fan but his season could have been the inspiration for these lyrics: “I’m a roadrunner, baby, and you can’t keep up with me.” HP-Tech Motorsport made a late decision to place Robert in a Van Diemen for 2012 and the combination proved virtually unbeatable, winning eleven out of fourteen races.
“I can’t believe that we broke every record in a single season,” said LaRocca. “We learned a lot in 2011 and we applied our lessons in 2012. It was a team effort all year long.” If he didn’t have an issue, he won, simple as that. Despite wing damage he came in third at Lime Rock. He crashed out with Tim Paul at Mid-Ohio. And in the rain at Summit Point, he did what he had to do to clinch the title and stayed on the road for third place. In case there was any doubt, the HP-Tech team braved Watkins Glen, some of them to see snow for the first time, and LaRocca took two poles and two wins.
It was his last ride with HP-Tech. “I will really miss my team and racing against my competitors,” said LaRocca who also ran a partial Euro Open F3 season competing at Spa, Brands Hatch and Monza. He is fully committed to racing in Europe in 2013 but his plans are not yet concrete. “A championship season is a year-long project. No matter what you do, some things won’t go your way and you have to be able to tune that out. You have to keep a stable mind all year long and stick to the plan week-in and week-out.”
If Wyatt Gooden hadn’t had such an astonishing partial 2011 season in F1600, no one would have even expected him to contest for wins in his first F2000 season. But while LaRocca had a year’s experience running winged cars, it was all new to Gooden. “After winning all the F1600 races I entered last year I thought I had it figured out, but the aerodynamics and the different characteristics of the radial tire presented a new challenge.”
As it was, his Quantum Racing Services Van Diemen was the usual suspect to hound LaRocca and took wins at Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio when the Rock ran into trouble. And Wyatt bested him in the rain at Summit although LaRocca had his eye on clinching the title there. Wyatt was also the only other driver to take pole position, doing so at Road Atlanta and Summit Point. And lest we forget, Wyatt, as a rookie, beat everyone else, to solidly finish second in the championship. He cites as a season highlight the fact that he got up to speed quickly at new tracks and was on the podium at every venue this year. No one could dispute that he had earned the title: F2000 Championship Rookie of the Year. How badly did he want it? To make it to Lime Rock he rented a truck and hauled the Quantum trailer back and forth from Oklahoma himself. “I put 4200 miles on the rental truck in a week but otherwise I wouldn’t have been there for the win.”
Four-time National F2000 Champion Niki Coello made the RFR work in his first full pro season took third in the points. He was fast and consistent. Ten top five finishes in a chassis that has had a problematic history thus far is impressive indeed. And he broke the Van Diemen strangle hold on wins with a finely crafted win in the wet at Summit Point.
Kevin Kopp of WISKO Race Engineering came from out of nowhere to finish fourth in his rookie season in formula cars and was on the podium in New Jersey and Summit Point. With a total of eleven top 10’s, Kopp was the biggest surprise at the sharp end of the field. He had fight. After zero laps in practice and qualifying at Lime Rock he got up to 13th in a shortened race. Later that day, he made it up to 5thin race two.
Tim Minor was 5th in the points with his Automotive Specialist Citation and was once again the Masters Division Champ. Minor has won the Masters title every year since it was initiated in 2008, save for 2010,when he ran only 4 races and missed it by 2 points. Tim was 2nd at Lime Rock and also at New Jersey. He continues to adjust and adapt to the Citation, opting to miss the Glen.
Special mention needs to go out to Dave Weitzenhof who at age 70 finished in the top 10 of this genuinely impressive group of drivers with his Quicksilver RacEngines Citation. “Age is a number,” said Dave.