Patrick Barrett Shows Strong Pace at Road America in Cooper FF2000 Debut

Patrick Barrett came up to speed quickly in Wednesday's three practice sessions for the final two rounds of the 2006 Cooper Tire FF2000 Zetec Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin. The Cooper Series shared the weekend with the Champ Car World Series and Champ Car Atlantics.

Barrett was consistently in the top five all day on the four mile track and showed that he could adapt quickly to a new track and in the type of car that he drove for the first time in August, and earlier in Serptember piloted to double victories in the Pacific F2000 weekend at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma.

Barrett, the 2006 Formula Russell Champion was fifth fastest of thirty one drivers in Friday morning's thirty minute wet practice. It was his first rain excursion in the Team GFRO Van Diemen 05 sponsored by Kolliner-Long Gallery, Jim Russell Racing and Go Pro Digital Hero. On and off rain all day created special challenges for teams and drivers.

Qualifying for the weekend was held on Friday afternoon. Barrett was second behind newly crowned 2006 Cooper Series Champion J.R. Hildebrand for much of the session but was relegated to fourth on the last lap as Jason Byers and Dane Cameron moved up to second and third. "The team did an awesome job today, despite the weather. We were able to make good changes to the car prior to qualifying and came away with an acceptable starting position for tomorrow".

Strong storms moved into the Elkhart Lake area on Saturday morning. "It looked like we might have a drying track for our 4 o'clock race but no such luck, it came down pretty heavy. The crew did a great job responding to the conditions and gave me a very good setup".

Barrett started on the second row next to Dane Cameron and behind Jason Byers and pole sitter J.R. Hildebrand. As the green flag fell Barrett moved around Cameron on the outside in Turn 1 and got around Byers in Turn 5 for second place. Barrett held that position until he ran into water running across the track in Turn 12, Canada Corner and under braking slid into the gravel track. He and his car were lifted out of harms way and he was able to continue, still on the lead lap. Knowing that Sunday's race grid would be set by each driver's fastest lap from Saturday's race, he pushed hard for the next twentyfive minutes and ended up setting third fastest time of the race.

"Everything was going so well for the first lap right up until my off in Turn 12. I'm somewhat disappointed about the way today turned out but at the same time I'm extreemly happy about what I accomplished today for tomorrow's race."

The sun returned to Road America Sunday for the last race of the season. Barrett was moved up to second on the starting grid when J.R. Hildebrand, who set fast lap Saturday, was moved to thirteenth for passing under the yellow after an off course excursion. The Cooper cars took to the track late in the afternnon after the conclusion of the Champ Car World Series event. Barrett had a great start and drove by pole sitter Cameron on the outside in Turn 1 to assume the lead. The two exchanged the point several times for two and a half laps until Hildebrand, who had quickly marched up through the field, passed Barrett for the lead in Turn 8.

Cameron fell back after an off track excursion in Turn 3 and Jason Byers moved up to battle Barrett. They exchanged second and third positions repeatedly for several laps and finally locked wheels as Byers attempted a pass using the draft on the long front straight. Both drivers made it through Turn 1 but Barrett's right front wheel was knocked slightly out of alignment and with two laps remaining in the race, while in second, he spun coming out of Turn 12. Despite finishing twelfth, Barrett set second fastest lap time of the race,.4 seconds back of Hildebrand's best lap.

Pat Barrett leads field of 31 into Turn Seven at Road America on Sunday
(Photo by Patrick Barrett Racing

"Like yesterday, everything was going so well until my spin in 12. Because we were on right after the Champ Car race, the track characteristics changed dramatically causing my car to exhibit lots of oversteer. I'm really glad to lead as many laps as I did today. The team's performance this weekend was flawless and they gave me everything I needed to win. I'm really looking forward to working with Geoff Fickling and everyone at GFRO in the future."

For more information about the Cooper Series and for race results please visit their web site.http://www.CooperSeries.com

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