ELKHART LAKE, WI (June 21, 2021)- – What a race for Thomas Nepveu and his #2 car prepared by Cape Motorsports. Nepveu took his first Cooper Tires USF200 Series win on Sunday at the legendary Road America track near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
The young rookie, making his first visit to this track, showed how effective his learning has been since the beginning of the season, leading nine of the 12 race laps and putting up a veteran-like battle with an opponent before winning right at the finish.
“After qualifying seventh on Friday, I knew my car was competitive. With a set of new tires for the second race, I was confident. I had a good start to get to fourth place and then a great restart on the fourth lap to take the lead and to keep it until the checkered flag. Thanks to all my partners and my team Cape Motorsports,” said Thomas Nepveu with enthusiasm from the podium.
The four-mile layout with three long straights and sweeping bends puts an emphasis on smoothness in and out of corners that lead onto the straightaways to ensure the best possible top speed. Thomas Nepveu’s last race, on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval, was an excellent preparation for these high-speed manoeuvres.
This was Thomas Nepveu’s first visit to this track, and he had the opportunity to learn the racing lines and reference points over two one-hour test sessions on Thursday. Covering a total of 36 laps, Thomas ended up 10th quickest in the second session after improving his time from the first session by 0.58 sec., an excellent performance.
The Friday morning official practice sessions brought another quantum improvement, as Thomas ran nine laps over the 30-minute session, ending up seventh, only 0.1170 sec. behind the quickest car in the session. In addition, Thomas Nepveu was running quicker and quicker laps at the end of the session, with his last lap being his quickest of all despite tires that were showing more and more wear.
After a frustrating 13th place result in Q1, a mere second off pole time, the team decided to let the #2 car out late in the second session (Q2) session in the hope that the chances of benefitting from an aerodynamic “tow” were greater. The strategy worked as Nepveu rose to the challenge and turned in the 7th quickest lap on his second timed lap. He covered only four timed laps in the session, ending up in a good starting position for Race 2 and with a set of little-used tires that may come in handy for a race.
Race 1 – 11TH place
Thomas Nepveu moved up to 10th place from 13th on the grid at the start and spent the rest of the 12-lap race there, save for crossing the line in ninth place on lap five. Thomas Nepveu kept improving over the second half of the race, setting his six progressively “quickest lap” of the race on six consecutive laps (Laps 6 to 11). This showed a steady improvement after a busy early race that included some aggressive passing on a restart after the single caution period.
Race 2 – VICTORY
What a race! Thomas Nepveu said yesterday that he was happy with his seventh place on the grid after Q2. But he certainly had some big plans for the race. After jumping to fourth by the end of lap1, a master move allowed him to pass the three-car pack in front of him and jump into the lead by the end of lap four.
The rest of the 12-lap race was a demonstration of Thomas Nepveu’s skill, precision, concentration, management of his aerodynamics, clean and error-free driving right to the end. Thomas kept his cool late in the race during a two-car-wide attack from second-place finisher Simon Sikes and won the race by 0,0679 sec. in a side-by-side finish.
This was the first Podium finish and the first win for the rookie driver from Oka (Quebec, Canada.) and a great display of this promising driver aboard a perfectly prepared car by http://www.capemotorsports.com/. The win puts Thomas Nepveu second in the Rookie-of-the-Year contest, just 28 points behind the leader and his teammate Spyke Kohlbecker.
Thomas Nepveu’s Point Of View
“We had two sets of new tyres for Thursday’s practice, and I worked on learning the track and more importantly working to set myself up to take the best possible advantage of slipstreaming along the three long straightaways. It worked as we finished Thursday’s second session in seventh place, one tenth of a second off the fastest car.
“We’ll see how the start of the first race goes, as I’m a little bit off (13th) from the pole on the grid. I feel much more confident for Sunday’s race, as my seventh place on the grid makes a top-five finish possible.
“I started Race 1 from 13th place with four tires that we had used in Q1, leaving me with a full set of new ones for Race 2. The car worked perfectly, and I was able to move up to 11th place and keep it right to the end of the race. I expect a better result tomorrow,” explained Thomas Nepveu, the only Canadian to take part in this series.
Next Event – July 1 to 4 – Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course (Lexington, Ohio)
The team will be back in action next July 1 to 4 on another classic road course, the 2.6-mile, 13-turns Mi-Ohio Sportscar Course.
The layout of Mod-Ohio is very different from Elkhart Lake, featuring only one real straight with a slow entry speed, then a series of 7 changes of direction strung together that require constant attention from the driver to always be in the correct line for entry into the coming corner and exit to be well placed for the next one yet. No time to relax on this busy little layout.