Christian Brooks has started his USF Pro 2000 return on a high by taking pole for the opening race of the season in St. Peterbsurg.
The Turn 3 Motorsport driver has strong form at the Floridian street circuit, winning there in USF2000 in 2020 and ’21 and then looking fast during last year’s USFP2000 season opener before a car-destroying crash put him out of the races and the rest of the season. His deal to return to the series this year only covers this weekend’s action.
It only took a few minutes in Friday’s qualifying session before red flags were waved, as TJ Speed’s debuting Lirim Zendeli had an incident at turn 10 that damaged his front wing and front-left wheel.
Pabst Racing’s Jace Denmark was fastest based on everyone’s first flying laps, but he dropped down the order once cars returned to track 10 minutes into the shortened 25-minute session.
Turn 3’s Michael d’Orlando, the reigning USF2000 champion, set a 1m11.3840s lap to lead Brooks by 0.0175 seconds.
Kiko Porto, who had been fastest in the free practice session earlier in the day, then set a 1m11.0626s to take over top spot and Pabst’s Myles Rowe moved into second place just 0.0554s behind as d’Orlando was shuffled down to fourth as he failed to improve on his earlier efforts.
Once he did find the pace again he then returned to first place, breaking into the 1m10s and going almost a quarter of a second up on Brooks. Porto improved in third, and Jonathan Browne jumped up to fourth.
Brooks cut the gap to d’Orlando on his next lap, as did Porto, and Rowe moved back into the top four. Porto got within a tenth of d’Orlando with eight minutes remaining, then a minute-and-a-half later Rowe found clean air and took provisional pole from d’Orlando by 0.0515s.
Rowe extended that gap to 0.1299s next time by, and team-mate Jordan Missing improved to go third fastest. That position was short-lived though, as Browne got within 0.0219s of Rowe to move into second with five minutes to go.
A flurry of improvements followed after Browne, with Francesco Pizzi briefly fourth and then Brooks setting a new benchmark pace of 1m10.3601s, 0.0683s faster than Rowe.
Reece Ushijima went fourth fastest, then third as on the next laps both Brooks and Rowe improved ahead of him but their positions remained the same.
Porto threatened Brooks’ position with a 1m10.1362s lap with just under two minutes of qualifying remaining, and Pizzi did the same but came 0.0119s short while Porto was 0.0813s back in third.
Rowe was less than a tenth off pole for his debut, with former Formula 3 racer Ushijima only 0.1018s slower than Brooks in fifth.
|1||Christian Brooks||Turn 3 Motorsport||1m10.0549s||15|
|2||Francesco Pizzi||TJ Speed||1m10.0668s||+0.0119s||14|
|3||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||1m10.1362s||+0.0813s||15|
|4||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing||1m10.1529s||+0.0980s||15|
|6||Michael d’Orlando||Turn 3 Motorsport||1m10.2251s||+0.1702s||14|
|7||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||1m10.3299s||+0.2750s||15|
|8||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||1m10.3799s||+0.3250s||15|
|9||Salvador De Alba||Exclusive Autosport||1m10.5272s||+0.4723s||15|
|10||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Exclusive Autosport||1m10.5586s||+0.5037s||13|
|11||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||1m10.6123s||+0.5574s||15|
|12||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1m10.6230s||+0.5681s||14|
|13||Christian Weir||TJ Speed||1m10.6529s||+0.5980s||14|
|15||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||1m11.0546s||+0.9997s||14|
|16||Lindsay Brewer||Exclusive Autosport||1m11.1470s||+1.0921s||16|
|17||Nicholas Monteiro||NeoTech Motorsport||1m11.4368s||+1.3819s||14|
|18||Jackson Lee||Turn 3 Motorsport||1m11.8718s||+1.8169s||9|
|19||Lirim Zendeli||TJ Speed||no time||1|
|20||Joel Granfors||Exclusive Autosport||no time||0|