Kiko Porto scored an accomplished victory in this afternoon’s second leg of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio triple-header for DEForce Racing. The 17-year-old from Recife, Brazil, once again started from pole position, but unlike yesterday was able to hold off Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), from Hartsdale, N.Y., to claim his third win of the season. Porto thereby extended his championship lead to 32 points heading into tomorrow’s 13th round of an intensely hard-fought 18-race Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. At stake is a scholarship valued at over $401,000 to graduate into the 2022 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
“What a race, that was so difficult,” Porto siad. “I’m so happy with this. My first win at Mid-Ohio. I love this track. It’s the most difficult track on the calendar. The track changed so much during the race so I needed to adapt on every lap. And Michael was so fast behind me for the entire race so I couldn’t make any mistakes – one mistake would cost me the race. Thank you so much to the team. We made some changes for today and it was a really good car. We have one more race tomorrow so we’ll keep pushing. These are good championship points, with a little bit of a gap, so I’m so happy with this result.”
Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., maintained his recent fine form by finishing third for the second consecutive day in his Legacy Autosport Tatuus USF-17.
The grid for today’s race was determined by either the second fastest lap set by each driver during the lone qualifying session on Friday or the fastest race lap from Race 1, whichever was the faster. Porto’s time on Friday was good enough to ensure his fifth Cooper Tires Pole Award of the year, upon which he immediately capitalized by making an exemplary start as the huge 28-car field accelerated toward Turn 1.
“Kiko was very fast today,” d’Orlando said. “It was a tough first lap – the stadium trucks had been out right before us and they got the track pretty dirty. I went through the first turn sliding the whole way and just couldn’t get close to Kiko. I chased him the entire race and thought I could get close on that last lap but he did a great job to defend. I’m super proud of the race I drove but I wish I could have clinched that top spot again. Tomorrow may be a very different day: I know a few guys came in to change to new tires so I don’t know where we’ll start so that will make it interesting.”
The battle is on! @MichaeldOrland1 gets right up on Porto's gearbox.
— USF2000 Series (@USF2000) July 3, 2021
d’Orlando slotted into second from the outside of the front row, while Sikes once again made a strong start to scythe past third-fastest qualifier Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing), from Palo Alto, Calif.
The three leaders quickly distanced themselves from the pack, and even though Sikes eventually slipped back, the two front-runners remained tied closely together throughout a tense 20-lap race which was unencumbered by any caution periods. Porto remained cool under intense pressure to cement his victory as well as a fourth PFC Award of the season for winning car owners David and Ernesto Martinez.
“Everything is really coming together,” Sikes said. “I can’t thank Legacy Autosport enough – three podiums in three races! They’ve done a great job and we’re definitely on a roll. I got a great start to get into third and, just like yesterday, tried to manage the gap behind while trying to reach the guys in front. But also, just like yesterday, Kiko and Michael were pretty quick. But I’m happy with a third-place finish and I can feel that first win coming. We’ve improved all year and we’re closing in. I’m looking forward to it.”
The result enabled DEForce Racing to move into the lead of the coveted Team Championship on 284 points. Cape Motorsports has moved into second place on 264, closely followed by the previous leader Pabst Racing on 260.
Matt Round-Garrido was one of the biggest movers at the start for the Exclusive Autosport team, vaulting from eighth on the grid to fourth. The Englishman maintained his position throughout the race, despite being harried by a long string of challengers led by Canadian rookie Thomas Nepveu, who produced another strong finish in fifth for Cape Motorsports after winning for the first time last month at Road America.
— USF2000 Series (@USF2000) July 3, 2021
Siegel, who slipped from third on the grid to seventh inside the first hectic couple of laps, fought his way back past New Zealand rookie Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport) for sixth with two laps remaining, while teammate Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., succeeded in clawing his way from 13th on the grid to eighth ahead of Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Mount Kisco, N.Y.
But for the second day in succession, the recipient of the Tilton Hard Charger Award was Evan Stamer (Ignite Autosport with Cape Motorsports), from Glen Carbon, Ill., who improved from 21st to 15th.
Tomorrow’s final race of the weekend, due to start at 8:05 a.m. EDT, once again will see Porto on the pole position, courtesy of his second fastest lap from qualifying. But the biggest gainer will be rookie Jackson Lee (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Avon, Ind., who posted the fastest lap of today’s race after being one of several contenders to eschew a good result in favor of making a pit top to utilize a fresh set of Cooper tires. Lee will start fifth tomorrow behind Porto, d’Orlando, Siegel and Sikes.
Provisional championship points after 12 of 18 races:
1. Kiko Porto, 279
2. Michael d’Orlando, 247
3. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 223
4. Josh Pierson, 214
5. Christian Brooks, 205
6. Josh Green, 165
7. Spike Kohlbecker, 164
8. Thomas Nepveu, 162
9. Prescott Campbell, 159
10. Jace Denmark, 144