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Elkhart Lake (Wisconsin, United States) – June 20, 2021. What a race for Thomas Nepveu and his #2 Cromwell | Karting Excellence | Home Hardware car prepared by Cape Motorsports, who took his first Cooper Tires USF200 Series win today 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 9 of the 12 race laps and putting up a veteran-like battle with an opponent before winning right at the finish.
“After qualifying 7th on Friday, I knew my #2 Cromwell | Karting Excellence | Home Hardware car was competitive. With a set of new tires for the second race, I was confident. I had a good start to get to 4th place and then a great restart on the 4th 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 4-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 9 laps over the 30-minute session, ending up 7th, 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 Cromwell | Karting Excellence | Home Hardware 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 9th place on lap 5. 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 7th place on the grid after Q2. But he certainly had some big plans for the race. After jumping to 4th 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 4.
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 Cape Motorsports. The win puts Thomas Nepveu second in the Rookie-of-the-Year contest, just 28 points behind the leader and his teammate Spyke Kohlbecker.