F2000 ROOKIE PETE OLSON IMPRESSES DESPITE MECHANICAL MISHAPS IN FIRST ROUND OF RT/2000 CHAMPIONSHIP
For Immediate Release October 19, 2003
Hollywood, CA – Today, the five-hour drive back from Northern California to sunny Hollywood seemed like an eternity to Maryland racer Pete Olson. It was far too much time to ponder the results of the race weekend.
Saturday afternoon was the opening round of the highly competitive Skip Barber RT/2000 Western Race Series. The weekend’s races were held at the famous Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, a venue for famous CART and World Superbike race events. With its high speed corners, major elevation changes, and the infamous “corkscrew”, a sharp left-hander with a two story drop-off at the exit, F1 Champion Jackie Stewart once called Laguna Seca “The closest thing to Monaco.” Race drivers from as far away as South Carolina came to compete in the Series opener, where RT/2000 pilots competed in 130 mph formula cars that sprint from 0-60 in less than 5 seconds and reach cornering loads of up to 1.5G’s.
This weekend was also the RT/2000 debut of Maryland racer Pete Olson, who was born and raised in Irvine, California, but spent most of his youth in Maryland. He moved back out West almost three years ago to pursue a professional career in open-wheel racing.
The ex-karter felt confident going into qualifying but was only able to wring out 9th place on the starting grid for the first race of the weekend, only to be told after the 18-lap qualifying session that his car had not been set up properly. Test drivers and mechanics worked on the RT/2000 to correct excessive ‘oversteer’ [the tendency of the rear of the vehicle to slide out].
“I felt the rear end breaking away in a few of the higher-speed corners in my fastest laps” said Olson from his hotel in Monterey. “But I kept it under control. I thought I was just going to wide-open throttle too early. It was tough to come back into pit lane and find out that I could have qualified better if there hadn’t been a problem with the set-up on the car.”
Unable to re-qualify, Olson set his hopes for a good finish on moving up through the grid, as they braked from 130 to 40mph at the end of Laguna’s long straight during the start of the first race.
Olson managed to quickly capture several positions during the first half of the thirty-minute race, moving up to 6th when the double-yellow flags were suddenly waved at every corner of the track. As Olson came around turn six and headed up the hill to the infamous “corkscrew”, he suddenly saw the reason for the yellow warning flags: a competitor had spun in the exit of the turn and slammed into the wall. Thankfully, the driver was unhurt. But all that was left of the 130mph racecar was the driver’s pod, the suspension and rear and front wings of the car having disintegrated in the impact with unforgiving concrete.
The racecars were re-grid for a single-file rolling restart, having to complete several laps of the track at slow speed, swerving back and forth to keep their race slicks warm while the wreckage of the demolished car was taken away by truck.
On the final warm-up lap for the re-start, Olson suddenly noticed that his tachometer [RPM gauge] had failed. In addition, his engine started misfiring as he applied throttle.
“I knew that something was definitely wrong when the engine started to cut out” said Olson. “But by the time it was really acting up, we had come down out of the corkscrew to turn ten and onto the straight for the green flag [to signal that the course was clear of wreckage and thus the re-start the race in single file]. I knew all I could do was hope that my engine would carry me through the remainder of the race.”
On Saturday, hope wasn’t enough for the RT/2000 rookie.
Olson came onto the straight for the re-start and applied full throttle, only to watch in disbelief as his car’s entire electrical system failed.
After pulling his stalled racecar onto the run-off area at the beginning of the straight in order to ensure that his competitors would get a good start, a furious Olson pounded his fists on the steering wheel.
His race and his hopes for a good finish in the opening round of the series were dashed by a ten-cent, two-inch piece of electrical wire.
As a result of his mechanical DNF [Did Not Finish] in Saturday’s race, Olson was placed in the back of the grid for Sunday’ s weekend finale. Pit crews worked late Saturday night in order to fix Olson’s racecar, and in Sunday's 2nd race, Olson gave spectators something to cheer about.
Olson started in 12th place as the result of Saturday’s DNF, but in a heroic drive managed to seize five positions before the end of the race, moving up to 7th for the checkered flag.
The RT/2000 rookie had mixed feelings about the weekend. “I know that Sunday’s results were quite good, considering what happened on Saturday” said Olson from his home in Hollywood. “And ‘that’s racing’, like anyone in this profession will tell you. I can only hope to do better next time, knowing that Saturday was just a fluke in what are otherwise very reliable racecars.”
For more information on Pete Olson, visit his website at: www.peteolson.com. And to follow the RT/2000 Championship Racing Series, log on to: www.skipbarber.com.