Michael Epps enjoyed a strong debut under the Belardi Auto Racing banner as he secured two top-10 finishes in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda double-header on the streets of Toronto, Canada.
The Hemel Hempstead speedster was part of the lead pack in rounds six and seven, coming home sixth and eighth in the twin bill. Epps is now poised to build on this performance when the Mazda Road to Indy program resumes with three Ohio races in August.
Given that Epps had only just joined the Belardi squad – taking part in a two-day test in Indiana in the lead up to the Toronto event – the plan was to use both Friday practice sessions to develop his speed.
That said, the 21-year-old wasted little time showcasing his overall pace by cracking the top-10 of the highly-competitive field.
When the lone qualifying session commenced later in the day, the goal was simple – manage traffic and post some fast clean laps.
While Epps didn’t get the flying lap he had hoped for, the former British Formula Vee Championship runner-up did post the ninth-best time, placing on the inside of row five for race one of the double-header.
After a night of data analysis and planning, Epps was immediately looking for opportunities to go forward when the green flag waved the following morning.
Involved in a multi-car battle for position for virtually all of 25 laps, the dual British-New Zealand citizen showcased his speed and race skills en route to a hard fought sixth place finish.
With his best result on North American soil now under his belt, and valuable race experience with his new team, Epps entered race two in downtown Toronto confident of another strong outing.
Ultimately, however, an incident-filled race that featured limited green flag laps prevented anything much in the way of movement.
In the end, Epps avoided the carnage to advance up to eighth, earning a second consecutive top-10 result, and momentum going into three races on a more familiar road course in a few weeks’ time.
“I’m really happy overall with how things have gone this weekend,” said Epps. “Considering that it’s my first race within a new team, I met my engineer on Friday morning, and I have no damage whatsoever, it’s a pretty good result.
“We were playing catch-up a little bit with the top guys, but I and the team have taken all this with us so we can start right up there at Mid-Ohio and challenge for podiums or even wins.
“I know it’s do-able, so I’m already itching to get out in Ohio and continue this great progress. Being as Mid-Ohio is a more familiar purpose-built road course, I’m already feeling confident.”
Epps returns to the cockpit of his Belardi Auto Racing entry at the start of August when the fight for top honours resumes at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.