d’Orlando Slithers to Dramatic USF Pro 2000 Victory in Toronto
 July 15, 2023| 
  • Series News
Michael Banner
TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Michael d’Orlando continued his recent charge in USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires by claiming a dramatic victory this afternoon for Turn 3 Motorsport in the first of two races that will comprise the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Toronto. After the race was red-flagged following a brief shower to rain to allow everyone to switch onto wet-weather Cooper tires, d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., who carries dual American and Canadian citizenship, took full advantage of a late error by Myles Rowe (Pabst Racing with Force Indy) before cementing his third win in the last five races.

Salvador de Alba, from Guadalajara, Mexico, finished second for Exclusive Autosport with Germany-based Albanian Lirim Zendeli taking third for TJ Speed Motorsports.

Rowe, the championship leader, continued his rich vein of form into qualifying on the unforgiving Toronto streets. Only fifth fastest in the lone 30-minute practice on Friday morning, Rowe upped the ante considerably when it mattered a little later in the day. His fastest time, more than a half-second clear of d’Orlando and the only sub-1:10 lap among the 19-car field, comfortably secured his third Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season.

Under an overcast sky but on a dry track, Rowe took off into the lead at the start, chased initially by de Alba, who found a way past outside front row qualifier d’Orlando on the opening lap.

d’Orlando redressed that balance with a nice move at Turn Three on the fourth lap, then quickly negated the advantage of more than a second that Rowe had already created.

The top five continued to circulate in close company for the first half of the 25-lap race with Rowe remaining under pressure from d’Orlando, de Alba, Swedish Exclusive Autosport teammate Joel Granfors and Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), from Scottsdale, Ariz.

An incident farther down the field on Lap 15 necessitated a full-course caution, and light rain began to fall while the field circulated at reduced speed behind the Pace Car. Before long, Race Control called for the red flag and brought all cars onto the pit lane for the fitment of grooved-tread tires.

The track was fully wet by the time the race was unleashed for a four-lap dash to the checkered flag. Unfortunately, as the race leader, Rowe was the first driver to fully realize how wet the surface had become. A fraction too late onto the brakes at the end of Lake Shore Boulevard, Rowe skated wide and allowed d’Orlando to nip through into the lead.

Rowe was fortunate to be able to resume in seventh, mitigating the damage, but there was no stopping d’Orlando, who remained out front until the yellow lights came out again on the final lap after Irish teammate Jonathan Browne, who had been running ninth, found the tire barrier at Turn Eight.

Former FIA Formula 2 competitor Zendeli showed his experience by rising from seventh to third after the restart, followed by Granfors and Brazilian Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), who profited when the unfortunate Denmark went off course at Turn Three just as the caution lights came on.

NeoTech Motorsport’s Nicholas Monteiro, from Miami, Fla., claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 17th on the grid to an 11th-place finish.

Turn 3 Motorsport’s Peter Dempsey garnered his fourth PFC Award of the season as the winning car owner.
Having been placed 11th in the season points table just a few races ago, d’Orlando has now vaulted to fourth, only five points out of second, with six races remaining in the season. Rowe continues to hold a comfortable lead and will have an opportunity to atone for his error when he starts on pole position for tomorrow morning’s race which will go green at 11:05 a.m. EDT.

Provisional championship points after 12 of 18 rounds:
1. Myles Rowe, 268
2. Joel Granfors, 204
3. Kiko Porto, 204
4. Michael d’Orlando, 199
5. Salvador de Alba, 198
6. Francesco Pizzi, 186
7. Jace Denmark, 177
8. Lirim Zendeli, 164
9. Jonathan Browne, 158
10. Jack William Miller, 150

Michael d’Orlando (#1 USF Pro Championships/Focused Project Management-Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22): “It was a crazy race, and one of the most difficult that I have driven in a long time. Myles gave me quite a fight throughout the race. Then we had a rain red flag and it was really difficult. I know from Myles’ perspective, it is definitely a lot more challenging being the leading guy. It is amazing to be on the top step of the podium here in Toronto. I am proud to be a Canadian up here and an American down there. Turn 3 Motorsport did a fantastic job in making sure the car was extremely fast and capable of this win today. I am extremely thankful to my sponsors and USF Pro Championships – I wouldn’t be here without you guys – Priority Technology Holdings and Rising Star Racing as well.”

Salvador de Alba (#91 Archandel/Red Cola/Mecano/Z Motors-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus IP-22): “It was a very interesting race. I started P3 and kept that position in the dry conditions. Then it started raining and we knew there was going to be more coming. They red-flagged the race so we could change tires. It was hard not knowing the track in the wet conditions, but overall it was a very good race. Myles didn’t make it through Turn Three so we managed to take second position and stay there until the end. Let’s hope to make another podium tomorrow. Coming off of P10, let’s see what we have.”

Lirim Zendeli (#10 Vexavit/Ajdini Spedition-TJ Speed Motorsports Tatuus IP-22): “The start in the dry was a bit difficult because of Kiko in front of me. He missed the start a bit so we both lost a position; he actually lost two. I think I was pretty quick on lap times but overtaking is difficult, but the rain helped a lot. That was the only possibility of how to get from P7 to the podium. I committed to some late braking, and obviously took a lot of risks. I clipped the wall here and there and the tire barrier in Turn Eight. As long as I stayed on track, in the end it paid off.”

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