Christian Brooks Takes Pole and Win at St. Petersburg Season Opener
Updated: Mar 6
USF Pro 2000 rookie returns to series after a year hiatus to claim first win of the season
St. Petersburg, Fla. (March 6, 2023) – It was rookie Christian Brooks who earned the first Cooper Tires Pole Award and subsequent first win of the year at this weekend’s USF Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg. After winning three of the four USF2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires St. Petersburg races in 2020 and 2021, Brooks was set to make his Indy Pro 2000 debut at the event last year, however, a wreck in qualifying ended his season before it even started. In a true story of redemption, the California native came back a year later to lead every lap of Race 1 from green to checker and take his fourth career win on the 1.8-mile street circuit.
Sunday’s afternoon Race 2 saw Brooks starting a few spots back in P6 with the qualifying order being determined by the drivers’ second quickest lap times. After 25 laps of hard fought racing, Brooks brought the #3 OFTV / Turn 3 Motorsport car home in P6 and walked away from the opening round third in the championship with 47 points, just six points behind the leader.
#3 Christian Brooks // USF Pro 2000
OFTV / Turn 3 Motorsport
“I had no idea what to expect coming into this weekend after not being behind the wheel of a race car for an entire year,” said Brooks. “Securing the pole and a race win was unbelievable, and I’m glad I could display what we’re capable of as a team. I couldn’t be more impressed with the program at Turn 3 Motorsport and now know we have what it takes to compete for this championship.”
Teammates Michael d’Orlando and Jonathan Browne had solid qualifying runs resulting in P6 and P7 starting positions, respectively, with just .2 seconds separating the top seven drivers. However, Race 1 wasn’t as advantageous for the pair as they both suffered a race damaging incident on the opening lap. Browne made contact after the start and suffered a tire puncture, drawing him into the pits for a fresh set of rubbers while d’Orlando was tipped and spun around at Turn 1, causing him to need a restart and just barely missing rejoining the field on the opening lap.
Browne was able to stay on the lead lap and work his #2 JB Racing Tatuus IP-22 back up to a P10 finish with d’Orlando’s #1 USF Pro Championships/Priority Payments Systems scholarship car finishing two laps down in P18.
In Race 2, Browne struggled to work his way through the 25-lap event, only to find out after the race that he had yet another slow tire puncture that hindered him throughout the race, resulting in a P12 finish. Despite the setbacks, the young Irishman came out of the weekend eighth in the championship with 20 points after rounds one and two.
#2 Jonathan Browne // USF Pro 2000
JB Racing / Motorsport Ireland / CRPS Awareness
“Unfortunately, it was not the weekend that we hoped for here in St. Pete,” said Browne. “We had a really fast car which we showed in qualifying being on .2 off the pole. In Race 1, early contact led to a puncture which put me to the back of the grid, however, we were able to fight our way back to the top ten. In Race 2, we picked up a slow puncture on Lap 1 which made it a very tough race for us. It was not the results we deserved, but all our focus now shifts to making it right at Sebring in a few weeks!”
Race 2 was yet another challenge for d’Orlando who started in P9 and did everything he could to improve his position under difficult track conditions. While scrapping for position, the young American damage the tip of his nose cone and eventually fell back to P11 where he finished the final of two races.
#1 Michael d'Orlando // USF Pro 2000
USF Pro Championships/Priority Payments Systems/Focused Project Management/Rising Star Racing/UFC Gym Mamaroneck/Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22
“This weekend wasn’t really what we wanted,” said d’Orlando. “In Race 1, we had an incident on Lap 1 getting spun around right at the start and ended up 18th. In Race 2, we had another accident on one of the restarts which I narrowly avoided, but I still had some damage and ended up 11th. It’s not how we wanted to come out of the first race weekend, but we know we’re quick, we know the #1 car is fast, and I know I’m fast, so I’m confident we will get it at Sebring.”
For Jackson Lee, the Discount Tire Grand Prix of St. Petersburg may not have produced the results he was hoping for, but the Indianapolis native ultimately had a very successful weekend having not competed in a race for the better part of a year. Lee missed out on a stronger qualifying run after tapping the wall with his #47 IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center/Browning Chapman/Prime 47 car, resulting in a P18 starting position for both races.
The USF Pro 2000 rookie was able to step up to a P11 finish in Race 1 and a P15 finish in Race 2, making progress in both track position and race craft in his series debut and setting the bar for the upcoming rounds.
#47 Jackson Lee // USF Pro 2000
IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center/Race for RP/Prime 47/Browning Chapman
“While the results may not be what we wanted, I personally had a very productive weekend,” said Lee. “St. Petersburg was the first time I was wheel to wheel in racing situations since the Fourth of July weekend at Mid-Ohio last year. Getting that experience under my belt in my first USF Pro 2000 race is a big confidence boost, and I’m looking forward to continuing my progression at Sebring! As always, the team did an excellent job to help me keep moving forward and take full advantage of the limited track time we get. Thanks to everyone at Turn 3 Motorsport and all of my partners and supporters.”
Turn 3 Motorsport Team Owner
“What a way to start the season for our team with a pole and a win in St. Petersburg,” said Team Owner Peter Dempsey. “Three of the last four years we have won the first race of the season which is pretty cool. Christian (Brooks) did a great job coming in at the last minute to run in our fourth car. Having not been in a car in over a year, what he did was extremely impressive.”
“Michael (d’Orlando) and Jonathan (Browne) had great pace in qualifying, but unfortunately they came together in Turn 1 in Race 1 and their weekend slipped away from that point onward,” continued Dempsey. “Jackson (Lee) made great progress over the weekend and had more pace than he showed in the results. Tagging the wall at Turn 9 in qualifying left him with a steep mountain to climb. Overall, I’m very happy with our team’s performance. Now we need to remain focused and keep pushing for the next race at Sebring to maintain our competitiveness.”
Up next for the USF Pro Championships is the 3.74-Mile, 17-turn road course of Sebring International Raceway March 23-26 where the USF Pro 2000 series will take on Rounds 3 and 4.
To stay up to date on Turn 3 Motorsport, follow the team on social media using the handle @turn3motorsport.
Gavin Baker Photo / USF Pro Championships