From the Cockpit – Danilo Estrela at the Analytic Systems USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto

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Editor’s Note: In our continuing From the Cockpit series, Belardi Auto Racing’s Danilo Estrela offers the following recap of his race weekend on the narrow and challenging Streets of Toronto. We thank Belardi Auto Racing and their drivers for their support and the excellent insights their drivers have offered us through this series of articles. At the end of the article, you’ll find links to Belardi Auto Racing’s and Danilo’s social media connections. Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

I had never been to Canada before so I was really excited coming to the Toronto weekend. It was a long 36 hour journey from my hometown Goiânia to Toronto, including a 5 hour stop at Miami but it was worth it. The city is amazing. I have been to a lot of cool places but nothing like Toronto, so I was even more pumped for the weekend.

On Thursday we did the team track walk. My three impressions on the track were in this order: This is the most amazing track I ever been, well that asphalt is by far not the best and smooth and there is no grip on the mid-corner concrete. Of course the Belardi team knew that as well and put a good initial set-up for the early Friday session.

So it was finally time and I was leaving the pits for the first session. It was really good, the car was feeling great on the corners and I was building my speed around the track. After few laps I went to the pits and we decided to make a change (unfortunately I can’t tell until the championship is over) so I went back and did some more laps, by the end of the first session we were fourth only 2 tenths from first. I went to the team truck and debrief with the team, with the help of Stefan Wilson I found a lot of time around the track and without changes we lead the second session by 2 tenths ! (Thanks Stefan you really know what you are talking about).

Going to qualify, we had a starter issue: the engine wouldn’t start so we had to replace the starter. I think I went too hot trying to do a lot on the remaining and sometimes it’s too much. Unfortunately I barely touch the wall on exit of turn 5, as result I lost my fast lap for causing a red flag and went back to the garage with a damaged race car. Even with that I knew I had a fast car and couldn’t let my team down so I went to the hotel and was focused on getting it done for the race.


I was very nervous on the start and that cost me two spots. I fell back from eleventh to thirteenth but after 3 laps I was back in the top 9, then the first yellow flag came out. I did a good restart and before the next yellow flag I was already running seventh. After the third yellow flag it was getting harder to overtake because everybody is so close in the series, but I made it to the top 4. When they threw the last yellow flag I wasn’t expecting to have a restart but track personnel was fast and cleaned the crash, so I put my head down and was looking for the third spot, but with one problem: I only had one lap to do it. I made it on turn 8. It was an aggressive overtake but my competitor was clean enough that it worked out. The team was happy, I was happy but still was not the big win.

Estrela1Sunday we were starting second (due to my laps on the race, I was second quickest which put me on the front row) after a bad start I dropped to fourth but I went back to second on turn 3 of the same lap, I was really trying hard to overtake Neil Alberico but he was playing very aggressive, and after two restarts I tried the move on the outside of 3 and lost my second spot to Hargrove. On the last restart I knew what to do and how to do it. I made the move on the outside of Hargrove on turn 1, and at the same lap made the same move on the outside of turn 3 on Alberico. After that I was counting every second until the checkered flag and we made it! I couldn’t be more happy with the weekend, now I’m already working for Ohio. Let’s do it again there!

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