Nearly 30 cars are set for the second F1600 season. (photo: Dennis Valet) Sharon, CT – Nearly 30 cars and drivers are ready for the 2012 F1600 Formula F Championship Series opening weekend at VIRginia International Raceway. The 17 twists and turns at VIR led to a nail-biting finish in 2011, and 2012 is promising to be even more competitive, with new drivers, cars and teams entering the Series for the expanded 12-race, six-weekend calendar.

2011 Champion Bill Valet has moved on, opting to concentrate on his career, while runner up Tim Kautz has converted his Piper/Ford to Honda power, but a delay in a custom driveshaft means he may have to join the Series starting at Round 3 at Lime Rock, and remain perfect for the balance of the season.

The third place man of 2011, Jim Goughary, and inaugural winner at VIR last year, is also without a drive, but is pounding the paddock looking for one.

Art Foster is the first name on the 2011 standings set for a return at VIR this season.

Big names entering the Series for 2012, all with Honda power, and with their eyes on the F2000 Championship Series and beyond include 16-year-old Americans Jeffrey Bartz and John McCusker, in addition to 16-year-old Roberto Lorena, from Brazil, and driving for Quantum Racing Services, which won every race they entered in 2011.

“I am definitely looking forward to taking the next step in my racing career, moving up from karts to my first proper formula race car,” Lorena said.

Finnish pilot Matias Koyyka will drive the fast Spectrum chassis for Cape Motorsports, and Colin Thompson is back for a sophomore campaign, hoping to land on the top step of the podium in his Swift/Honda.

Bryan Herta Autosport adds two more entries to the field, with two Mygale/Hondas, driven by Garett Grist and Brandon Newey.

Garett Grist, a 17-year-old Canadian driver is a member of the Sofina Foods Drivers' Development Program. After 10 years of kart racing, 2012 will mark Grist's second season of car racing, having previously run Formula Ford in Ontario and Quebec.

"This is a great opportunity to be part of something new and the connection to IndyCar with Bryan Herta Autosport will really be a big boost to my program,” said Grist. “I have a great teammate in Brandon, and the Mygale is an amazing car.”

Grist's teammate is 19-year-old karting veteran, Indianapolis native and Purdue University freshman, Brandon Newey.

In both 2010 and 2011, Newey was a competitor in the Skip Barber National Series, and finished third in the points last year with two victories and 10 podiums.

In just the second year of Series operation, a quick look down the entry list reveals the big trends: more younger drivers and an increasing number of competitors with Honda power.

The weekend commences with testing on Thursday, April 12. Friday features practice sessions while both Saturday and Sunday will see a morning qualifying session followed by an afternoon race. Live audio, commentary, photos and more are available on www.F1600Series.com.