(LEXINGTON,Ohio) August 12, 2001 -Frenchman Nicolas Rondet took his No. 24 Mini Vacations Dodge Reynard to his second consecutive Barber Dodge Pro Series victory in round 9 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in support of the CART FedEx Miller...
(LEXINGTON,Ohio) August 12, 2001 -Frenchman Nicolas Rondet took his No. 24 Mini Vacations Dodge Reynard to his second consecutive Barber Dodge Pro Series victory in round 9 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in support of the CART FedEx Miller Lite 200. Rondet took advantage of a weaker retstart by polesitter and early leader Matt Plumb following a full caourse caution on lap 10 of the of the 26-lap contest. Plumb kept his title bid in check however by finishing second. The drive of the race might have gone to Sepp Koster who battled his way to a third place finish, also keeping his title dreams afloat. The trio now lead the overall championship standings in the same order as they finished the race. The five drivers who still have a realistic chance at the title finished first through fifth with Ryan Hunter-Reay in fourth and Roger Yasukawa in fifth. The chase for the $300,000 Career Enhancement Award is heating up with only three rounds remaining.
"I'm glad I finally won a race here. It's my favorite track, I love it," said Rondet, 30.
"We were just coming off of the restart on cold tires and I knew that my car was very good on the brakes in turn-7," continued Rondet of his pass for the lead. "Matt didn't have a good run out of the Keyhole and I capitalized on it. He went to the left and then to the right but I knew that whichever way he went I was going to get by under braking."
After the first attempt at green was waved off, Hunter-Reay worked his way passed both Koster and Davy Cook to complete the first lap in fourth behind Plumb, Rondet and Alex Sperafico. Koster thus found himself embroiled in a tight battle with Cook as the two went side by side into turn-5. Koster came out ahead and set his sights on Hunter-Reay who in turn was seeking a way past Sperafico as the trio ran in very close quarters. On lap 7 a caution bunched the field but not before Sperafico would fall off the pace due to a deflating tire. That allowed Hunter-Reay his way passed. At the restart, Plumb failed to make the most of it while Rondet did, making the pass in turn-7. Sperafico pitted dropping him from contention so now the five title contenders circulated nose to tail. Rondet and Plumb would soon open a gap while Hunter-Reay, Koster and Yasukawa waged battle. On lap 15, Koster attempted to go inside of Hunter-Reay entering right-hand turn-7. Wheel to wheel they went but Hunter-Reay would hold the advantage into the left-hand turn-8. The loss of momentum that resulted for Koster dropped him into the clutches of Yasukawa resulting in the pair going side-by-side into turn-1 at 100 mph. Within five laps Koster would recover, returning to nip at Hunter-Reay'ws gearbox once again, and would finally get around at turns-7 and 8 for good. Yasukawa had a go, but Hunter-Reay wasn't about to surrender another spot, keeping Yasukawa at bay. Meanwhile the leading pair had built a large gap and while Plumb shadowed Rondet's every move a pass to retake the lead never materialized. Koster on a charge set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap, reducing the margin to the leaders, but the checkered flag put an end to a brilliant race by all involved.
"At the beginning of the race my car was great. I had a lot of downforce and could hang onto the car very easily. But once the race pace picked up, the extra downforce that I set my car up with got me into trouble. (After Rondet made the pass) coming out of the keyhole Nicolas would pull away, yet I was able to catch him through the twisty parts of the track. Then as soon as we'd get onto a straight I'd lose the momentum I needed," said Plumb who drives the No. 4 Premier Nutrition Dodge Reynard. "I'm very happy with second. I've had a great car all weekend thanks to my crew."
Koster continues to display his speed in race trim leaving him to rue his qualifying performances that have forced him to start races a bit on his heels. The fact that he also lost his eye glasses at the start of the weekend didn't help matters either.
"I didn't get the best out of qualifying even though I had a fast car. In the race though things turned around and I've really had the car in the sweet spot throughout the races. I would have liked the race to be a little longer because I was catching Nick and Matt pretty quickly," said Koster, a former Benelux Formula Ford champion. "I'll take this result though. It feels like a win and I'm really looking forward to Road America."
The second half of the Top-10 featured a nail biting battle among rookies Christian Szymczak and first time Barber Dodge racer Leonardo Maia and sophmore driver Marc Breuers. Szymczak finished sixth ahead of Breuers and Maia. Another rookie, Akihira Okamoto finished ninth while Sara Senske redeemed herself from a lackluster weekend to finish 10th after starting 17th, and thus earned an additional $500.00 for winning the Conseco Step Up Award.
The next round of the Barber Dodge Pro Series takes place in one week at mighty Road America. Round 9 will be televised on ESPN 2 on September 4 at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
Top-15 Championship Points
Rondet,126; Plumb, 108; Koster, 101; Yasukawa, 98; Hunter-Reay, 93; Breuers,76; Morley, 63; Boss,60; A. Sperafico,58; R. Sperafico, 58; Okamoto,57; Cook, 56; Senske,53; Szymczak, 39; Wieringa, 31