(Lakeville, CT.) March 19--The Barber Dodge Pro Series race at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico this March 22 will be the first ever race south of the border in the 18-year history of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The field of talented racers ...
(Lakeville, CT.) March 19--The Barber Dodge Pro Series race at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico this March 22 will be the first ever race south of the border in the 18-year history of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The field of talented racers hopes to convert success in the Pro Series into a step up the ladder, the same way Juan Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and A.J. Allmendinger have done before them. Driving identically prepared Dodge-powered Reynard 98E's equipped with Michelin Pilot SX tires, the 2003 field, with its mix of returning drivers and swift rookies, should spawn some exciting and close racing in the intense quest for the $100,000 top-prize and the over $1 million total purse.
Opening round winner Leo Maia, of Oakland, California, will be hoping to keep up the momentum and convert this race weekend into a more significant points lead in the 2003 championship battle. Maia will have plenty of competition, though, as the field of twenty-two racers is packed with talent, all of whom will be gunning for the top spot themselves.
Second-year Barber Dodge driver Dan Di Leo of Markham, Ontario, followed Maia across the finish line in St. Petersburg and is hoping to reverse that order in Mexico.
"I keep expecting more and more out of myself in these cars now that I have a season under my belt," said Di Leo. "I was disappointed not to have taken a win in St. Pete. Leo ran a great race, but I am really hungry for a win here in Mexico."
Fellow second-year Barber Dodge driver and Canadian, Josh Beaulieu of Langley, British Columbia, took the provisional pole position in qualifying in St. Petersburg, only to find his race over after just two laps after making contact with the wall while trying to pressure Maia in the lead. Beaulieu is determined to have an error-free and points-generating weekend in Monterrey.
"I learned my lesson in St. Pete," said Beaulieu. "I just have to concentrate on being competitive during the full length of the race, and I know the results will come. I was fast in qualifying, and I know this car pretty well now, so its just a matter of putting a whole weekend together for me."
One of the closest battles of the opening weekend was between Mexican racer Memo Rojas, and Barber Dodge Pro Series rookie Scott Proirier, with Rojas emerging to take third place ahead of the young Floridian Proirier, and that battle will no doubt continue south of the border. Other racers to keep an eye out for will include Barber-Champ Car Scholarship racer Colin Fleming, who showed great speed in the opening weekend but found his efforts hampered with a pair of key mechanical set backs. Fellow Barber-Champ Car Scholarship racer Al Unser was another quick study in St. Pete, coming just shy of a top-ten spot in just his first ever professional auto race. Burt Frisselle is hoping to have a strong championship run in his rookie Barber Dodge Pro Series season, and got off to a good start in St. Pete with a sixth place finish. 2002 Formula Mazda Champion Guy Cosmo also showed speed in his first race weekend with the Barber Dodge Pro Series, earning a top-ten in just his first start. Cosmo participated in the Sebring 12-Hour last weekend, and is hoping to keep moving toward the front and onto the podium in Mexico. Young Canadian Chris Green showed speed and patience beyond his years in the opening round, and was rewarded with a strong fifth-place finish in just his first Pro Series start.
Mexican Racers and Sponsors
The race will be the first opportunity for a trio of Mexican racers to race in front of their countrymen in the Official Entry Level Professional Race Series of Champ Car. Memo Rojas, Luis Pelayo, and German Quiroga, all of whom reside in Mexico City, Mexico, will be representing the home team at this weekends race, and all three are excited about the opportunity to participate in one of the regions biggest events. The Mexican involvement is more than just the drivers, as several Mexican companies have thrown their support behind these young racers to help them move up the Champ Car ladder. Rojas and Pelayo wear the colors of Mexican telecommunications company Telmex, while Quiroga is supported by Mexican retail company Gigante.
Rojas, who took the fifth spot in the 2002 championship, scored a third-place finish in the opening round at St. Petersburg after a mammoth race-long battle with Barber-Champ Car Scholarship driver Scott Proirier. The cagey veteran now has a full season of Barber Dodge Pro Series competition under his belt, and with the knowledge the young Mexican has of the tracks, as well as his increased comfort level in the Reynard-Dodge, he will be a podium contender every race.
"I'm thrilled to be racing back in my country," said Rojas. "I haven't raced anything in Mexico for four years, last time was when I did the Mexican F3 Championship in 1999. Obviously I'll have great support of friends and sponsors who will see me race live for the first time so I'm looking forward to a strong result in front of them!"
Luis Pelayo won several karting championships in Mexico before moving up to the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship in 2002 and was very impressive in just his first Barber Dodge Pro Series start in St. Petersburg. Pelayo moved up from the thirteenth starting spot into an astonishing fifth place before being taken out in a late-race incident. Pelayo showed that he can adapt quickly to a new car, as he not only moved up well in the field, but he also carded one of the top-five fastest laps of the race.
"I haven't really had a chance to race here since 1996, so I am really am looking forward to representing Escudería Telmex in Monterrey and showing what I can do. I have shown that I can race in this series, and that I have the courage to be fast. Its important to me to have a good race weekend in Monterrey."
German Quiroga finished fifteenth in the 2002 Barber Dodge championship, and has been working his way towards the front of the grid in Barber Dodge competition. Last season saw Quiroga score several top-tens, including a season-high finish of sixth at Road America. The St. Petersburg round gave Quiroga another opportunity to show his progress, as he moved up into eighth position at the finish after a disappointing qualifying session had him start from clear back in fifteenth.
Jorge Quintanilla, who is responsible for managing the Gigante racing program in Champ Car with driver Michele Jourdain, also oversees the progress being made by second-year Barber Dodge Pro Series driver German Quiroga.
"We are really looking forward to the event in Monterrey," says Quintanilla. "It's an important race for Gigante, and we will have a lot of special guests out to the race for the weekend. German continues to move himself up on the grid in this very competitive series and is also improving in the races, and we are hoping to see him and Michele take their first wins in Monterrey."
Eight of the entered field hail from the United States, with the remainder of the field providing representation from all parts of the globe as the Pro Series has once again attracted international attention and participation. David Martinez , Memo Rojas, German Quiroga, and Luis Pelayo will fly Mexico's colors this weekend, with Antoine Bessette, Dan Di Leo, Chris Green, Mike Richardson, and Josh Beaulieu representing Canada. The Pro Series will race in Canada three times this season, and will race in Mexico for the first time at the Monterrey Grand Prix along with the Champ Car World Series in March. Shinji Kahima will make the long trip over from Tokyo, Japan for the race, and Victor Gonzalaz of Hatoray, Puerto Rico, and Nelson Phillipe of Valence, France round out the contingent of international competitors taking part in the season.
The first three rounds of the 2003 championship are new venues for the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The Monterrey, Mexico, round is the second of three new venues for the Barber Dodge Pro Series this season, as Round Three will be the first visit to the Milwaukee Mile for the Pro Series on May 31-June 1st.
Friday, March 21:
8:45-9:15am Barber Dodge Pro Series Practice
1:35-2:15pm Barber Dodge Pro Series First Round Qualifying
9:05-9:45am Barber Dodge Pro Series Final Qualifying
3:45-4:30pm Barber Dodge Pro Series Race, Round #2 of 10