'02 Barber Dodge Drivers Gear Up For New Season
The majority of the drivers who expect to contest the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series gathered for testing at Sebring International Speedway. Only half a day of track time was yielded today, the first of two days, when intermittent showers gave way to torrential rains that are expected to continue tomorrow. Although no official timing is taking place over the two days, the rains are hampering the real objective of the test which is to get all of the drivers in the field attuned to the practice and race systems and conditions they will face in the upcoming season. Round 1 kicks off in just under a month in Sebring. As the rains came down, drivers got to know one another a little better and the mechanics and coaching staff that will assist them in their quest to win Official Entry Level Professional Championship of CART.
The preseason is about anticipation and preparation and here’s what some of the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series drivers had to say on the subject before the competition begins in earnest.
Chris Baker of Austin, Texas, a multi-race winner in the Skip Barber Race Series is competing in his first year of Barber Dodge competition.
“ Testing has been going steadily and a great experience all around. I’m completely looking forward to the season. The competition is going to be really tough, but I’m taking it on a race by race basis, just focussing on one at a time. At the end of the year, I’m looking to finish in the top-5.”
Formula Dodge National Champion Julio Campos enters into his rookie season looking to secure another title on the Barber-CART Ladder.
“ I’m looking to win the championship, but it’s going to be a very hard year to do so. There are going to be some very good veteran drivers like Christian Szymczak, Davy Cook, Nilton Rossoni as well as some very fast rookies like A.J. Allmendinger, Dan Di Leo, and Leonardo Maia. I’ve done a lot of preseason testing and learned a lot about the car’s settings”
A.J. Allmendinger pushed Campos all the way to that National Championship, finishing as the runner up. He looks to return the favor and best the Brazilian in’ 02.
“ It feels good to be back in the Barber Dodge Reynard. This is what I need to work on -testing. I need to focus on what I need to be doing, on working through the car’s set up rather than going for times or looking at what the other drivers are doing.”
Canadian Daniel Di Leo will contest at least four rounds of the series and hopes that success will bring more opportunity.
“ When I’m not in the racecar right now I’m working finding a sponsor to get through the season. It feels great to be back in the car where I can just focus on my driving and not worry about the things that are going on outside the car.”
Piero Rodarte of Mexico looks forward to winning everywhere but particularly at his home track in Mexico City.
“ The quality of drivers in this series is very high and the competition is so tight, but I’m looking to finish in the top-5 in the championship as well as winning a few races along the way. Nothing would be sweeter though than winning in my own country.”
Davy Cook missed out on winning the Rookie of the Year title in 2001 by just a few points. This year the focus is on the overall title.
“ Consistency is at a premium this year without any drops. Knowing the system now, I’m able to hone in on the things that I need to do to succeed.”
Barber-CART Big Scholarship winner Leonardo Maia of Oakland, Calif. is riding on a wave of confidence but not taking anything for granted.
“ I’m trying to keep the successes of the last few months in check. The guys from the Big Scholarship Shootout will be gunning for me and if I can be a standard for everyone then that’s the kind of season that I want to have.”
Returning after an aborted assault on the 2001 Indy Lights Championship, 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion Nilton Rossoni returns to the series to become only the second driver to win the title and perhaps break a few series records along the way.
“ It’s fun to be back and see everyone. I’m doing better in the car after not driving any kind of racecar for basically a year. The technical part is easy, it’s building up the confidence in the car that needs to come back. I’m not taking anything for granted and taking the same approach as I did in 2000.”
Marc Breuers will fly the Sunoco colors again in 2002. The third year driver knows that his experience will be the key to success.
“ I know that there is no reason that any driver should be faster than I this year. Winter testing has gone very well, validating last year’s potential. There are some very fast rookies this year as well as returning drivers, but I hope that my experience will help me prevail.”