Toronto: Qualifying report

(Toronto, Canada) July 6 - Rafael Sperafico will lead the Barber Dodge Pro Series field to the green flag for Sunday's race after storming to the top of the sheets to take the pole position and setting a new track record along the way. The field...

(Toronto, Canada) July 6 - Rafael Sperafico will lead the Barber Dodge Pro Series field to the green flag for Sunday's race after storming to the top of the sheets to take the pole position and setting a new track record along the way. The field is once again extremely close, with the top 11 starters' times separated by less than one second in qualifying over the 1.755-mile temporary street course.

Starting along side Sperafico will be Friday's provisional pole winner, A.J. Allmendinger, while Memo Rojas and Christian Szymczack will make up the second row. In row three, Dan Di Leo from nearby Markham Ontario, in the Elite Die Casting Reynard will line up next to Marc Breuers' Sunoco Racing Fuels Reynard. Langly, B.C.'s Josh Beaulieu in his PRN/Razor Magazine machine will start next to the Michelin-liveried car of Julio Campos. Tom Fogarty's enthusiasm for the tight Toronto circuit was rewarded with a top-ten qualifying effort as he will start ninth on the grid in his Toschi/Rocky Mountain Reynard while Tallahassee, Florida's Davy Cook will start along side of him to make up the top ten

Today's result is Sperafico's second career Barber Dodge pole and his first track record. He won his first pole position at round three of the 2002 season at Laguna Seca, where he went on to lead the race from flag to flag for his first ever Barber Dodge victory. Sperafico was happy to take the pole in Toronto after mid-session contact with the wall in Friday's qualifying session left him unable to improve his time late in the session.

"I made a mistake in the braking zone going into turn three, so I was happy to still have had a lap good enough to take the pole and set a track record," said the 2001 Barber Dodge Rookie of the Year. "Yesterday was really frustrating, and I think that frustration helped me to be motivated to have this good result today. For the start tomorrow, just like in Laguna, I have smart guys all around me, and they all need points for the championship, so the start should be clean."

Championship points leader Allmendinger, who won the provisional pole in Friday's first qualifying session, was unable to get to the top of the charts and stay there. He was able to qualify his way into second starting position in Saturday's qualifying session, even though he had already been guaranteed that spot by virtue of his performance on Friday. Allmendinger did not improve on his time from Friday until the last eight minutes of the session and had a last chance to card a pole-winning card, but came up just short in his effort.

"I was really taking it pretty easy during the first half of the session, trying to save my tires," said Allmendinger. "After the red flag, I was the first one out on track, so I knew I had to make the most of the clear track. I was just hanging it out on the edge every single lap at the end of the session. I obviously wanted pole, but starting from the front row tomorrow could be key. The main thing will be to have a mistake-free run tomorrow, because if you make a little mistake and hit the wall even just a little, you are out of the race. Hopefully we will have a clean start front to back, and get racing."

Mexico City, Mexico's Memo Rojas improved his time from Friday by more than half a second in the final qualifying session, but it was only enough to hold onto the third starting position that he had secured on Friday as he continued to hone his form on the streets of Toronto, holding onto the pole position briefly in the waning moments of the session only to be knocked off the pole first by Allmendinger and then Sperafico to end the session in third position.

"Tomorrow is going to be very exciting for me," said Rojas. "I was trying very hard for the pole, but just came up a little short. I am getting really comfortable in the car now. Thanks to the backing I have from Telmex, I am able to absolutely concentrate on what I am doing in the car, and not on the other things outside of the car. I think that is starting to show, and hopefully we can get a good result tomorrow."

The session started slowly, but worked itself into a fever after a mid-session red flag gave the field but eight minutes to post a fast time. Sperafico was the first to improve on his Friday time in the second session with a 1:12.070 while the fastest driver in Friday's first practice session, Christian Szymczak, broke the track record with a time that gave him the top spot on the timing sheets for most of the session.

Julio Campos brought out the session's only red flag after he brought too much speed into turns 9 and 10 and got sideways just enough to hit the outside wall with only 10 minutes remaining in the session. The Simple Green Safety team had the car out of the way in time for a final eight minutes of qualifying. A.J. Allmendinger led the field back out onto the track and the times once again began to fall.

In the final two minutes, Christian Szymczak, Memo Rojas, A.J. Allmendinger, and finally, Rafael Sperafico held onto the top spot as Allmendinger got by the start finish line just before the drop of the checkered flag and so was able to get in one last attempt at the pole time. Unfortunately for Allmendinger, his final time of 1:11.583 was an improvement of his previous time, but it came up just .029 sec short in his effort.

Round 5 of the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series season gets underway at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. Full story and results to be posted at www.barberdodge.com.

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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Josh Beaulieu , Christian Szymczak , Davy Cook , Julio Campos , Memo Rojas , A.J. Allmendinger , Marc Breuers , Rafael Sperafico