DETROIT, Mich. (June 7, from Rick Roso) - Before Detroit, in the few Barber Dodge races Jeff Simmons has done---three last year in the old Mondiale, and Lime Rock two weeks ago---the 21-year-old younger brother of on-the-mend Indy Lights driver Chris Simmons has shown frontrunning speed. But equal dashes of bad luck and driving mistakes has left his results tally a bit shy in the ''he did good'' department. No so anymore, as Simmons pretty much dominated the weekend in round three at the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix. He took the pole by two-tenths in qualifying over the nearly as impressive Will Langhorne, then led flag-to-flag in the 40-minute race. Langhorne took second, and for the second race in a row, Rino Mastronardi third.
The start, once it happened (much too raggedy on the first attempt) was great up front, but all hell was breaking loose in the back. Jamie Menninga and Samer Hindi locked horns and did the tire wall in One; Memo Rojas got Townsend Bell into the air, who landed on top of Jon Fogarty, this in Turn 3; then Nicolas Rondet got punted from behind, slowing for the full-course caution flags, by Victor Gonzalez. Other folks suffered various wing or suspension damage, including points leader Todd Snyder having a crunched up left front wing. All told, six cars were out (Rojas continued). Simmons led, Langhorne was second, Sepp Koster third and Mastronardi fourth.
On the restart a few yellow laps later, those four ran nose to tail for a number of laps before the train broke up into parties of two: Simmons and Langhorne gapped Koster and Mastronardi, who in turn split from Snyder, Rocky Moran, Jr., and Owen McAuley. When Mastronardi went down the inside of Koster going into One for third place, there was your only leading-pack pass of the day. Moran eventually got the resourceful Mr. Snyder for fifth place, who kept pedaling his maimed machine faster than you would have thought.
''I was set up with less wing than Will, and it worked,'' Simmons said. ''He was eating me up on the slow stuff, but I was a rocket ship in the fast bits. I figured out in qualifying that driving a basic defensive line into Turn 3 was all you needed to keep anyone behind you.''
''That's true,'' Langhorne added. ''I had Jeff in the technical parts, but it would have had to been a real stupid move to try a pass. It would have required the complete cooperation of the passee, so to speak.''
It was the first street race ever for Simmons (and Koster, too, who got a fine fourth), but naturally quick drivers block the walls out of their mind pretty fast. "Yep. it was scary Friday'' was a refrain heard from the both of them. And the walls ending up biting two ''street'' rookies: McAuley caught up to Snyder too fast in 13, lifted, and TTO'd right into the wall near the end of the race. Rojas had slapped the wall a lap earlier. Even tiny mistakes are not for forgiven.
Moran, who should be very fast at Watkins Glen the end of this month, took fifth, Snyder a survival sixth---and thus retains the points lead---followed by Thomas Schie, the Lime Rock winner, and ''Rio Big Scholarship'' driver Shane Donley. Eighth was Tom ''I'm Coming Out of the'' Woods, who won the Progressive Custom Wheels contingency for improving the most positions; the Skip Barber instructor had started way back in 23rd. Martin Stenshorne, who could not find the handle in qualifying, finished 10th, from 17th.
Results Sunday of 40-minute Barber Dodge Pro Series race at the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix, 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course, with starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown or country, winner's average speed, laps completed, reason out, if any, and prize money. All cars identical Reynard Dodge V6, open-wheel, single-seat race cars on Michelin racing tires.
1 (1) Jeff Simmons, Granby, Conn., 69.998 mph, 20 laps, $12,000 2 (2) Will Langhorne, Washington, D.C., 20, $8,000 3 (4) Rino Mastronardi, Italy, 20, $6,000 4 (3) Sepp Koster, The Netherlands, 20, $4,000 5 (5) Rocky Moran, Jr., Coto de Caza, Calif., 20, $2,500 6 (6) Todd Snyder, Sheffield, Mass., 20, $2,000 7 (10) Thomas Schie, Norway, 20, $1,800 8 (13) Shane Donley, Las Vegas, 20, $1,700 9 (23) Tom Woods, Rancho Cordova, Calif., 20, $2,100 10 (17) Martin Stenshorne, Norway, 20, $1,500 11 (18) Alex Gurney, Newport Beach, Calif., 20, $1,400 12 (25) Jarrett Boon, Phoenix, 20, $1,300 13 (20) John McCaig, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 20, $1,200 14 (21) Brian Pelke, Lansing, Ill., 20, $1,100 15 (26) G.J. Mennen, Jr., Austin, Texas, 20, $1,000 16 (27) Peter Boss, Narragansett, R.I., 20, $500 17 (29) Gregg Borland, Elkhart Lake, Wis., 19, $500 18 (28) Charles Willis, Germantown, Tenn., 19, $500 19 (30) Scott Mayer, Franklin, Wis., 19, $500 20 (12) Giovanni Anapoli, Italy, 18, contact, $500 21 (19) Giovanni Gulinelli, Italy, 18, $500 22 (8) Owen McAuley, Ireland, 14, contact, $500 23 (11) Memo Rojas, Jr., Mexico, 13, contact, $500 24 (14) Eric Tresslar, Denver, 4, mechanical, $500 25 (7) Nicolas Rondet, Brazil, 1, contact, $500 26 (9) Victor Gonzalez, Jr., Hatoray, Puerto Rico, 1, contact, $500 27 (16) Jon Fogarty, Portola Valley, Calif., 1, contact, $500 28 (15) Townsend Bell, Santa Barbara, Calif., 1, contact, $500 29 (22) Samer Hindi, Los Angeles, 1, contact, $500 30 (24) Jamie Menninga, Pella, Iowa, 1, contact, $500
Race Length: 20 laps of 2.35-mile circuit for 46.900 miles Time: 40 minutes, 12.086 seconds Average speed: 69.998 mph Lap leaders: Simmons, 1 - 20 Margin of victory: .820 seconds Fastest race lap: Simmons, 1:31.735, 92.065 mph Fastest qualifier: Simmons, 1:31.901, 91.899 mph
Points after 3 of 12 rounds: 1. Todd Snyder, 46 2. Thomas Schie, 43 3. Rino Mastronardi, 28 4. Jeff Simmons, 27 5. Will Langhorne, 26
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