SBRS: Franc takes Challenge points lead

Matt Franc propelled himself to the top of the Skip Barber Challenge leader board by virtue of a perfect weekend at Sebring Full Course. Franc's two-fer in rounds three and four of the six-round mini-series vaulted him past Antoine Bessette, who...

Matt Franc propelled himself to the top of the Skip Barber Challenge leader board by virtue of a perfect weekend at Sebring Full Course. Franc's two-fer in rounds three and four of the six-round mini-series vaulted him past Antoine Bessette, who led after the inaugural pair. Craig Duerson ran his consecutive podium streak to three to remain second in the championship points just ahead of veteran racer Michael Culver, in third. Bessette and Quentin Wahl round out the top-5.

The Challenge field, 17 racers strong, ran as group 2 to headline the Southern Regional weekend. The major distinction, of course, was that they were running Dodge Reynard 98Es, as opposed to the R/T 2000s used in regional play. Several racers, including Duerson, Culver and Wahl, were making repeat appearances. In the opener, Matt Franc leapt past Antoine Bessette at the green flag and stayed in front throughout the 14-lap contest to record a 26-second margin of victory over Duerson. Duerson slotted into second from third early and remained there until a post-race penalty demoted him to third, awarding second place to Culver. Bessette and local favorite Bud Risser came home fourth and fifth. Wahl, showing comfort in the powerful 98E, drove a flawless race to advance from 15th and land in sixth.

In Race 2, Franc showed what he could do from pole as he comfortably set the pace for all 14 laps to take the victory over Duerson and newcomer Scott Bassinder. Culver stepped back from second to finish fourth ahead of Risser, who recorded his second top-5 result of the weekend. Ron Atapattu made the most of his opportunity on the Sebring circuit. Atapattu, who started 15th, meticulously sliced through the field, slotting into seventh by mid-race before finishing in sixth. Phil Saville, making his Challenge debut, drove just as well. He also promoted himself nine spots to earn a seventh-place result.

The Skip Barber Challenge is open to selected customers who have participated in at least one full regional championship season and is designed to give the drivers the opportunity to experience the Dodge Reynard 98E, the car used by Barber Dodge Pro Series racers in competition. The final race weekend, December 6-7, will utilize the "New Sebring" layout, a configuration that is favored by many CART teams for their off-season testing.

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