Barber Dodge Pro Series Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay has begun his preparations for a 2001 Pro Series championship assault on the right foot. Earlier in the pre-season, the 19 year-old Floridian topped the times in a two-day preseason test at Sebring International Raceway, and in the most recent test earlier this week, Hunter-Reay stood once again on high. Before that however, Hunter-Reay took a side trip to the Homestead-Miami Speedway with an invitation to co-drive with Formula Dodge Regional Championship regular Dennis Crowley in the second annual North American Ferrari 360 Modena Challenge Six Hour Race.
Hunter-Reay and Crowley emerged victorious beating the likes of drivers like Boris Said, Buddy Rice, Anthony Lazzaro and Mark Simo. The Hunter-Reay--Crowley duo started seventh and with Hunter-Reay taking the opening stint, they soon found themselves in the lead battling with Said. Strategy called for Hunter-Reay to back off slightly allowing Said to leap ahead, but always with Hunter-Reay lurking in the shadows.
A fire at the rear of their Ferrari during a fuel stop did little to slow the pair as good pitstop strategy ensured that they would eventually regain the lead, which they duly did, all the way to the checkered flag.
Next stop for Hunter-Reay was Sebring, where he commenced to lead the preseason test that saw Pro Series regulars Sara Senske, Marc Breuers and Tommy Fogarty participate. Several other drivers took a stab behind the wheel of the Michelin shod Barber Dodge Reynards as they evaluate potential Pro Series drives.
With a fastest lap of 1:07.30 around the near two-mile Sebring test loop, Hunter-Reay not only set the fastest time of the test, but quite possibly ever for a Pro Series driver around that configuration. Because times are gained from the Barber Dodge Reynard's Pi Data on board data acquisition systems, times for all Barber Dodge tests are unofficial. According to the Pro Series coaching staff, however, Hunter-Reay's time is the quickest in recent memory. A remarkable 114mph terminal velocity through turn-1 certainly aided Hunter-Reay's time as a 111-112mph speed is the expected norm.
Sara Senske continues to test impressively as she prepares for her sophomore season in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Her quick time was a noteworthy 1:08.20 achieved after only a day and a half of testing.
Similarly Marc Breuers is showing that with a year of experience behind the wheel in the Pro Series, his second year should be one to watch. His lap time was just one-one hundredth slower than Senske's at 1:08.21 after a likewise day and half of track time. Fogarty spent the bulk of his test time racking up miles and finished with a 1:08.65 as his best time. John Hall, who contested three rounds in the 2000 Pro Series was also in attendance. He turned in a steady performance getting on the pace with a quick time of 1:08.59.
Newcomers Go Shimizu of Japan and Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER fourth-place overall finisher Christian Szymczak both came to grips quickly in their first Barber Dodge foray. Shimizu clocked an eye popping 1:08.36 lap with Szymczak hot on his heels at 1:08.76. Finally two drivers partaking as they explore their 2001 plans were Trevor Hilliar, who has experience in both the USF2000 as well as Toyota Atlantic series, and David Wieringa, son of nascent Champ Car Team owner Tom Wieringa. Hilliar turned in a 1:10.19 lap while Wieringa managed a 1:09.82.
- George Tamayo