Rounds three and four of the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship saw three drivers take all the spoils at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H. Toshinobu Shigemitsu, Akihiro Okamoto and Damian Della- Santina, who also had a...
Rounds three and four of the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship saw three drivers take all the spoils at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H. Toshinobu Shigemitsu, Akihiro Okamoto and Damian Della- Santina, who also had a win in the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER series, all doubled their win quota on the weekend by taking both checkered flags in their respective groups.
The first race for group 1 on Saturday provided a few fireworks. Shigemitsu took the victory by a scant 0.785 sec. over Dan Kraus with Gareth Nixon just a few ticks of the stopwatch behind in third. Nixon actually led the race until just past the mid point when Shigemitsu took over on lap 14. Kraus was next up to pass Nixon doing so with four laps to spare. He had a roller coaster of a race starting from pole and dropping to fourth in the early going, he tore back up through the field stopped only be Shigemitsu’s Formula Dodge. Mike Wert went on to finish the race in seventh place, which made him the Master’s Class winner.
Sunday’s race was all Shigemitsu at the head of the field. This time the rookie Japanese driver won by a more comfortable margin of nine seconds ahead of Steven Klein and Nixon. Dan Kraus was once again in the thick of the second-place battle but could not convert as he lost the position to Nixon. Both in turn were demoted by Klein who went from fourth place to second place in the space of two laps. It didn’t end there for him as three laps later Nixon regained the second spot for two laps before relinquishing it back to Klein with two laps left in the contest. Kraus would end up in fourth place. Dave Figurski’s fifth-place finish earned him the Master’s Class win.
With Groups 2 and 4, being the Formula Dodge National Championship races, we move onto groups 3 and 5.
Like Group 1, Group 3 saw Japanese rookie Akihira Okamoto roll to his fourth consecutive win in the Eastern Championship after opening his 2000 account with a double win in Virginia in early May. The only blots on Okamoto’s balance sheet were his relatively poor starts. Both races saw him start from the pole only to fall back to third at the start of race 1 and second at the start of race 2. Runner-up in both contests was Shareef Malnik, which also made him the Master’s Class winner in both events, who was able to seize on the slow starting Okamoto to take the lead only to surrender it as when Okamoto did get up to speed. Get up to speed he did indeed, winning race 1 by a 30 sec. margin and race 2 by 23 sec. Malnik would see the checkered flag in an equally lonely second position ahead of John Hall in third place. Malnik held second for 24 of the 25 laps in race 2, although he had to contend with a flying Roland Isra in this one. Isra vaulted into third by lap 7 after starting eighth. From there he was latched onto Malnik’s tail finishing only eight-tenths in arrears.
Damian Della-Santina collected both of his Eastern Regional Championship victories in the same fashion as his National Championship race victory, namely wire-to-wire. Tamafumi Kamiya had an impressive run to finish second, having risen from the fifth spot by midway through the race. Chris Willcox started from the fourth position to rise to second before having to settle for the final step on the podium. That finish was also good enough to earn Willcox the Master’s Class victory, a feat he repeated in race 2 as well.
Willcox improved his position to second place in the second race on which the checkered flag fell early due to a sudden rain shower falling well after half distance. He did so after jumping up from the third spot on the grid at the start and held it for the duration, unable to mount any severe threat to Della-Santina’s lead. David Kaemmer went one better than his starting position to finish the race in the third spot setting the quick lap of the race in the process. A sensational drive was also turned in by fourth-place finisher Paul Zube who rose from last on the grid, passing five cars on the opening lap alone.
Rounds five and six of the Eastern Regional Championship will take place at Lime Rock Park on June 16-17.