A steady, heavy rainfall doused Lime Rock Park for Round 3 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Rain clouds parked themselves over the Berkshire foothills. Weather conditions were miserable. But Ryan Hunter-Reay didn't seem to care, particularly after emerging from his car with his first ever Pro Series victory on the slick 1.54-mile road circuit. The 2000 Barber-CART Rookie of the Year was sporting a sunny disposition, no matter what the weatherman was saying.
Matt Plumb took second place honors ahead of third place finisher Roger Yasakawa, driver of the Tokyo Ueno Clinic Dodge Reynard. Yasakawa's third marks his best result in Pro series competition. Both racers had to contend with horrible visibility due to mist and spray.
Hunter-Reay's win is his first since he won the Formula Dodge National Championship race in 1999.
"It's great to be on the podium, back in first place. Conditions were tough but I wanted to just keep the car on the track, finish the race and get points. It was difficult because it was tough to see. I'm really pleased to be here and want to thank Barber-CART for their support."
Matt Plumb needed a strong result, after two DNFs in the first two rounds of racing: at Sebring and Phoenix. The Unionville, PA racer overcame a tough track to finish on the podium.
"Conditions were miserable," said Plumb, driver of the #4 Premier Nutrition Dodge Reynard. "It was about staying out of the spray. It's been awhile since I had a good race. I needed a good result and to finish on the podium is overwhelming."
Yasakawa, out of Santa Monica, California, has been working with Barber Dodge Pro Series coach Mike Zimicki and talked about race strategy for a rain race.
"The visibility was so poor. Our strategy was to keep the car on the road, minimize mistakes and stay focused. This worked for us very well given the conditions."
Early on, polesitter Sepp Koster established a 10-car length lead over over Hunter-Reay. The Dutchman would be difficult to pass, provided he stayed the course. But a combination of a slick track and tire puncture forced Koster to go long into turn-1, allowing Hunter-Reay to take the point. Nicolas Rondet, the previous round race winner in Phoenix, applied pressure from second but spun to momentarily take himself out of contention. Hunter-Reay, who set a fastest lap time of 1:08.681 sec. was starting to pull away from pursuers. The fastest lap earns him a championship point and $500 cash from Westside Parking of East Granby, Connecticut.
The race was riddled with more spins and slides than an amusement park. Davy Cook, who set pole for Round 4 on Monday, was one of the first victims of worsening track conditions. Cook was running fourth when he spun before the chicane, bringing out the full course yellow. Several other drivers, including Rondet, Koster and Marc Breuers also slid. Despite Breuers' spin, and a penalty for passing during the caution period, he meticulously fought back to gain positions and a top-10 finish.
The safety car would come out again midway through the session when Rene Bauer and Akihira Okamoto spun off track. Positions were going by the way side as it was proving to be a race of attrition. Anyone who avoided mistakes and gaffes was rewarded with a good result. Peter Boss managed to avoid trouble and drove to a solid fourth place result. Sara Senske, of Kennewick, Washington, turned in her best career finish in the Pro Series with a sixth place result. She earns the Conseco Step Up award, good for a $500 cash prize. As bad as conditions were, it's remarkable that only two cars bowed out to DNFs and that there were no serious incidents.
Round 4 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series is slated for 11:00AM EST, Monday, May 28, 2001. ESPN2 will broadcast Round 3 action on June 26 at 6:00PM EST.
Top 15 Points Overall Following Round 3
Hunter-Reay, 44; Rondet, 42; R. Sperafico, 37; Yasukawa, 35; Morley, 30; A Sperafico, 29;Boss, 28; Breuers, 24; Cook, 19; Akihira Okamoto, 18; Koster, 17; Plumb, 16; Szymczak, 16; Sara Senske, 15; Gian Domenico Brusatin, 7; Vaninni, 5.