Isra Takes Two In Masters National
Lime Rock Park’s unassuming complexity generally favors drivers who’ve raced there before. So it was a bit a bit of a surprise that several first timers qualified so well for Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2001 Formula Dodge Masters National Championship. Dave Figurski and Peter Ponder-Pistor displayed their racing prowess early on the weekend by qualifying second and third, respectively. But it was the polesetting effort and races of former Masters Champion and East coaster Roland Isra that really spoke to his comfort level.
Masters Round 5 was run on treaded tires under the threat of heavy rain storms. From his first pole position, Isra led and was trailed closely by Pondor-Pistor, Chris Wilcox and Len Forman. As Isra tried to shake his pursuers, another battle was shaping up featuring Quentin Wahl and Todd Russo. Eventually Wilcox got around Pondor-Pistor as did Forman a lap later but the battle was still unfolding. Wilcox nipped at Isra, hoping to force a miscue that just never materialized, and settled in for second. Third place was being closely contested Pondor-Pistor, Forman and newcomer to the series Todd Russo, who eventually took the spot. Further back and in race form was Mike Wert, who clawed from 15th to finish ninth and collect most progressive driver.
Clearer, blues skies produced conditions more favorable to Michelin slicks as the second Masters race got under way. Again, it was Isra who assumed the point over Chris Wilcox and started to pull away from the rest of the field. The battles behind him were intensifying. Quentin Wahl hit the back of Bud Risser while battling for the fourth position and lost his nose cone. Len Forman touched Wilcox while attempting to take third spot from Wilcox heading into Big Bend. The high-pressure move caused them both to spin. Dave Figurski also spun trying to avoid the mayhem and dropped championship contender Wilcox back to fifteenth. Todd Russo slipped through and started to chase Pondor-Pistor for the 2nd podium spot. Meanwhile the number 5 car of Isra was drawing further ahead. But things changed quickly when Isra unexpectedly spun in the middle of Big Bend allowing Pondor-Pistor to assume the point. One lap later Pondor-Pistor himself bobbled in turn 2 and Russo took the lead. Isra snatched back second from Pondor-Pistor and set off after the rookie Russo. But it was not to be Todd’s day, with two laps to go, Russo’s car ran out of fuel in the uphill. This allowed Isra to take the checkered ahead over Pondor-Pistor . Wilcox drove the race of his life from fifteenth to set fastest race lap and claim the third podium spot. Bud Risser gamely returned to form by taking fourth after a good battle with Quentin Wahl, who retired on lap 23. The racing could not have been tighter, as the field of 18 Masters were consistently tripping laps separated by no more than 0:01.500 seconds.
Isra now leads the Masters Championship by 24 points over Chris Wilcox and Peter Ponder-Pistor, both tied for second at 79 points. Quentin Wahl sits in third with 66 points. The New Yorker looks very strong heading into the final four rounds: Mid-Ohio in two weeks and the season finale at Sebring in November. Bad news for the competition: Isra is also familiar with those tracks.
- Andrew Torres