SBRS: Sebring Final Qualifying Story, Round 1

(SEBRING, Fla.) Mar.17, 2000 - Just when it looked like the provisional grid was going to stand, Michael Valiante of Vancouver, B.C., snatched his first ever Barber Dodge Pro Series career pole as the checkered flag swept over his car. He...

(SEBRING, Fla.) Mar.17, 2000 - Just when it looked like the provisional grid was going to stand, Michael Valiante of Vancouver, B.C., snatched his first ever Barber Dodge Pro Series career pole as the checkered flag swept over his car. He flashed through the timing beams in 2:07.020 sec for an average speed of 104.865 mph, missing the qualifying record by one-hundredth of second.

What was originally thought would be a faster session did not fulfill its promise, as over-night rains cleaned the track a little too well. Up until the last three minutes of the session, the provisional grid looked likely to hold up. A flurry of fast laps beginning with Valiante saw the top of the grid jumbled. Provisional pole-sitter Nilton Rossoni, who had been atop the time sheet all session also made a last ditch effort. He shaved 0.111 sec off as he took the checkered flag, but it fell short of Valiante's improvement.

Third placed Jon Fogarty, who had been knocked out of the provisional Top 3 by a last gasp effort from Roger Yasukawa, retook the third spot on his last lap which was thee-tenths quicker than his previous qualifying attempt.

"I had to get a clear lap," Valiante recalled, "so after a pit stop, I found a gap. The last couple of laps, the car was really good following the changes.

"I feel really comfortable on this track," the Co-Rookie of the Year went on to say about the venue where he made his Pro Series debut in 1999, and went on to score his first ever podium finish (3rd).

Brazilian Nilton Rossoni looked sure to keep his provisional pole as the session moved towards its close. He had speculated following the first qualifying session that those times would not hold up. Like the other drivers, he set out in earnest to improve on the first day's times, yet try as he might, consistently putting up the fastest times throughout the 30-minute session, he had to wait until his final lap to ultimately find his place on the grid

"The track wasn't as fast as yesterday," commented the four-race winner. "My problem today was traffic, but the car is good. Hopefully Michael and Jon and I can have a good race tomorrow.

"It's the first race, and it's important to get a good start and have a clean race," said Rossoni of his race-day strategy.

Portola Valley, Ca. resident Jon Fogarty improved one position on the grid from the first session's times. Like Valiante and Rossoni, that improvement did not register until the dwindling seconds of the session.

"Yesterday's performance was not indicative of our true performance," claimed Fogarty who has one Barber Dodge Pro Series victory to his credit. Today shows what I can do. I have a good car, and haven't made any changes to it all week.

The 40-minute race takes place immediately prior to the Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring with the green flag scheduled to drop at 8:25 a.m.

All drivers in the Barber Dodge Pro Series compete in identically prepare Barber Dodge Reynard 98E carbon composite race cars, powered by an all aluminum Dodge V6 motor, driven through a Hewland 6-speed sequential gear box, and ride on Michelin Pilot SX racing slicks.

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