SBRS: Sebring qualifying report

(SEBRING, Fla.) Mar. 16, 2001 -Alex Sperafico of Toledo Parana, Brazil held onto his overnight pole by outdoing himself and shattering the track qualifying record for Round 1 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series. He lapped Sebring International ...

(SEBRING, Fla.) Mar. 16, 2001 -Alex Sperafico of Toledo Parana, Brazil held onto his overnight pole by outdoing himself and shattering the track qualifying record for Round 1 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series. He lapped Sebring International Raceway's 3.7-mile track in a blistering 2:06.296 sec. averaging 105.467 mph, thus eclipsing the record established by Rocky Moran Jr. in 1999 (2:07.024 sec. /104.862 mph).

"The last few laps today were perfect," said Sperafico, 27, of his qualifying effort in the No.9 Iveco Fiat Dodge Reynard. "I had no problems with traffic and there was more grip at the end of the session. I also didn't make any mistakes in the very fast corners which is important here."

Sperafico's younger cousin Rafael was the first to improve on Alex's overnight time 15 minutes into the 30-minute session. Yet five minutes later, Alex reclaimed the pole and didn't stop there. On his next tour he shaved 0.042 sec. off of his new pole time. The next flash through the timing beams, Sperafico lowered the mark once again by a further two-tenths. One lap remained on his qualifying effort and with the checkered flag waving, Sperafico's Dodge Reynard blitzed his previous lap with an eye popping record lap, an additional half second quicker than before.

Barber-CART Big Scholarship winner Rafael Sperafico settled for second on the front row alongside his cousin. The 19 year-old Brazilian was unable to further improve on the time he had established midway through the session at 2:06.995 sec.

"I feel so good to start the race in second place alongside my cousin," said Rafael who gained two positions over his provisional spot. "Alex and I have been working together, exchanging information about car set up and it's been really helpful."

American Matt Plumb qualified third. Like Rafael Sperafico, he vaulted two positions over his provisional qualifying effort. Plumb came on strongest at the end of the session yet could not muster the speed to break into the 2:06-second bracket. Plumb took his Premier Nutrition Dodge Reynard to a quick time of 2:07.434 sec. Plumb encountered traffic in his first few laps and that coupled with an effort to conserve his tires deterred him from establishing a time early in the session. Finding the traffic break he needed, Plumb was able to increase his pace.

"The week started out a bit on the trying side as we encountered some problems with my primary racecar. Fortunately, we were able to bring the backup car to speed, so it feels good to overcome that," said Plumb. "I'd rather be on the inside for the start of this race going into turn-1. There is so much room to pass going into turns-1 and 2 that being on the second row isn't too much of a problem."

Dutchman Sepp Koster overcame a few mechanical gremlins to improve from 13th provisionally to fourth in the final qualifying order. He will start on the outside of the second row, just a tenth slower than Plumb. Barber-CART Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay who has led or been near the top of every session run here this week slipped to fifth on the grid. Hunter-Reay was hopeful of grabbing the pole today as he felt he could find more speed. Unfortunately that was not to be.

Provisionally third, Frenchman Nicolas Rondet could not go faster than in the first qualifying session yesterday and as a result he fell back to the sixth spot on the grid. The Barber-CART Big Scholarship Dodge Reynard of Jon Morley will start from the seventh position ahead of Peter Boss, Akihira Okamaoto, and Roger Yasukawa thus rounding out the Top-10.

The green flag drops on the first ever CART-sanctioned Barber Dodge Pro Series race at 9:10 a.m. EST Saturday, Mar. 17, just prior to the Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring endurance classic.

-Barber

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