SCCA Pro Racing: Barber Dodge Pro Series Barber Dodge Headed To Sebring For Round Two
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (Mar. 7) - The Barber Dodge Pro Series race at Sebring International Raceway on Saturday, March 15 is round two of the 1997 season. If you’re looking for a favorite, who else but the winner of the first race at St. Petersburg? That would be Rino Mastronardi. He not only comfortably led every Barber Dodge lap on the unforgiving St. Pete streets, his first Barber Dodge win, but he walked off with a win, as a one-race hired gun, in the Formula Ford 2000 race during the same race weekend.
Throughout the 1996 season, Rino had given hints of what was to come; though he didn’t win a race, he set fastest race-lap in nearly half of the year’s 12 events, took one pole position and ended up on the podium four times. Mastronardi eventually wound up fourth in points despite missing the last race. Clearly a front-runner.
But you’ve got to ask, how did Mastronardi do at Sebring last year? Not to put too fine a point on it, the only word is horrible. He qualified 21st and finished 17th. Bear in mind that as tight and as competitive as Barber Dodge racing is, particularly at Sebring, that 21st starting position was less than a second away from the polesitter. And Sebring 1996 was only his second-ever Barber Dodge race; at the time his English was virtually non-existent, so it was no surprise that he ended up with the wrong set-up on the car. Expect a much stronger, more "dialed-in" Mastronardi in this year’s race.
But Mastronardi is certainly no lock. The 1996 Barber Dodge Co-Rookies of the Year, Tony Renna of De Land, Fla., and Derek Hill (son of three-time Sebring 12-Hour winner Phil Hill) are more than capable of besting the field. Renna sat on pole here last year and finished a fighting third in the race while the latest "Big Scholarship" driver, Nick Rondet, was second. And they’ve also got a lot to worry about from 1994 "Big Scholarship" driver Andy Boss, Chris Menninga, 17-year-old Rocky Moran, Jr., G.J. Mennen, rookie Victor Gonzalez and Steve Rikert. Not to mention yet another very strong Scandinavian contingent: Mattias Andersson, Jarle Gasland, Martin Stenshorne and Andre Hansen.
The bottom line: as always, the 30-minute Barber Dodge race at Sebring will be as close and exciting as it has always been. Remember last year, when eventual champion Fredrik Larsson and Rondet tangled in the last turn on the last lap? Races don’t get much better than that, and that same sort of non-stop wheel-to-wheel action is surely on tap again.
What: Barber Dodge Pro Series, Round 2 of 12 Where: Sebring International Raceway When: Saturday March 15, green flag at 9:20 a.m. local time, just before the start of the 12-Hour. Practice and qualifying: Wed., Thurs. and Fri. Tv: espn2: Sunday, March 30, 1:00 p.m.