Jorge regains Southern Series points lead Historically significant Sebring International Raceway served as the backdrop for 30-plus Formula Dodge Southern Regional racers, each with an aim to capture wins, collect championship points or simply...
Jorge regains Southern Series points lead
Historically significant Sebring International Raceway served as the backdrop for 30-plus Formula Dodge Southern Regional racers, each with an aim to capture wins, collect championship points or simply out-brake a competitor into a fast corner. Can Artam and Rookie Jonatan Jorge each paced their R/T 2000s to two wins on the modified 2.0-mile circuit. By virtue of his strong weekend, Jorge regained the points lead from Matt Franc with one round to go, the final score to be settled next month on the Daytona 24-Hour road course. Peter Stolper maintains his points lead over Lorin Gill in the Masters class.
In group 1 race 1, Cristiano Piquet surrendered the advantage of starting from pole when he spun on lap 5 and fell back to 10th after dicing furiously for the lead with Can Artam and Atticus Missner. Artam assumed the point from there and led the remaining 14 laps to take the checkered flag and claim his first Skip Barber Race Series win ahead of Masters phenom Ron Atapattu. Longtime Southern Series racer Jay Fuchs earned his first podium with a third place result, fighting off a strong recovery by Piquet who trailed by only 0.5 sec.
Can Artam, doubling up on race events, couldn’t upset polesitter Jonatan Jorge in group 2 race 1, despite inserting himself in the lead briefly on lap 3. Jorge found his feet quickly to regain the point and lead the following 16 laps en route to his first victory of the weekend. Going into turn-2, as Jorge locked up his brakes, Matt Franc saw an opportunity to pass but went four-off, compromising his chance for the win. Franc fell back to fourth but eclipsed a strong effort from Chris Fowler to finish third behind Artam. Midwest racer Jack Aten celebrated a top-5 result, most progressive and masters class honors.
Aurelio Lopez secured his first win in the Skip Barber Race Series, out-dueling Jordan Gore in a skirmish that lasted all race. Robert Pellosie hung back, perhaps anticipating driver contact that never materialized, and went on to claim the final rostrum spot in third. Jay Fuchs, hot after his first podium in group 1, finished fourth overall and snatched the Masters win from Lorin Gill in a strong Masters class match-up. Fernando Capablanca advanced three spots to finish in seventh and earn most progressive driver distinction.
The final race of the day laid out as an 80-minute Enduro contest, the second such race in Southern Series play and third overall in Skip Barber Race Series competition. The eagerly anticipate event had a unique rule structure in which those teams that chose to incorporate a Skip Barber instructor were required to perform a standing start from pit lane. Other teams started in the more conventional rolling start on the front straight.
Calculating the trip distance of a Formula Dodge R/T 2000 [that is, an R/T 2000 can go approximately 32 minutes at speed] most teams opted for a two-stop strategy. However, a one-stop fuel conservation strategy proved correct and was illustrated best when Team Gerardo Bonilla/Jep Thornton captured the checkered flag ahead of Team Greg Borland/Matt Franc and Team Jonatan Jorge/Ron Atapattu. Borland and Franc picked off the most positions by advancing from 14th to finish on the steps. Third place finishers Jorge/Atapattu set a new track standard with a time of 1:15.714 sec. The other team that attempted a 1-stop strategy finished sixth, with Daytona Enduro race winner Michael Rowe, co-driven by Ray Scott and Jack Aten.
In the Sunday opener, third place starter Cristiano Piquet wrestled the point from Can Artam on lap 1, then kept the field at bay for the balance 16 laps to collect the win. Desi Sartelli was running second and in close pursuit of Piquet when he crashed out in turn-2 on lap 5, resulting in a full course yellow. Atticus Missner moved up from sixth to finish second. New York’s Mark Patterson rounded out the podium in third, also claiming the Masters prize.
Matt Franc and Jonatan Jorge dropped the gloves in this hotly contested match-up of points leaders. Franc negated Jorge’s pole advantage when he secured the lead on the first lap. He then led six of the following 16 trips but was ultimately worn down by the young rookie, who overtook him going into turn 1 on lap 12 and held on for the narrow margin victory. Franc, who set the fastest lap with a time of 1:15. 981 sec, lead Can Artam to claim prime podium placement. Jep Thornton earned the most progressive drive honors and the Masters win.
Aurelio Lopez and Jordan Gore treated all spectators to five lead changes over 16 laps before Lopez nailed down the close call finish by 0.08 sec. A full course yellow emerged on lap 6 when Fernando Capablanca found the tire wall in turn-1, condensing the field. Lopez led at the restart before Gore found the front if only for a short stint. Robert Pellosie collected a penalty after he hit Lorin Gill and failed to pit. The penalty ruling moved him to P5 from P4. Third place finisher Jep Thornton was the most progressive driver and collected the Masters bounty in the 41-plus category. David Libby was near his equal, progressing from seventh to fourth.
In the Leon Mandel Memorial, Matt Franc started from eighth position and steadily made his way to the front to win his only race of the weekend over three fleet Skip Barber Instructors. To his chagrin, the win does not yield championship points. Gregg Borland set the fastest lap and may have posed a threat to Franc had he not spun in turn-7.
The Southern Region finale and champion coronation is slated for April 19-21 at Daytona’s hallowed 24-Hour Road Course.