(SEBRING, Fla.) Mar. 15, 2001 -Picking up where he left off last season, Brazilian Alex Sperafico is nabbing a few firsts. At the final race of the 2000 season, Sperafico garnered his first podium finish. Today, in the first qualifying session for Round 1 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series at Sebring International Raceway, Sperafico earned his first overnight pole. In the waning moments of the 30-minute session, Sperafico flashed through the timing beans at 2:07.544 sec. averaging 104.435 mph around the 3.7-mile classic Sebring track.
"I did a lot of work over the off season to prepare for this year, and hopefully it's paying off," said Sperafico, driver of the No. 9 Iveco Fiat Dodge Reynard. "The car felt really good so at the end of the session with a light fuel load, I really went for a time. I didn't know I got the pole until I got out of the car."
Sperafico displaced Barber-CART Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay of Boca Raton, Fla. who had only moments before displaced Nicolas Rondet. Rafael Sperafico and Matt Plumb appeared at the top of the time sheet earlier in the session but couldn't muster the speed to hold onto their time.
"The wind was really a factor out there today. I got caught in traffic toward the end of the session and had to back off to cool my tires," said Hunter-Reay who set his fastest time on his final lap at 2:07.598 sec.
Hunter-Reay alluded to a potential trick he has up his sleeve for the final qualifying session on Friday morning suggesting that he had a set up change in mind or perhaps a change of driving style to find more speed.
"I've got something I'm really excited to try tomorrow morning. We'll see if it works," added Hunter-Reay.
Rondet had been quick and if not for a harmless spin exiting turn-17 might have backed up his time with an even faster time to secure the pole. Since his return to the Barber Dodge Pro Series, the Frenchman has had only six days worth of track time in the 2001 spec car having only decided to partake in the Sebring race a month prior.
"I have to say that since I last drove in the Pro Series in 1998, there has been a big improvement in the car and the entire organization. It was good then and now it's even better," said Rondet who drives the In KART USA Dodge Reynard. "I wasn't expecting it to be easy when I came back, but the competition in this series is even tougher than I expected, so I'm pleased to have such a good time."
Final qualifying for the first round of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series will get underway, Friday, Mar. 16 at 9:00 a.m. EST.