SBRS: St. Petersburg preview

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Hard To Predict Favorites In Barber Dodge Opener SEBRING, Fla. (Feb. 13) - With a full field of 29 drivers set to open the 1997 SCCA Pro Racing Barber Dodge season, round 1 at the Kash 'N Karry Florida Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Fla.,...

Hard To Predict Favorites In Barber Dodge Opener

SEBRING, Fla. (Feb. 13) - With a full field of 29 drivers set to open the 1997 SCCA Pro Racing Barber Dodge season, round 1 at the Kash 'N Karry Florida Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Fla., Sunday Feb. 23 should go a long way in highlighting who willand wontbe a player. Since many of last year's front-runners have moved on to Indy Lights and F3000 (champion Fredrik Larsson, Geoff Boss, Thomas Schie), there is but one race winner from 1996 Derek Hill) returning for '97. That means the championship is wide open, as there is little to choose between Hill, Tony Renna, Rino Mastronardi, Nick Rondet, 17-year-old Rocky Moran, Jr., and Chris Menninga. Throw in the likes of Andy Boss, the 1994 "Big Scholarship" driver making his return to the pro ranks, Mattias Andersson (a front-runner in 1995 who had difficulty raising a proper Indy Lights budget), veterans Steve Rikert and G.J. Mennen, and foreign newcomers Martin Stenshorne, Andre Hansen and Gustavo Pasetto, and you end up with a wonderfully varied field that could make for a free-for-all at St. Pete.

Barber Dodge has in recent years become the de facto training ground for the sons of former Formula 1 drivers (e.g., 1995 champion Jaki Scheckter, Derek Hill, Philippe Siffert, Jeff Bucknum) and 1997 is no different. In addition to Hill, Gian-Maria Regazzoni, Clay's kid, makes his U.S. open-wheel debut at St. Petersburg.

With the new Reynard on tap for 1998, the venerable Mondial chassis is in its final year, but improvements have been made nevertheless. The biggest change is a switch to Dodge's all-new, all-aluminum 3.2-liter V6, replacing the 3.5. The 3.2s are actually hand-built, pre-production versions of the engine that will be introduced in the 1998 Dodge Intrepid passenger car this October. The 3.2 is significantly lighter (by nearly 60 lbs.) which allowed the use of a much softer spring in the rear. Not only is the motor torquier than the old 3.5, the car now turns-in much better: "Much, much more driver-friendly," reports Barber Dodge test driver Robbie Buhl.

The 30-minute Barber Dodge event is the featured support race at the Kash N Karry Florida Grand Prix, with a green flag set for 1:30 p.m., just before the Trans-Am head-liner. The espn2 telecast is set for Sunday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, with replays March 10 at 12:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. -Rick Roso, (860) 435-4646 CompuServe 72230,271 e-mail speed@skipbarber.com

Round 1 Entry List as of Thursday, February 13 The Barber Dodge Pro Series Race at the Kash N Karry Florida Grand Prix, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Car# Driver/Hometown Sponsor(s) 1 Denis Lay/Miami, Fla. Panasonic 2 Bill Tichenor/Dallas, Texas CompUSA; Heftel B'casting; Lone Star Golf Tours 3 G. J. Mennen/Austin, Texas MBf U.S.A.; Glovetex; Corbin, Ltd. 4 Andy Boss/Narragansett, R.I. Cross Pens; Boarder Patrol 5 Chris Menninga/Pella, Iowa Menninga Electric; Lee's Grinding 7 Will Langhorne/Washington, D.C. 8 Gustavo Pasetto/Sao Paulo, Brazil VIA Express; CompuCenter 9 Tony Renna/Deland, Fla. "Barber Dodge Co-Rookie of the Year" 11 Charles Willis/Germantown, Tenn. Chateau DeVille Executive Townhouses;Community Mortgage; Ferguson Enterprises 12 Jarrett Boon/Mesa, Ariz. 14 Patsy DiFilippo/Apollo, Pa. Patsy's Casino Connection 15 Matt Fowler/Ventura, Calif. Worldwide Pants, Inc.; Jim Hall Karting; Bell; Sparco; Fog City 16 Jarle Gasland/Haugesund, Norway Chrysler Norway 17 Steven Rikert/Rhinebeck, N.Y. Rikert Realty 20 Rino Mastronardi/Pistoia, Italy Cauduro Management; Stern 21 Gian-Maria Regazzoni/Monaco Cauduro Management 22 Eric Tresslar/Denver, Colo. James Mathews Racing; H & S Tools 24 Derek Hill/Santa Monica, Calif. "Barber Dodge Co-Rookie of the Year" 25 Andre Hansen/Fetsund, Norway Chrysler Norway 26 Nick Rondet/San Diego, Calif. Skip Barber's "Big Scholarship" 27 Samer Hindi/Los Angeles, Calif. American Couriers; 1 Pen; Newport Int'l 30 Mattias Andersson/Linkoping, Sweden Channel 5, Sweden 34 Martin Stenshorne/Hokksund, Norway Zeta Invest; US Moller Import; Vertshuset; Yeg Biri;Markedsprofilas; Captain's Sportswear 55 John McCaig/Victoria, B.C., Canada Presenting Italy 60 Nick O'Sullivan/Boulder, Colo. Team Rainey 61 Scott Brunk/Frederick, Md. Frederick Produce Co. 71 Rocky Moran, Jr./Coto de Caza, Calif. 92 Keith Watts/Knoxville, Tenn. Sponsor Needed! 95 Victor Gonzalez/Hatoray, Puerto Rico Gonzalez & Associates

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