MASTRONARDI MASTERS ST. PETE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Having not won a professional open wheel race since 1993, in an Italian b-class Formula 3 event, Rino Mastronardi came to the Kash ‘N Karry Florida Grand Prix in St. Petersburg with two chances to change that state of affairs. Not only was it round one of the Barber Dodge Pro Series, a championship the 26-year-old Italian is determined to win this year, but he was hired by new Formula Ford chassis maker Tatuus—from Italy—to take that car to the front in the USAC/SCCA FF2000 race. So what did Mastronardi do, all in the space of three hours? How about win both races. Really good day," the 26- year-old said in his halting English, in the understatement of the year.
In qualifying, Mastronardi set the fastest time in the first session but decided to sit out the second—a decision he came very close to regretting. Ninety minutes before final qualifying the skies opened up and soaked the track. By all measures, the session was looking likely to be on wets, so as provisional polesitter Rino had no reason to go out. But by the time qualifying started a dry line had developed, so series officials declared it a dry session. On went the Goodyear slicks but out stayed Mastronardi. When qualifying ended, Derek Hill had got within 4/10s of Rino’s time, with Tony Renna right behind. "That was mistake. I thought it to be wetter, and I almost lost pole. I won’t do that again," Mastronardi admitted.
Hill and Renna came into play again in the race. At the start, those two and G.J. Mennen, who had qualified a career-best fourth, got a jump on Mastronardi. As they braked for Turn One, Renna and Hill were in front, nearly side-by-side. They ended up banging wheels, spinning Renna into the tires and Hill headed down the escape road. Mastronardi and Mennen wiggled their way through, along with the surprising Samar Hindi. Hill rejoined mid-pack.
Two laps later a spectacular crash caused a full-course yellow; Hill was trying to slash his way back up to the front and ducked under Nick O’Sullivan in One. When Hill came out the other side, it was right into Bill Tichenor, innocently turning in. Tichenor’s right-rear caught Hill’s right-front, and up into the air Tichenor went, flipping once and landing on the tire barriers. He was okay, but both he and Hill were out.
On the restart and for the remaining 18 minutes, Mastronardi kept Mennen safely in his mirrors, but Hindi had all that he could handle from Andy Boss. On the last lap, Hindi’s clutch got balky and he couldn’t find first gear as he downshifted for Turn Seven. He spun, handing third to Boss, but Hindi did recover to take fifth, just arrears of Victor Gonzalez, a rookie from Purto Rico. Chris Menninga, Rocky Moran, Jr., and Jarrett Boon kept things very exciting as they diced for sixth-through-eighth, while Keiith Watts and Scott Brunk had great runs too finish ninth and 100th, respectively.
"The day was great, I must say," Mastronardi said. "To win twice, in two different cars, it is hard to believe. The Barber Dodge, she was perfect handling, and the Tatuus was, how you say, a rocket ship, yes? I’m happy. "Results from Sunday’s 30-minute SCCA Pro Racing Barber Dodge Pro Series race at the Kash ‘N Karry Florida Grand Prix, with finishing position, starting position, driver, hometown or country, winner’s average speed, laps completed (reason out, if any), and prize money. All cars identical Mondiale Barber Dodge V6 open-wheel, single-seat race cars. 1. (1) Rino Mastronardi, Italy, 95.400 mph ®, 21 laps, $10,000 2. (4) G.J. Mennen, Austin, Texas, 21, $6,000 3. (12) Andy Boss, Narragansett, R.I., 21, $4,000 4. (5) Victor Gonzalez, Hotoray, Puerto Rico, 21, $2,500 5. (6) Samer Hindi, Los Angeles, Calif., 21, $1,800 6. (13) Chris Menninga, Pella, Iowa, 21, $1,500 7. (17) Rocky Moran, Jr., Coto de Caza, Calif., 21, $1,300 8. (15) Jarrett Boon, Phoenix, Ariz., 21, $1,200 9. (22) Keith Watts, Knoxville, Tenn., 21, $1,000 10. (24) Scott Brunk, Frederick, Md., 21, $1,000 11. (28) Gian-Maria Regazzoni, Monaco, 21, $1,300 12. (20) Gustavo Pasetto, Brazil, 21, $700 13. (21) Nick O’Sullivan, Boulder, Colo., 21, $600 14. (23) Eric Tresslar, Denver, Colo., 21, $500 15. (18) John McCaig, Canada, 21, $500 16. (16) Mattias Andersson, Sweden, 21, $500 17. (25) Matt Fowler, Ventura, Calif., 21, $500 18. (11) Will Langhorne, Washington, D.C., 21, $500 19. (26) Patsy DiFilippo, Apollo, Pa., 21, $500 20. (27) Denis Lay, Miami, Fla., 21, $500 21. (10) Jarle Gasland, Norway, 19, $500 22. (14) Andre Hansen, Norway, 18, $500 23. (29) Charles Willis, Germantown, Tenn., 14 (retired), $500 24. (19) Bill Tichenor, Dallas, Texas, 3 (accident), $500 25. (2) Derek Hill, Santa Monica, Calif., 3 (accident), $500 26. (16) Steven Rikert, Rhinebeck, N.Y., 2 (accident), $500 27. (3) Tony Renna, Deland, Fla., 1 (accident), $500 28. (7) Nick Rondet, San Diego, Calif., 1 (accident), $500 29. (9) Martin Stenshorne, Norway, 1 (accident), $500
Time of race: 30 minutes, 14.500 seconds Winning speed: 70.410 mph ® Distance: 21 laps, 35.50 miles Margin of Victory: 1.180 seconds Fastest Race Lap: Victor Gonzalez, 1:08.960/88.250mph Most Progressive Driver ($500): Gian-Maria Regazzoni, 28th to 11th Lap leaders: Mastronardi, 1 - 21 Points following round 1: 1. Rino Mastronardi 21 2. G.J. Mennen 16 3. Andy Boss 14 4. Victor Gonzalez 12 5. Samer Hindi 11 Next race: Sebring International Raceway, Mar. 15