Gelinas takes first Formula Dodge National Championship win at V.I.R. (Danville, VA) April 26, 2003-Philippe Gelinas of Grand-Mere, Quebec, took his first-ever win in Formula Dodge National Championship competition at Virginia International ...
Gelinas takes first Formula Dodge National Championship win at V.I.R.
(Danville, VA) April 26, 2003-Philippe Gelinas of Grand-Mere, Quebec, took his first-ever win in Formula Dodge National Championship competition at Virginia International Raceway in Danville, Virginia, as he took the checkered flag ahead of Zilvinas Oskutis of Lithuania and Salvador Duran of Mexico City, Mexico. Pole sitter Rafael Matos came home fourth ahead of early race leader Ben Freudenberg, who finished fifth. Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship driver Matt Jaskol of Las Vegas, Nevada, finished sixth after scoring the fastest lap of the race, a new track record. Gerardo Bonilla of Orlando, Florida finished seventh as recently crowned 2003 Skip Barber Southern Race Series Champion and Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship driver Joe D'Agostino finished eighth ahead of Aivaras Pyragius, who moved up from 22nd starting spot to take ninth ahead of Brian Frisselle. Frisselle was forced to fight his way back into the top ten after falling down in the order early in the race when he was forced off the track. The race was exciting from start to finish, with the top six drivers finishing within just .6 seconds apart.
Gelinas, drove his way to winning a spot on the Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Team at Sebring International Raceway in January, and converted the potential he showed at the runoff into results as he won on the 3.27-mile long course layout set in the rolling hills of southern Virginia.
"At the start, I just tried to bring Rafael closer to me, and I kept working on the gap, and got by him, but then he got me back," said Gelinas. "Ben and I had a good battle, and Rafael got away a little bit from us after that, but once I got back by Ben, I was able to get back to tracking down Rafael, which was very exciting. We were fighting all over the track even down to the last corner of the last lap, when we made some contact, but my car was fine, and I just kept going to the finish. I'm really excited to win here, since it's my first win in the National Championship and the track is such a challenge."
Oskutis, who honed his skills on the Karting tracks of Europe, was overjoyed to take second place after starting back in 14th spot. The race was Oskutis' first in National competition after having raced in the Skip Barber regional series for two races, and the young Lithuanian showed well in just his first outing in the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER Magazine.
"This is a very fast group of racers, and the competition is very, very tight," said Oskutis. "I am still getting used to driving a racecar after Karting for so long, but these cars are a great step up for me from Karting and seem to suit my style."
Salvador Duran ran with the lead pack in the latter stages of the race, and was able to make the most of the opportunity when Matos and Gelinas touched, helping Duran move up onto the podium.
"When Matos got his nose into the back of Gelinas, I knew I had no chance to pass there in the last corner, so I just tried to get a good exit and out drag him to the finish, and it worked perfectly for me," said the young Mexico City, Mexico resident. "You have take the moments when they come to you, and I was glad I could."
The 30-minute race got underway with Rafael Matos leading the field to the green flag, and holding the point as the 24-car field got through the first set of tight corners cleanly despite the hectic maneuvering for positions taking place throughout the field. Matos got off to a fast start as the rest of the field battled behind him, but his advantage was nixed on the very next lap after a full course yellow came out after John Angelone had an off course excursion that left his car stranded on course.
Matos again lead the field back to the green, but didn't get as good a start, and soon found himself between Freudenberg on the outside and Gelinas to the inside heading into turn one. Matos gave Gelinas racing room as they snaked through turns two, three, and four side by side before Gelinas sealed the pass as the lead group resumed single file order.
Matos retook the point on the fourth lap, and began to reestablish his lead, echoing his dominating performance in the opening segments of the first round race in Sebring. The pack, though, had no inclination to repeat that, though, and Matos soon found the cars in his mirrors getting larger and larger as Gelinas whittled the gap down each lap.
The lead group was now a train of six cars, with Matos leading Gelinsa, Oskutis, Duran, Jaskol and Freudenberg in the closing laps and the group was tightly matched, with less than a second separating first to sixth. Gelinas reeled Matos in as the two raced to the white flag, with the rest of the lead group continuing to position themselves for the last lap. Matos got a good run on Gelinas going into the final corner, but Gelinas held him off under braking as Matos nosed into Gelinas, bending his front wings. Gelinas kept control and motored to the checkered flag with Oskutis in tow as Duran popped out of Rafaels draft to make the pass for the podium just before the finish line.
The second race of the weekend for the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER Magazine will get underway at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Full results and story to be posted at www.skipbarber.com
The Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by Racer Magazine boasts an illustrious list of graduates, from last years champion, Grant Maimen, who will compete this summer in European Formula Renault as part of the Red Bull Formula One Drivers search, to Ryan Hunter-Reay, who made his first Champ Car World Series start last month in St. Petersburg, Florida. Other graduates include 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion A.J. Allmendinger, 2002 FF2000 Champion Brian Sellars, and 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series competitors Al Unser, Scott Proirier, Leo Maia, and Colin Fleming.
The 2003 Championship again features a field deep in talent comprised of champions from lower formulae and karting. Raphael Matos of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, secured his Barber-Champ Car Scholarship at Sebring last December in the Formula Dodge National Run-Off, and is hoping to convert this opportunity into a championship. The young Brazilian was quickest in every session during the event, and is hoping to keep the pace up through the 2003 season. Four other drivers in the field are also members of the Barber-Champ Car Scholarship program, as Joe D'Agostino of Plantation, FL, Philippe Gelinas of Grand-Mere, Quebec, Matt Jaskol of Las Vegas, NV, and David Jurca of Federal Way, WA all secured a funded ride in the 2003 Formula Dodge Championship after impressing in the Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Run-Off in January.
Skip Barber Racing School is the world's leading provider of automotive education and entertainment. With five base locations in Connecticut, Florida, California, and Wisconsin, Skip Barber operates at over twenty tracks nationwide. The Dodge Division of DaimlerChrysler, Michelin North America, and Quaker State are key strategic partners for the company. NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon, Indianapolis 500 Champion and Champ Car Champion Juan Montoya, and legend Michael Andretti are but three graduates to have emerged from Skip Barber Racing's nearly thirty years of training and expertise.