The Barber Dodge Pro Series concluded its traditional "Spring Training" at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday, Feb 20. The two-day test is the first gathering of the full field of racers for the coming season that kicks off in just over...
The Barber Dodge Pro Series concluded its traditional "Spring Training" at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday, Feb 20. The two-day test is the first gathering of the full field of racers for the coming season that kicks off in just over three week's time on March 17 in support of the SuperFlo 12 Hours of Sebring. The ten fastest times of the two-day prelude were kept within eight-tenths of second of one another ensuring that no one left with a psychological advantage.
Returning for his third year in the Pro Series, Californian Roger Yasukawa emerged the quickest of the bunch in the two-day test recording a lap of 1.04.79 sec around the two-mile Sebring Modified loop on the first morning of the test when the condition were optimum. Yasukawa, the 1999 Barber Dodge Pro Series Co-Rookie of the Year had tested for several Atlantic teams over the off season, coming close to a deal only to walk away in the 11th hour when the terms did not suit him. This was only his second time in a 2001 spec Reynard Dodge.
The Sperafico family handled the second and third quickest times with older cousin Alex edging out Barber-CART Big Scholarship co-winner Rafael. A fast lap of 1:04.83sec. put Alex just behind Yasukawa. Rafael's best was just four-hundredths slower than his cousin's time at 1:04.87 sec. Both Speraficos also recorded their best times on the first morning of the test.
Just missing out on breaking into the 1:04 sec bracket was Pennsylvanian Matt Plumb whose best lap was a 1:05.04 sec effort. Plumb set the time on the second day of the test, thereby making him quickest on the day. Barber-CART Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay was next up at 1:05.14 sec.
The Netherlands' Sepp Koster was next quickest. Koster only recently decided to return for another crack at the Pro Series crown having come tantalizingly close last year. He had tests over the winter with a pair of Indy Lights teams, which would have landed him a drive had sponsorship come through. This test marked his first return to the Reynard Dodge cockpit since the final race of last year. He used the full two days to sort acquaint himself with the new handling characteristics of the 2001 spec car and at the close of business on the second day peeled off a 1:05.19 sec lap.
Equally fast was American Jon Morley, Barber-CART Big Scholarship co-winner. He set a time identical to Koster's also on the second day at 1:05.19 sec.
Sara Senske continues check-in with solidly competitive lap times. She stopped the clocks at 1:05.45 sec. as she attempts to break into the Top-10 in her sophomore season. A shade behind Senske was rookie diver Akihiro Okamoto. His best time was 1:05.49 sec. dash set on the first day.
Rounding out the Top-10 was Frenchman Nicolas Rondet who returns to the Pro Series after a virtual year sabbatical. Rondet raced in the Pro Series in 1998 before moving onto the Atlantic Series in '99. Last year saw him racing in only selected events, and he will start 2001 looking to rekindle the flame full time. Rondet's best time was a 1:05.54 sec lap set on the second day of the test, having not driven the Pro Series car since the end of the '98 season.
The whole of the field will have one more opportunity to square off for bragging rights on March 12 before the Series begins in earnest. That will be on the full 12-Hour course at Sebring the day before the first official practice begins.