Cleveland: Race notes

Maia dominates in Cleveland. (Cleveland, OH) July 05, 2003- Leo Maia of Oakland, California, led from flag to flag at Burke Lakefront Airport to take his fourth win of the season with a dominating performance that saw him cross the finish line...

Maia dominates in Cleveland.

(Cleveland, OH) July 05, 2003- Leo Maia of Oakland, California, led from flag to flag at Burke Lakefront Airport to take his fourth win of the season with a dominating performance that saw him cross the finish line 17.542 seconds ahead of second place Dan Di Leo. Maia's fastest race lap of 1:13.661 seconds bested the previous race lap record, held by current Toyota Atlantics Championship points leader and 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series champion A.J. Allmendinger.

Laguna Seca round winner Di Leo scored his third podium finish of the season with his second place result, as German Quiroga of Mexico City, Mexico, made his first ever appearance on the Barber Dodge podium with a third place finish. Second round race winner David Martinez finished fourth, with Luis Pelayo of Mexico City, Mexico outdragging Burt Frisselle to the finish line for fifth place. Memo Rojas lost out at the start and fell back in the order but finished seventh, with Scott Poirier matching his eighth place qualifying effort with an eighth place finish. David Wieringa finished in ninth in his second Barber Dodge race of the season, with Portland podium finisher Colin Fleming finishing in tenth.

Leo Maia had a perfect weekend for the second race in a row, and extended his points lead to thirty-two over Di Leo with four races remaining in the 2003 season after he earned twenty-three championship points for the weekend after he won a point for each pole position he secured, twenty points for the victory, and one for scoring the fastest lap of the race.

"This was the best race I have ever had," said Maia. "I was pushing as hard as I could every session this weekend. It's really satisfying to get this result. My car was absolutely perfect, the best car I have ever driven and I was pushing hard every lap to build as much of a gap as possible."

When asked why he didn't ease off in the middle stages of the race after having established such a big lead, Maia showed why he's leading in the championship with his "never settle" attitude.

"I didn't want to let up at all," said Maia. "There is going to be a race maybe in the future where maybe someone is going to be right behind me, and I wont have the luxury of the lead so I have to keep my efforts at 100% every time I'm in the car to prepare for that. I also don't want to just go for the win at the minimum effort, I want to put in the absolute best performance I can, and so that's what kept me motivated today. I also wanted to break A.J.'s (Allmendinger) record!"

Dan Di Leo, who broke through to take his first win in the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Laguna Seca race, was happy to take the points for second place, but still is restless to displace Maia once again on the top step of the podium.

"Leo and I talked a lot before the race about how to get through clean on the first lap," said Di Leo. "It wasn't so much a question of who went through first, since we had forty minutes to race, but more making sure we just got through the corner and let the race unfold from there," said Di Leo.

Di Leo remains intent on keeping his eye on the larger prize, the championship.

"I had a pretty good car today, and felt like I gave it everything I had, but Leo just had us covered today. There isn't much else I can do except keep giving it my all. The championship is far from decided with four races yet to go, so I am looking forward to getting to Toronto for my home race. "

German Quirgoa, piloting the Gigante-backed machine, was overjoyed with his third place result, his best ever in the Pro Series.

"It was a great race, I was concerned at the start, coming from sixth place, with so many guys right around me, but I was able to get through clean and come out in fourth and go racing from there," said Quiroga. "I caught up to David, and was able to get by him and from there, I just focused on getting to the checkered flag and getting my first podium. This is a great result for me as I keep getting better every time in the car, and to have my sponsors here on hand to see this is such a highlight for me!"

The forty minute race got off to a good start, as the field formed into rows of two to take the green flag from starter Doug Hill. The rows quickly disappeared, though, as the field fanned out for the tight first corner. Maia held his lead as Di Leo looked inside and then thought better of an inside pass, which allowed David Martinez to gain second position.

The battle for positions went on throughout the field, and as the remainder of the field jousted for positions, there wasn't enough room for everybody, as Antoine Bessette was spun and struck Al Unser under braking for the first corner. The contact eliminated both racers from continuing while Chris Green also suffered damage to his front wing and was forced to pit for repairs under the ensuing yellow flag.

At the restart, Maia again held onto the lead, with Martinez keeping second place as Di Leo followed inline ahead of Quiroga, who had started the race from sixth position. The three battled for second place for much of the first green flag lap, running three wide on occasion on the wide layout at Burke Airport, before filing into order again.

Maia was enjoying the battle behind him in his mirrors as he set out to establish a gap to the pack, adding nearly half a second on each tour of the 2.106 mile circuit. Di Leo began to reel in Martinez, and passed him for second place on the eleventh lap and soon built his own gap over third place as he tried to track Maia down.

Nelson Philippe, who held a race long battle with Al Unser in the Portland round event, got plenty of wheel to wheel experience again on the shores of Lake Erie, as he battled at different points of the race with Colin Fleming, Burt Frisselle, Ryan Millen, and Memo Rojas. Each of the drivers put on superb demonstrations of both the passing opportunities available at the circuit as well as of how mature the field can be, as they fought close but clean, giving the other drivers the room needed so that both cars could get through the corners, often making passes on the entry of a corner only to be passed at that exit of the same corner. The close side by side racing made a fantastic show for the fans at Burke.

The race stayed green, much to the dismay of Di Leo, who struggled to break into Maia's lead. Maia didn't make his task any easier, breaking the track record with his fastest lap of the race on the twenty fifth lap. Quiroga drew in on Martinez in the late stages of the race, and passed his fellow Mexican for third. The order remained static with Maia leading Di Leo and Quiroga as Martinez ran ahead of Pelayo and Frisselle, who were separated by less than six inches as they raced towards the checkered flag, with Pelayo getting across the stripe ahead of Frisselle for fifth.

The Barber Dodge Pro Series will race again next weekend at the Molson Indy Toronto.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers David Wieringa , German Quiroga , Memo Rojas , A.J. Allmendinger , Burt Frisselle , Scott Poirier , Colin Fleming , David Martinez , Chris Green , Nelson Philippe , Antoine Bessette , Ryan Millen , Doug Hill , Al Unser