(CICERO, Ill.) July 28, 2001-Nicolas Rondet of Melle France scored his second victory of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series in the same fashion as the first, wire-to-wire from the pole. Like a metronome keeping the beat, Rondet never missed in his...
(CICERO, Ill.) July 28, 2001-Nicolas Rondet of Melle France scored his second victory of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series in the same fashion as the first, wire-to-wire from the pole. Like a metronome keeping the beat, Rondet never missed in his Mini Vacations Dodge Reynard as from turn-1 he would lead from a history making Sara Senske and Jon Morley. With her second-place finish she becomes the first woman in the history of CART sanctioned races to stand on the podium. It was a career best finish for both Senske and Morley who previously had never scored higher than sixth and fourth respectively. With the win Rondet extends his championship lead over Matt Plumb by 15-points.
"It might have looked easy but a win seldom is. Sara was right there most of the race and I had to keep focused and push all the time," said Rondet. "But this win is good for me. I'm happy for Sara and Jon being their first podium and that my closest competitors in the championship are not here (on the podium). Other than Vancouver, we have three of the four rounds remaining on courses that I expect to perform very well on."
Rondet jumped out to an early lead from the pole. The expected battle for second place between Senske and Hunter-Reay never materialized as Senske easily slotted in behind Rondet in her Lynx Racing Dodge Reynard with the balance of the field swarming into turn-1 two and three abreast. Hunter-Reay began falling back even before crossing the start line. Accelerating out of turn-4 he experienced a drop in power, plummeting him down the order eventually retiring following slight car contact in the opening lap that set his front wing askew.
From the opening lap the first four cars of Rondet, Senske, Morley and David Wieringa remained in that order, nearly nose to tail, for the duration of the race. Weiringa tried his best to pass Morley but was unable to make it stick despite seeing daylight into turn-1 on at least one occasion. Nevertheless, it was to be a career best finish for the Chicago based rookie. Further back in the pack several side-by-side duels resulted in a change of the order. Most notable was Matt Plumb who finished fifth after starting ninth. He engaged in thrilling duels with Peter Boss, Davy Cook and finally Sepp Koster who had attempted on numerous occasions to find a way past Wieringa.
On a track where she knew that it would be difficult for the leaders to pass, Senske continued to pile on the pressure usually around half a second behind Rondet. In the end the Frenchman was inch perfect and without a significant mistake by him the end was nearly a forgone conclusion.
"I'm thrilled," said Senske of Kennewick, Wash. "I'm always looking to race hard and better my position but Nicolas always had the advantage setting the pace and being on the inside line into turn-1 at the start so it was going to be difficult to get around him."
For Morley his first ever oval-race proved to be a breakthrough. Having struggled in the most recent rounds, Morley was never lower than fourth quickest in any of the on track sessions throughout the weekend.
"It's a big weight off my shoulders to be here and I really have to thank Skip Barber because without the Big Scholarship I probably wouldn't have been racing at this level this year. Racing against David (Wieringa) was really unnerving because he's a friend and you don't want to tangle but yet you want to race hard against each other. During the race I played around with my anti-roll bar adjustment, eventually finding a comfortable balance that let me cruise to a third-place," said Morley who drives the No. 11 Barber-CART Scholarship Team Dodge Reynard.
Sixth place eventually went to Koster who had struggled a bit with his cars balance which was a marked contrast to the previous race at Toronto where he proclaimed his car was "magic." Even so he garnered an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Davy Cook finished seventh in his first oval-race start ahead of Roger Yasukawa in eighth. Akihira Okamoto and Rafael Sperafico, also first time oval racers rounded out the Top-10. For the second event in a row, Rene Bauer took home the $500 Conseco Step Up Award finishing in 11th place after starting 19th.
Round 9 moves onto a roller coaster in the form of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course along with the CART FedEx Series. All the action from Chicago airs on ESPN 2 on August 20 at 5:30 p.m. EDT.