The final race of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series ended with a bang at Laguna Seca Raceway this past weekend. Both titles for Champion and Rookie of the Year were up for grabs with it being decided on the last lap at the corkscrew. The title...
The final race of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series ended with a bang at Laguna Seca Raceway this past weekend. Both titles for Champion and Rookie of the Year were up for grabs with it being decided on the last lap at the corkscrew.
The title fight was between Nicholas Rondet and Sepp Koster. Rondet, who won had won every level of the Skip Barber scholarship program except for karts (due to his karting in Brazil and France), came back this season to contest for the Championship. His main counterpart, Koster, who came back as the favorite in his fourth season, battled him hard all the way down to the wire.
Heading into the race, the rookie battle was between Jon Morley, who led by 3 points over Rafael Sperafico, who in turn led over myself by two. Akihira Okamoto was four in back of me and then Christian Szymczak was 8 behind him.
With uncharacteristic qualifying results from Koster, the Dutchman needed a stellar run from 10th to take the win for a chance at the crown. In turn, Rondet, who started second, would have to finish on the podium unless he got fastest race lap worth one point to hold off Koster. As for the rookies who had a good chance at the title, I was 4th in qualifying, Rafael was 7th, and Morley was 8th.
Everyone knew that a showdown was in the making for the race with Koster on the charge through the field while the rookie lead would continually change with every pass.
Matt Plumb looked solid the whole weekend, which carried into the race. He ran a couple seconds ahead of Rondet in the race until 3 laps to go when he stretched it out due to a scuffle at the top of the corkscrew.
At that time, Rondet led the charge up to the corkscrew with Koster closely on his heals and me right in lock step. Koster went to defend and attack on the inside under braking. Rondet also defended which resulted in them getting together and Rondet spinning. The spin slid him back to 4th with a little damage. The incident bent Koster's wing, which made my CODi car clearly faster than him.
For two-and-a-half-laps laps, I looked left and right under him heading into each corner looking for a mistake. Unfortunately for me, he did not make a mistake in which I could capitalize. So, I did my best to force one on him.
On the last lap, I got the run out of turn 6 heading up to the corkscrew where I was given the outside lane. As we past the normal brake zone, I picked the spot that I thought there was no chance to make it further and I broke there. I knew if I barely made it, he would not as I had the radius. We both had slight lock-up and he slid wide of the first apex so I turned in under him.
I thought my plan worked but never imagined he could save his car and demonstrate unbelievable car control without losing a bit. We then went side by side down the corkscrew with me on the outside in the marbles. That did not work out to well as I quickly found the dirt. The next thing I knew, Rafael and Rondet quickly went by. Right then I knew my rookie title was lost but that I gave it my all right down to the end. All I had to do was stay in third and the rookie title was mine but if I did and there was a wreck between two drivers right in front of Morley, then he would have won the title by finishing sixth. It turned out that he finished eighth, with me in fifth, Rondet fourth, Rafael third, Sepp second, and Plumb took the victory. That gave Rafael the Rookie of the Year and Rondet the Championship.
I plan to contest the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship next year.