Mid-Ohio preview

WHAT: Round 9 of 12 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series in support of the CART FedEx Miller Lite 200. WHEN: Qualifying Friday, Aug. 10 at 4:15 p.m. (30 minutes); Final Qualifying Saturday, Aug. 11 at 11:30 a.m. (30 minutes); RACE START Sunday,...

WHAT: Round 9 of 12 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series in support of the CART FedEx Miller Lite 200.

WHEN: Qualifying Friday, Aug. 10 at 4:15 p.m. (30 minutes); Final Qualifying Saturday, Aug. 11 at 11:30 a.m. (30 minutes); RACE START Sunday, Aug. 12 at 4:15 p.m. (40 Minutes)

WHERE: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio

WHO: 23 drivers from six different countries [entry list available at barberdodge.com]

TELEVISION: ESPN 2 Sept. 4 @ 1:00 p.m. EDT; rebroadcast on Sept. 10 @ 5:30 p.m. EDT

Drivers who have used the Barber Pro Series as a steppingstone into the world of top level auto racing include: 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner and current CART driver Kenny Brack; 2000 Indy 500 winner and current driver for the BMW-WilliamsF1 team, Juan Pablo Montoya

All drivers compete in identically prepared single-seat, open-wheel race cars which are owned, maintained and transported by the Barber Dodge Pro Series.

In 1998, world famous racecar manufacturer Reynard Motorsport, was called upon to design an all new carbon-fiber monocoque chassis exclusively for the series. That chassis is mated to an all aluminum 3.5 liter V6 Dodge engine tuned to deliver 265 peak horsepower driven through a six-speed sequential Hewland gearbox. The Reynard Dodge 98E is shod with Michelin Pilot SX racing slicks.

Races are 40 minutes in duration with points allocated to the top-15 finishers (20 to the winner, then 16-14-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). A driver's ten best results count toward the championship total. An additional point is awarded to the fastest qualifier. $1 million in prize money is awarded over the course of the year.

All 12 rounds of the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series will again be televised on ESPN2 as well as ESPN International.

Time to Step Up

With the final quarter of the season now upon us, the Barber Dodge Pro Series enters its final stretch of 2001when it arrives at the Mid-Ohio Sports Course this coming weekend. On the surface, Frenchman Nicolas Rondet arrives with a fifteen-point margin on American Matt Plumb in the overall standings. They in turn have slight margin over positions three through five held respectively Roger Yasukawa, Sepp Koster and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Yet because only a driver's ten best results count toward the overall title, the battle in fact is tighter than it may first appear. Currently, by eliminating their two worst performances to date, the top-5 would show Rondet and Plumb tied for the lead on 91 with Koster five-points behind. Hunter-Reay would be next on 81points followed by Yasukawa on 73. Regardless, the mandate for Mid-Ohio is a victory which is a very real possibility for any of the aforementioned.

Both Rondet and Koster have been on the Mid-Ohio podium previously (Rondet in '97 and '98 finishing second and Koster in '00 with a third place). Following his victory in Chicago a week ago, Rondet was optimistic about his chances at Mid-Ohio which he described as a proper road course where he expects to perform well. Plumb's best result in his previous two visits is a seventh place earned last year, and the same goes for Yasukawa though his came in '99. Hunter-Reay finished sixth in his first professional appearance at Mid-Ohio last year.

Yet as always in this tightly competitive series, a breakthrough performance can occur at any time. Very much a threat to the overall title, Yasukawa is still looking to seal his first Barber Dodge win. Coming off of his first podium in Barber Dodge competition, Jon Morley returns to his home track and the site of his professional debut last year. Improving on his third-place finish from Chicago and extending his lead as the top rookie lead are tops on his agenda. A victory at home for the Columbus, Ohio native would be as sweet as the local corn. Rafael Sperafico and Davy Cook are Morley's principal rivals in the Battle for the $185,000 Barber-CART Rookie of the Year Scholarship. Also riding a wave of momentum is Sara Senske. After her career high finish (2nd place) in Chicago, Senske is out to prove that her road course prowess is on par with her oval skills. So too will David Wieringa who also had a break-through performance in Chicago.

Three drivers from the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER will make their professional race debuts at Mid-Ohio. Current runner-up in the National Championship standings A.J. Allmendinger will be joined by fellow Californians Leonardo Maia and Tophie Stewart. These three racers are currently vying to be CART's first-ever National Amateur Champion. While that title is the focus of their 2001 campaign, the Mid-Ohio race presents a great opportunity for the trio to familiarize themselves with the ways of the Barber Dodge Pro Series, their next stop on the racing ladder. The tough competition of the National Championship Series will have prepared them well for the fierce competition at the professional level yet undoubtedly they will have to raise their game to a whole new strata if they are menace the established front runners.

Thus the time is nigh upon us to step up or think of what might have been.

-CART/BARBER-

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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Williams