(ELKHART LAKE, Wis.) August 17, 2001-After the last round at Mid-Ohio, Sepp Koster knew that in race trim, he was fast. He also knew that in this incredibly competitive series, he needs every advantage he can get, and that he wasn't getting the...
(ELKHART LAKE, Wis.) August 17, 2001-After the last round at Mid-Ohio, Sepp Koster knew that in race trim, he was fast. He also knew that in this incredibly competitive series, he needs every advantage he can get, and that he wasn't getting the advantage in qualifying. Determined not to be stymied by a weak qualifying position, Koster took his Stora Drain Dodge Reynard to the provisional pole for round 10 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Uniquely at Road America, the rules permit the checkered flag lap to count as the mammoth 4-mile track's timing beams are not at the customary start/finish line but at the exit of the final corner. Koster streaked beneath the fluttering checkered flag to set the standard and then kept on going lowering the mark yet again before swerving into the pit lane. Just shy of the qualifying record, the Dutchman stopped the clocks in 2:12.856 sec. for an average speed of 109.291 mph. Roger Yasukawa provisionally starts alongside while Matt Plumb ended the session third overall.
"Everyone is aware that it might rain tomorrow, so that highlighted the importance of this qualifying session. And as you know in recent races I haven't been performing up to standard even though I have been racing well, so I was really focussed on this one," recounted Koster. "The changes we made to the car's set-up were spot on and the car was really sweet to drive. I think the pole is still under threat as we are really good drivers and we'll go faster tomorrow, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Plumb was the first to set the standard after having led the morning practice session. He established the time to beat at 2:16.026 sec, but everyone knew that there was plenty of speed still left on the table. On the next go around, point's leader Nicolas Rondet lowered the mark by nearly two seconds. Eight minutes into the session the red flag came out due to a car stuck in a gravel trap. With the amount of laps already limited by the long track, the field took the opportunity to make their set-up changes. The session went green at the 18th minute and with the specter of another stoppage, everyone went out hard and fast. Yasukawa was the next to blaze through with the quickest time at 2:14.579 sec. at the 21st minute. A minute later, Rondet would reclaim the top spot going two-tenths quicker. Next time around Yasukawa was the fastest by three-tenths. With the five-minute board now showing on the starter stand the full blitzkrieg assault began. Koster was the first to dip into the 13-second bracket followed by Plumb again, then Davy Cook. Rookie Leonardo Maia threw in a few chips with the second quickest time raising some eyebrows in the process. Koster would see his bluff and would set the standard once more, then upped the ante still again on the final lap as the only driver in the 23-car field to break into the 12-second bracket. He sits on the overnight pole by an eight-tenths of a second margin.
Yasukawa who need s a bounty of points this weekend to remain in contention was pleased with his second best time, confident that there is still more speed to be found.
"My car started out the session handling really well, but then I started having problems under braking. On my best lap, I went too deep into turn-5 and that cost me a bit," said the Tokyo Ueno Dodge Reynard driver. "To win the championship I need to win this race, so I need to go 100% all of the time. High speed tracks suit me well."
Plumb would have sat on the overnight front row had Yasukawa not snatched right from under him as they both set their best times on their 10th of 11 laps.
"I'm hoping of course for a dry session tomorrow. I think as a driver I can go a little bit faster and there are still some improvements we can make to the car tonight. Even if it does rain, third is a good position to be in at the start as it puts me on the more favorable side of the track going into turn-1," countered Plumb.
The other two title protagonists fared less well. Overall leader Rondet could only manage fifth best when all was said and done while Ryan Hunter-Reay never came to grips with the leaders going only seventh quick. The balance of the Top-10 finds Cook fourth and Maia sixth marking them as the fastest two rookies. Marc Breuers was eighth quick while another rookie David Weiringa drove well to slot into the ninth position on the provisional grid. Alex Sperafico rounded out the fastest 10.
Final Qualifying takes place Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. CDT. Live timing will be available at barberdodge.com.