Koster Cleans House (ELKHART LAKE, Wis.) August 19, 2001 -Dutchman Sepp Koster leapt into second place in the fight for the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series title and the $300,000 Career Enhancement Award as he led every lap to win his third race of...
Koster Cleans House
(ELKHART LAKE, Wis.) August 19, 2001 -Dutchman Sepp Koster leapt into second place in the fight for the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series title and the $300,000 Career Enhancement Award as he led every lap to win his third race of the year at Road America. With 20 points for the win plus 1 point for the pole, Koster now has 122 points. Overall leader Nicolas Rondet finished third including the fastest lap of the race netting 15 points giving him 141 overall. Roger Yasukawa ensured that his assault on the title remains in tact with a second place finish. He lies fourth overall with 114 points. Third in the overall with 118 points, Matt Plumb battled gamely overcoming a damaged nose and tire to blaze back through the field and finish sixth.
Koster simply dominated the proceedings in his Stora Drain Dodge Reynard at Road America as he was never to be bested neither in the qualifying nor the race. Leading into the first corner at the start, he needed only to sustain considerable pressure from Yasukawa, Rondet, Plumb early, Davy Cook, and Marc Breuers. But when the battle for second through fourth intensified, Koster opened a gap on lap 11 of 15 and was thus never threatened. The Road America race-winner has gone on to win the title for the last two years.
"Let's keep that streak going," said Koster alluding to the Road America title winner reference. "Towards the end of the season you can see everybody getting a little more intense and taking more chances. You also see who can step it up, so I know I have to focus a little more for these races. After the all the rain I realized that the track had a lot less grip so it took me a lap to settle down. After that I kept my focus and was able to open a gap."
Koster led the field into turn-1, but behind him a swarm of cars jostled to get on his gearbox. Yasukawa used the inside row-2 starting position to his advantage to box out Jon Morley who started on the outside of row 1. By turn-3 Rondet had moved from seventh to fourth behind Plumb. They completed the first lap only to greet the yellow flag. They went green again on lap 3 and on lap 4 into turn-3 Plumb attempted to wrest second place from Yasukawa. In the heat of battle they touched leaving Plumb with a broken front wing, not an interesting proposition on Road America's long straights and fast corners. He pitted for a new nose and Michelin tire and was able to get back out on the lead lap albeit at the tale of the field. Rondet now slipped into third place and a terrific battle for the lead ensued until the field was gathered again for a full course yellow at the mid-point of the 40-minute race. When they were released again on lap-9, Rondet went around the outside of Yasukawa into turn-1. Yasukawa never let up and attempted to retake the position all the way through turn-5. Their battle drew in participation from Breuers and Cook as they pounced on the second and third positions. It was all that Koster needed to separate himself and began to open a gap never to be closed.
On lap 11 Breuers spun at Canada Corner allowing Ryan Hunter-Reay to move into fifth place. It would be short-lived as Hunter-Reay who had struggled throughout the weekend with mechanical issues not of his own making, would find himself again in the same situation. He finished ninth despite all his best efforts. Meanwhile Plumb had been slicing his way through the field. All the way to the checkered flag the resilient American hung tough, clawing his way to sixth and 10 very valuable and hard earned points.
The battle for second was yet to be finalized. With two laps remaining Yasukawa pulled alongside Rondet through the Morraine Sweep and got on the inside at turn-5. Rondet stood steadfast, their wheels touching slightly as they battled side-by-side through turn-6 all the way to turn-8 before Rondet finally yielded. Cook saw an opportunity to go pounce on third place, but Rondet was not about to let two positions go in the space of a mile. Christian Szymczak rose from 12th at the start to work his way to fifth place but had to fight off Plumb, and Hunter-Reay to do so and not until they crossed the finish line was it all settled.
"I'm pretty happy with second place. I wanted to catch Sepp after turn three on the first lap, but once I started to battle with Nicolas, Sepp was just too quick," said Yasukawa who drives the Tokyo Ueno Clinic Dodge Reynard. "I realized that Nicolas knew that I wanted to pass on the inside of turn-5, so I kept to the outside. Then I made a dive-bomb move top the inside. I didn't get as good a shot as I hoped and we went through turns 5 and 6 side by side and touched a bit. When we got to turn-7, I was on the inside line and got ahead. It was very exciting."
Rondet as well enjoyed the hearty competition in spite of not getting ahead.
"I didn't think he was going to dive to the inside that late as he was on the outside," recalled Rondet. "I backed off and went all the way around the outside to get a good run out of turn-5. Finally I was on the outside of turn-7 and I didn't want to end the race there so I said, 'ok, I'll give it up there.'"
A.J Allmendinger turned in a brilliant drive in only his second professional race start in as many weeks. After struggling somewhat over the first three days, he bounced back commandingly to vault from 20th to finish eighth. As a result he nets an extra $500.00 courtesy of the Conseco Step Up Award.
Alex Sperafico of Toledo-Parana, Brazil, driver of the No. 9 Bauducco Dodge Reynard withdrew from round 10 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series when he disagreed with Barber Dodge Pro Series officials over a disallowed time in final qualifying. In accordance with Barber Dodge Pro Series Competition Bulletin # 01-5 section 5.2, "Any off track excursion that results in the failure of a competitor's racecar timing and scoring transmitter to record a lap during practice and qualifying will result in a loss of that timed lap." This rule is consistent with rules used by the CART FedEx Series and the CART Toyota Atlantic Series at Road America. Sperafico believed that he had a time good enough for second on the grid however the lap was not registered electronically and thus disallowed.
Round 11 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series moves onto Vancouver, B.C. in support of the Molson Indy Vancouver on September 1. Round 10 from Road America can be seen on ESPN 2 on September 14 at 5:30 p.m. EDT.
Top 15 Championship Points After Round 10:
Rondet,141; Koster, 122; Plumb, 118; Yasukawa, 114; Hunter-Reay, 100; Breuers,81; Morley, 69; Cook,68; R. Sperafico, 62; Boss,60; A. Sperafico,58; Okamoto,57; Senske,53; Szymczak, 50; Wieringa, 31