Rossoni Snares Provisional Pole and First Point of Season (SEBRING, Fla.) March 14, 2002 -Nilton Rossoni made a little bit of Barber Dodge Pro Series history today in qualifying for the first round of the Series at Sebring International Speedway.
Rossoni Snares Provisional Pole and First Point of Season
(SEBRING, Fla.) March 14, 2002 -Nilton Rossoni made a little bit of Barber Dodge Pro Series history today in qualifying for the first round of the Series at Sebring International Speedway. As Barber Dodge adopts the new CART qualifying rules whereby the fastest qualifier in the first session earns a championship point and a guaranteed front row starting spot, Rossoni becomes the first driver to close one season and open another as the Series' points leader. Rossoni won the Barber Dodge Pro Series title in 2000, before sitting out 2001. Setting the time to beat for final qualifying where another championship point is available, Rossoni lapped the 17-turn 3.7-mile circuit in 2:07.361 sec. Second quickest was Marc Breuers with Christian Szymczak ending up third quick.
"This feels great. The whole week has been a bit tough for me, so I just wanted to put in a good lap because I know tomorrow is going to be the faster day," said Rossoni, 20, from Curitiba, Brazil. "Being on the front row will make a huge difference for the race and having scored a point may pay off down the road. The pole will definitely be decided tomorrow and I'm going to go for it just like I would if I didn't qualify today. My Michelin tires are good, I've never had a problem with them so as long as I don't flat spot one, I'll continue to drive hard."
The 30-minute session opened with A.J. Allmendinger setting the benchmark at 2:09.573 sec. Seven minutes into the session Davy Cook was the first to lower the mark, but Allmendinger answered right back knocking the time down to 2:08.665 sec. At about the same time, 2001 Barber-CART Rookie of the Year Rafael Sperafico who thought to figure prominently in the qualifying went off course, damaging a radiator and ending his day despite a valiant attempt by his crew to get him back on track.
In the ninth-minute, Szymczak shaved four-tenths of a second off of Allmendinger's time then bested his own time on his next pass through the timing
beams. Breuers moved into the second position then improved on his own time as well but it was not enough to take the top spot.
At the halfway point, Szymczak led Breuers, Cook, Julio Campos, and Allmendinger.
Having lurked in the bottom half of the Top-10 early in the session, Rossoni moved into fifth place in the No. 36 Foster's Dodge Reynard before grabbing the provisional pole in the 20th-minute.
Second position traded hands amongst Breuers, Szymczak and Cook in the final five minutes. Rossoni meanwhile improved on his own time in the 29th-minute thereby sealing the overnight pole. Breuers reclaimed the outside provisional pole as his No. 94 Sunoco Dodge Reynard streaked beneath the flying checkered flag only a tenth of a second slower than Rossoni.
"I slowed midway through the session to cool the tires. I didn't stop to make a set-up change which in hindsight I should have," reflected Breuers who hails from Philadelphia, Penn. "I've worked on a lot of different things in my driving over the winter and it's paid off. So far I've had a very consistent run here and I hope I can follow through for the rest of the season."
Szymczak's performance mark's his best qualifying as he enters his second year of Barber Dodge competition.
"I've smoothed things out and am not over-driving the car (this year)," said Szymczak of Oakland, Calif. "I also know the tracks and the people in the series as well as the system, so I feel a lot more relaxed and confident than I did last year."
Cook and Campos rounded out the fast-five, half a second behind the leader. Allmendinger led the bottom half of the Top-10 ending the day in sixth. Trailing him were Leonardo Maia, Daniel Di Leo, Carlos Lievano and Memo Rojas.
Final qualifying will be held tomorrow morning and with cooler conditions likely, the times should fall as the battle for the pole and another championship point heats up.