St. Pete: Saturday final qualifying notes

Maia takes St. Pete pole for Saturday's race. (St. Petersburg, Fla.) February 22- Leo Maia made the most of final qualifying to take the pole position for Saturday's race with a lap time of 1:14.142 seconds on the 1.806-mile temporary street ...

Maia takes St. Pete pole for Saturday's race.

(St. Petersburg, Fla.) February 22- Leo Maia made the most of final qualifying to take the pole position for Saturday's race with a lap time of 1:14.142 seconds on the 1.806-mile temporary street circuit in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Barber Dodge Pro Series again showed itself to be one of the most competitive categories in the world, with the top eleven drivers qualifying within one second of each other.

Leonardo Maia.
Photo by Jack Durbin.

Josh Beaulieu will start alongside Maia on the strength of his provisional pole from Friday qualifying after he was unable to improve in the second session, with Dan Di Leo starting third. Mexican Memo Rojas made a big jump in second qualifying to move from his first qualifying spot of sixteenth up into fourth in his Telmex machine and should prove to be a factor in the race. Scott Proirier will line up on the third row alongside Pro Series returnee Alexandre Sperafico, who also made a big improvement in the second session to move himself closer to the front. Nelson Philippe of Valence, France continued to impress in his professional auto racing debut, taking the seventh slot in qualifying to start the race alongside Formula Dodge National Championship presented by Racer graduate Burt Frisselle. Colin Fleming of North Hills, California will start his Dodge-liveried machine alongside of Canadian Chris Green to make up the ninth and tenth qualifying spots respectively.

The forty-minute qualifying session was Maia's from start to finish, as he was the first to break into the sub-1:15 barrier with a lap of 1:14.720 seconds midway through the session, and soon shaved his time down to 1:14.409 and kept improving lap after lap, eventually taking a full second off of his time from Friday. The Oakland, California native was excited about taking the pole for his new sponsor Pit Bull, and hoping he could translate the pole into a win the same way he did last season at Road America.

" I'm really happy to be starting at the front for the race," said Maia. "The Michelins were really good and the car just kept getting better. I'd like to get out front at the start, and build up a gap to the rest of the pack. My confidence is really high in the car, and I can't wait to get to the race."

Josh Beaulieu was unable to keep his pole spot in the second round of qualifying after missing the set-up initially in the session, and then not being able to get the clear track he needed to best Maia's time.

" Had some problems with traffic," said Beaulieu. " I have to tell you, though, that my car feels really strong, and I think Leo is dreaming if he thinks he's going to just walk away from us this afternoon!"

Dan Di Leo is also feeling confident of his chances in this afternoons race after having some problems mid-session, but rebounding to improve his time by more than half a second over Friday.

"Starting in the top three is really good in this series, since its so competitive," said Di Leo. "The race should be really interesting with this layout, as there are so many passing opportunities that we won't be running single file at all here like some of the other street track we race at. I am expecting more from myself this season, and hope to convert this qualifying into some good points and hopefully my first win."

Other notable efforts included Matt Franc's leap from twentieth qualifying spot up into fourteenth spot with a session-closing flyer in his SBR Special. German Quiorga was strong again in his Gigante car before mechanical problems ended his session early. With the first twenty cars qualifying within two seconds, the race is sure to provide plenty of action and passing on the smooth, wide temporary waterside circuit. Full results and story to be posted at www.barberdodge.com.

The Barber Dodge Pro Series is the Official Entry Level Professional Series of Champ Car. The drivers utilize identically prepared single seat open wheel Reynard-Dodge racecars. Barber Dodge Pro Series provides a level playing field where driving talent, not financial resources, play the decisive role. This state-of-the-art platform, with its carbon composite construction, raised nose and 6-speed sequential gearbox, takes full advantage of the 265hp all aluminum Dodge V6 Intrepid motor that is exclusive to this series. Additionally, all of the Barber Dodges compete on identical Michelin Pilot racing slicks.

To ensure absolute equality for all competitors, the Barber Dodge Pro Series owns, maintains, prepares and transports all the cars and equipment. This serves to control costs while allowing the drivers to concentrate solely on developing their driving skills. The Barber Dodge Pro Series rewards those with dedication and skill with true financial incentive - an incredible $55,100 in prize money is available for each Barber Dodge Pro Series event with $13,000 going to the race winner. The overall Series Champion receives a $100,000 scholarship towards entry in the Toyota Atlantic Championship, and the series Rookie of the Year receives $185,000 in career enhancement funding. In total, the Barber Dodge Pro Series pays out over $1 million annually in prize money, contingencies and scholarships.

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About this article
Series Barber Pro
Drivers Josh Beaulieu , Memo Rojas , Leonardo Maia , Burt Frisselle , Chris Green , Nelson Philippe