Toronto: Race report

Rojas scores first ever Barber Dodge victory in Toronto. (Toronto, Ontario) July 13, 2003- Memo Rojas of Mexico City, Mexico, took his first ever Barber Dodge Pro Series victory today on the streets of Toronto, storming into the lead at the mid...

Rojas scores first ever Barber Dodge victory in Toronto.

(Toronto, Ontario) July 13, 2003- Memo Rojas of Mexico City, Mexico, took his first ever Barber Dodge Pro Series victory today on the streets of Toronto, storming into the lead at the mid point of the race to hold on and take the win in an action packed race that saw several drivers fall victim to the concrete walls that line the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit. Barber Champ Car Scholarship racer Colin Fleming scored the second podium finish of his rookie Barber Dodge season with his second place result, with David Martinez finishing third for his fourth top-three finish of the 2003 season.

Antoine Bessette took fourth after a race-long battle with Burt Frisselle, who finished fifth to take his second top-five finish of the season. Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship graduate Ward Imrie scored sixth place in just his first professional race start, ahead of Greg Long in seventh. Mike Richardson scored his first top-ten finish of the season in his return to the series with eighth place, as Leo Maia recovered from a mid-race spin to finish ninth. Maia scored one extra championship point with the fastest lap of the race, setting a new track record for the second week in a row. Luis Pelayo rounded out the top ten in his Telmex machine after starting from the thirteenth position.

The result extended Maia's championship points lead after Di Leo fell to thirteenth in the final standings after making contact with the wall, as Rojas is now Maia's closest pursuer, some thirty six points behind. The battle for second in the points is now extremely close, as Rojas, Di Leo, and Martinez are now separated by just four points with three races remaining in the championship. Memo Rojas was overjoyed to get the monkey off his back with his first win in Barber Dodge competition after a season and a half of trying and wasn't sure where to start when describing his busy race day.

"It all happened so fast, that its hard to recall all the passes!" said Rojas. "It was so tough out there, no one was giving an inch. Everything is so competitive in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. I had a bent front wing, and I thought my race was over early on, but I was able to keep going and while the car wasn't very good on the fast corners, I held on for the win. I'm so excited to get this first win, it's the toughest one to get, and I'm so happy that there are so many people from Telmex here to celebrate with me."

Colin Fleming of North Hills, California, continues to improve in his Barber Dodge machine, scoring a third place finish in Portland and backing that up with a strong run to second place in Toronto. Fleming also had a busy race, as he ended the first lap in ninth before clawing his way back up the charts. After the race, an inspection of Flemings car revealed that he had nearly driven the Michelins off his car, as they had been knocked off their beads after contact, but remained attached to the wheel thanks to the safety liner on the Michelins.

"There were cars everywhere in the first corner, and I also got my wing bent, but I just pushed as hard as I could," said Fleming. "Once I got by David, I was trying to reel Memo in, and I was hoping that we could get some more green flag laps in at the end, but it didn't happen. This is a great result for me, though, and hopefully I can keep climbing up the podium and maybe take the win in Vancouver."

David Martinez ran in the lead on three occasions, but was unable to best Rojas in the late stages of the race, declared himself satisfied with the points he earned in his first visit to Toronto after a very hectic race.

"I was also hoping that I was going to have a chance to pass Colin and Memo!" said Martinez. "My car was pretty good, even though I also go hit a couple of times during the race. Memo did a great job, I have to congratulate him on a good run, and I have to say its good to see someone other than Leo in the winners circle! This is also a good result for the championship, and its important to be consistent in this series, so I will keep trying to get more points every chance we have."

Leo Maia led the field to the green flag from pole position as the entire field made it through turn one without incident, which was remarkable given that most of the drivers entered the turn alongside someone else, with the field continuing to run in rows of two.

Maia held onto the lead for the first lap, but was soon under pressure from Dan Di Leo, who had passed David Martinez on the first lap under braking for turn three. Di Leo caught Maia's draft as the two raced nose to tail down Shoreline drive towards turn three and picked the perfect moment to make his move as he completed his pass just before the track went to yellow flag conditions to remove the car of Nelson Philippe, who suffered extensive damage after making contact with David Martinez on the first lap.

On the restart, Di Leo got out ahead of the pack as German Quiroga made a move to pass Rojas as Martinez passed Maia just ahead of them. Rojas wouldn't stand for it, though, as he repassed his fellow Mexican in turn five. Colin Fleming, who had been shuffled back to ninth at the start after having qualified in seventh, was making up lost ground as he passed Antoine Bessette for sixth place.

Further back in the pack, Scott Poirier, Chris Green, and Burt Frisselle were battling for eighth place when they tried to make it three wide in the tight run up leading to turn five, and discovered that three cars were one too many. Scott Poirier ended up the worst of the three, as he was spun with damage into the tire barrier, bringing out the second full course caution of the day. Ward Imrie, running the first professional race of his career, was directly behind the melee and had to take evasive action to avoid hitting the spinning car of Poirier.

The Simple Green Safety team made quick work to remove Poirier's stranded car as the race went back to green once again with Dan Di Leo leading the pack. The front six cars ran nose to tail as Martinez forced his way by Di Leo to take the lead on the tenth lap, with Rojas then taking the top spot from Martinez on the very next lap while Al Unser was forced to retire after suspension damage to the rear of his car prevented him from continuing.

Polesitter Maia was trying to set up a pass of Di Leo when he spun from fourth position in turn five and made light contact with the wall, damaging his nose cone. Maia was able to get underway again, but was forced him to pit for a new nose structure. The Barber Dodge crew did a quick job to get Maia back into the action without going a lap down.

Di Leo, still hoping to take his hometown race, was working hard to get back to the front, but was fighting a loose car, and made contact with the wall on the outside of turn seven, causing significant damage to the rear suspension. Di Leo continued on for several laps, losing positions to Fleming, and then Quiroga, before the young Canadian was forced to retire, the damage being too significant to continue on.

Rojas continued to lead the field, as Martinez shadowed him before Fleming caught him and made the pass for second place as Burt Frisselle and Antoine Bessette disputed forth position. The final yellow flag of the race was brought out when Luis Pelayo spun and made contact with the wall, and collected Chris Green, who was running directly behind and was unable to avoid Pelayo. The race ended under yellow flag conditions, as Rojas took his first ever Barber Dodge Pro Series race win.

The win launches Rojas to the top of the charts in the Dodge Trans-Canada Challenge, with two rounds, Vancouver and Montreal, remaining to decide the winner of the Championship within the Championship. The Barber Dodge Pro Series will race again on the weekend of July 27th on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Ward Imrie , Al Unser Sr. , German Quiroga , Memo Rojas , Mike Richardson , Burt Frisselle , Scott Poirier , Colin Fleming , David Martinez , Chris Green , Luis Pelayo , Nelson Philippe , Antoine Bessette , Greg Long