Maia takes Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship with Vancouver win (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) July 27, 2003- Leo Maia of Oakland, California, took his fifth win of the season today in Vancouver to secure the Barber Dodge Pro Series ...
Maia takes Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship with Vancouver win
(Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) July 27, 2003- Leo Maia of Oakland, California, took his fifth win of the season today in Vancouver to secure the Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship with a patient drive that saw Maia capitalize when his rivals stumbled. Barber-Champ Car Scholarship racer Scott Poirier of Deerfield Beach, Florida, scored his best-ever Barber Dodge Pro Series result with his runner up finish in the Michelin machine over Nelson Philippe of Valence, France, who scored his first visit to the podium in Barber Dodge competition with his third place finish.
Dan Di Leo of Markham, Ontario, finished a disappointed fourth after leading eighteen laps before pitting for a penalty and losing several positions. Burt Frisselle scored his third top-five finish of the season ahead of Mexican German Quiroga in sixth. Ward Imrie finished seventh, matching his impressive result at Toronto two weeks ago in just his second Barber Dodge start. David Martinez finished eighth, with Memo Rojas in ninth. Al Unser finished tenth for his third top-ten finish of the season.
The forty-minute event was a dramatic one, with three different drivers holding on to the lead during the first Barber Dodge street circuit race to go the distance under green flag conditions since 1999, a testament to some heads-up driving by the young field. Maia led the field to the green flag from the pole position, but by the end of the first lap, David Martinez had taken the lead with Mia behind him as Colin Fleming got by Nelson Philippe for fourth. The lead four drivers began to break away from the pack with Martinez leading Maia, Di Leo, and Fleming. Things got interesting as Maia got a run on Martinez and made a bold pass into turn six, taking the lead for a moment before Di Leo made it three wide heading into turn seven and passed both Maia and Martinez for the lead.
Maia got shuffled back to fourth on the next series of corners as Di Leo took the lead ahead of Martinez and Fleming. The top four ran nose to tail for the next several laps, separated by just .6 of a second. Fleming began to put the pressure on Martinez in second place, allowing Di Leo to grow his lead. Fleming, who was coming off of a strong second place finish in Toronto, though, got wide in turn three and made contact with the wall, ending his race early.
David Martinez, now clear of the pressure from Fleming, began to draw close to Di Leo, and drew alongside him on the front stretch as he tried to make a pass on the inside in turn one. The two were along side each other under braking, and as Di Leo turned in, Martinez shortened his turning radius to avoid contact. The two cars did not make touch, but Martinez none the less spun to the inside on the curbing in turn one. The course stayed green as Martinez was able to right his car and rejoin the field in tenth position. The Barber Dodge stewards determined that Di Leo had been blocking Martinez, and gave the young Canadian the black flag for a drive through penalty, handing the lead to a patient Maia.
Di Leo heeded the black flag, even though he disagreed with the stewards decision.
"Its disappointing for me, to be in the lead and then have it taken away," said Di Leo. "I don't agree with the call, but at least I got to the front and was able to show what I can do, which is really important for me to do with an eye towards next year, when I hope to be in the Atlantics. There is one more race in Canada when we go to Montreal, so I will try to get another win there, since its so important to me to do well in my home country."
Behind Maia, the battle between Scott Poirier and Nelson Philippe, which was originally a battle for fifth place, and became a battle for fourth when Fleming retired, and then a battle for third when Martinez spun, became a battle for second with Di Leo's penalty. Poirier shadowed the young French racer and got a run on him late in the race, outbraking him to take second place in turn six.
Maia held on to take the win by 9.026 seconds over Poirier, taking the Pro Series Championship in just the eighth round, matching the feat of AJ Allmendinger in 2002.
"CART Champ Car would like to congratulate Leo on his fantastic feat of securing the championship," said CART C.O.O. David Clare. "We hope to see him follow in the successful steps of Ryan Hunter-Reay and A.J. Allmendinger as he works his way up the Champ Car Ladder System."
Maia didn't think he was going to take the championship after falling to fourth in the early going of the race.
"The start didn't go as planned, and David got by me, but then towards the middle of the race I started to catch him and I passed him in six, and then Dan got inside of me in the next corner," said Maia. "David and I ran side by side for the next three corners, and then he got me so I ended up back in forth, but I just stayed patient, since the last thing I wanted to do was crash or take anyone else out, so I just let it happen. I knew I had a good car, so you know you have to pick your spots. Then, Colin spun in front of me, and it was a close call, I had to get hard on the brakes, and I was just lucky that we didn't make contact. I'm really happy just to be here with a car in one piece, actually, since there was so much happening out there!"
Maia was ecstatic to take the championship, but was at a loss for words to describe the feeling, but he knows it can only help his career moving forward.
"The championship means a lot, since it gives me something to bring to the table with all the Atlantics owners when I'm talking to them about next season," said Maia. "I also get the Career Enhancement award as well as the test with RuSport, so this means a lot to me and should be very important to my career. I began watching the Barber Dodge Pro Series when I was fifteen years old, and to set this championship as a goal, which seemed so unattainable, and to now realize that goal, I don't even know how to describe it. Its so rewarding to dedicate yourself to something, and then to achieve it."
Scott Poirier had his best weekend of his rookie season, and has a keen eye on the rookie of the year battle.
"I'm really excited to be here! This weekend, I just put my head down, got a good set up in the car and ran a clean race and the result just came to me. I'm feeling like I can start to put it all together now that I have changed my approach to the race weekend, and its paid off. I have to say that Nelson drove a great race, we were fighting the whole time. He made a mistake though, and I was able to get a run on him and make the pass. I also want to congratulate Leo on his championship, he works really hard, and it's a good example for us guys in our rookie year of what to do."
Nelson Philippe has been very competitive this season, but had yet to see the results he was hoping for until Vancouver.
"This feels great to be on the podium, we have been working so hard for this all year," said Philippe. "Like Leo said, when you dedicate yourself to something, it feels good to realize the efforts. We have been working hard, I'm hoping the next race, I can be back on the podium again and then try to get a win in Montreal! I also want to congratulate Leo on his championship--Its incredible to me how Leo is never over head, and always keeps his cool. Its really amazing his dedication."
The Barber Dodge Pro Series will race again in two weeks time at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.