(VANCOUVER, B.C.) September 1, 2001 -Roger Yasukawa has been carrying a monkey on his back for nearly three years and today in Vancouver he set that monkey free. In dominant style, leading from the first corner to the checkered flag, Yasukawa...
(VANCOUVER, B.C.) September 1, 2001 -Roger Yasukawa has been carrying a monkey on his back for nearly three years and today in Vancouver he set that monkey free. In dominant style, leading from the first corner to the checkered flag, Yasukawa took his Tokyo Ueno Clinic Dodge Reynard to his first career victory in round 11 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series. Assuming the lead around the outside of turn-1 at the start, Yasukawa withstood the pressure of championship leader Nicolas Rondet for all 25 laps of the 40-minute race. Rondet finished second, tightening the grip on his title bid ahead. Ryan Hunter-Reay blazed from 14th on the grid to finish third, earning the Conseco Step Up Award for gaining the most positions over his starting spot.
"It feels fantastic. I've been waiting for this win for a long time. This felt like the longest race of my life," said an elated Yasukawa, 23 of Santa Monica, Calif. "Since it's so difficult to pass on this track I was determined to get ahead at the start. When Nicolas caught me I kept my focus to take the win. I think I drove 100% today, and didn't make any mistakes."
As Yasukawa alluded to, the start would always be critical. As Rondet paced the field onto the start/finish straight it was Yasukawa who anticipated the green flag better. When they reached the braking zone for turn-1, Yasukawa was already a car-length ahead on the outside. Rondet trailed Yasukawa at the exit of the corner, while those immediately behind were less fortunate. Marc Breuers attempted to hold onto his third starting position on the inside line until he received a big jolt from behind. Matt Plumb appeared to miss his braking point from the third row on the grid and promptly got his nose beneath Breuers, sending the unfortunate Philadelphian spinning into retirement with a broken right rear corner. Plumb lost his shock cover but was able to continue on in third place for the time being. Sepp Koster who had started fourth had to hit the brakes hard to avoid the hapless Breuers and in the process several cars streamed past. Ryan Hunter-Reay meanwhile was making hay while the sun shone and was up to sixth from his 14th starting spot by the exit of turn-1. Koster was relegated to eighth. Behind several other cars spun in the confusion and as a result Davy Cook and Rhonda Trammell ended their race alongside Breuers. Rafael Sperafico and Sara Senske were sent pirouetting, but were able to rejoin. The field gathered for four laps under yellow and when they given the green again it was Yasukawa leading Rondet, Plumb, A.J. Allmendinger, and Tommy Fogarty who also had made a quick start. As the laps began to reel off, Yasukawa would stretch his lead to as much as 2.5 sec. while Koster and Hunter-Reay began to make moves. Within four laps Hunter-Reay advanced from sixth to third. Meanwhile Koster had dispatched those ahead and by lap 13 had moved up to fourth. He then set his sights on Hunter-Reay finally making a move into turn-6. A bump in the road pitched his car momentarily sideways and finding himself in the wrong gear was forced to let Hunter-Reay go. Koster would set the fastest race lap in attempt to make up what he had lost, but in the end Hunter-Reay would not be denied a podium finish.
Back at the front of the field Yasukawa's once comfortable margin had been eaten away by Rondet. Yet without a mistake by Yasukawa, Rondet would have little chance. Yasukawa kept his cool, fighting with a reduction in front end grip to see it through to the next full course caution on lap 20. Rondet and the rest had one more opportunity to make a move with another restart, but Yasukawa would not succumb. A spin at the tail end of the restarting field allowed Yasukawa to take the checkered flag under caution and without any further pressure.
"Roger got a good jump at the start and entering turn-1 he was clearly ahead of me. I tried to challenge but at the same time I wasn't about to crash out of the race at the start," recalled Rondet of Melle, France. "Midway through the race my car began working really well and I was able to easily catch Roger. Going by however was a different story and I knew that he would have to make a mistake. I made him work for this win, and he totally deserves it. I'm very happy for him."
Not only did Hunter-Reay make a tremendous start, but he also battled gamely throughout particularly in battles with Plumb and Koster. In doing so he overcomes a string of misfortune that has dogged him since Chicago at the end of July.
"First of all I want to congratulate Roger. I've raced with him for two years and he deserves the win way before this. I got onto the front straight at the start and saw the guys at the front were playing without us. Next thing I know I'm in sixth place at the exit of turn-1. It was quite a race and I'm happy to be here after starting 14th. I also have to give a big thanks to my crew for sorting out my gearbox troubles," said a relieved Hunter-Reay who drives the No. 31 Barber-CART Scholarship Team Dodge Reynard.
As usual, battles aplenty kept the action taut throughout the field. Koster with the fastest race lap and Plumb sans his nose cover kept ensured that the title fight goes to the last round at Laguna Seca. Allmendinger advanced two positions from whence he started to finish sixth. Fogarty also made the most of his start to finish seventh. Sperafico recovered from the first corner spin to finish eighth while Akihira Okamoto and Christian Szymczak yet again finished in the Top-10.
One round remains at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca on October 14. Round 11 from Vancouver can be seen on ESPN 2 on Sept 28 at 5:30 p.m. EDT.
Top 15 Championship Points After Round 11:
Rondet,158; Koster, 135; Yasukawa, 134; Plumb, 129; Hunter-Reay, 114; Breuers,81; Morley, 73; R. Sperafico, 70; Cook,68; Okamoto,64; Boss,60; A. Sperafico,58; Senske,56; Szymczak, 56; Wieringa, 36