(SEBRING, Fla.) Nov.7, 2000 -The Barber Dodge Pro Series "Big Scholarship" shoot out got underway today at Sebring International Raceway with seven young racers driving their hearts out to win the $185,000 "Big Scholarship" entitling them to a...
(SEBRING, Fla.) Nov.7, 2000 -The Barber Dodge Pro Series "Big Scholarship" shoot out got underway today at Sebring International Raceway with seven young racers driving their hearts out to win the $185,000 "Big Scholarship" entitling them to a full ride in the 2001 Pro Series. Five of this year's seven invitees are American, dispelling the belief that there are no opportunities for young American open-wheel drivers to advance their careers.
Curt Andrews, 22, of Plymouth, Wis., Chip Bryant, 22, of New Braunfels, Tx., Ryan Howe, 21, of Murrieta, Calif., Patrick Long, 19, of Agoura, Calif., and Jon Morley, 20, of Lewis Center, Ohio represent the American invitees while newly crowned Formula Dodge National Champion Anthony Simone, 20, carries the flag for Canada. Brazilian Rafael Sperafico, 19, rounds out the list.
Judging the invitees are 10 panelists including factory Corvette driver Kelly Collins and Indy Northern Lights Race Series race winner Robbie Buhl, himself the 1989 Barber Pro Series champion. Also on hand to critique are motorsports journalists Jeremy Shaw and Gordon Kirby as well as all of the Barber Dodge Pro Series coaches.
The first session began with a 40-minute free practice that saw the drivers acquaint themselves with the Barber Dodge Reynard. Howe topped the session with 1:08.223 sec lap around the 1.937-mile Sebring test circuit. Hot on his heels was Simone with a 1:08.264 sec. followed by Morley (1:08.462), Long (1:08.612), Sperafico (1:08.677), Bryant (1:09.146), and Andrews (1:09.245).
The second session provided an opportunity for the panelists to assess the driver's technical skills. Following a short warm up, each of the drivers was brought in whereupon a change was made to the cars handling. The drivers were then given two timed laps to diagnose the change and give feedback. The same procedure was repeated twice more with each driver receiving the same change. Long recorded the quickest lap of that session with a 1:08.540 followed by Morley with a 1:08.616 and first session leader Howe with a 1:08.705.
The third and final on track session was treated like a first qualifying session at race weekend, with drivers allotted 30 minutes to make changes to the car as permitted by the Pro Series rules and set a fast time.
Long again emerged quickest setting a time of 1:08.202 under a strong late afternoon sun heated the track robbing the racecars of both grip and power. Howe continued his strong form finishing 0.114 sec. (1:08.316) behind Long. Third quick was Morley (1:08.418) a further tenth of a second behind Howe. Sperafico finished fourth (1:08.532) quickest, he too another tenth behind Morley with Simone fifth (1:08.691), Andrews sixth (1:08.876) and Bryant seventh (1:09.827).
The day concluded with all of the drivers attending a mock press conference giving the panel some insight into the drivers marketing and public relations skills, an asset almost as valuable as their driving prowess.
Day two of the shootout will see the invitees taking to the track once more for a final qualifying session before the panel adjourns to deliberate on the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series "Big Scholarship" winner.
Quotes from the invitees after Day 1.
"The afternoon session was a little tricky when they tried to change some things on us. I think I figured out what they were trying to get us to do. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
"This is almost overwhelming. It's been a lot of fun, a great learning experience. I wish everybody could do it."
"I'm working on a new driving style that's better for the car. I'm doing what they've (Barber Dodge driver coaches) advised me to do. You brake the car, coast then wait to squeeze on the throttle. This is great fun, meeting all these people like Jeremy Shaw and Gordon Kirby and having Jeremy Dale to work with on my set up is a great experience."
"I feel good today, because everybody here is helping me giving me information about what I need to do inside the car and out."
"The end result of the day so far has made this all extra worthwhile. I feel lucky to be involved in such a professional program. The whole thing starting with working with the Human Performance Institute to last night's dinner to today has been great. Hopefully it will continue tomorrow and we can come out on top."
I was happy with the day today. Hopefully tomorrow we can back and be a little quicker. The experience to come here and drive the car and all the people here who help you is amazing."
"I had a good first session and I've been able to stay near the top all day so it's been a very positive result. This whole experience has been really great. Everyone's very helpful and I'm learning something every time I get in the car."