GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Aug. 27) - Sepp Koster of the Netherlands had a familiar day to any traveler, with the possible exception of the fairytale ending. A disabled rental car delayed the arrival of Koster and co-pilot Iradj Alexander of...
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Aug. 27) - Sepp Koster of the Netherlands had a familiar day to any traveler, with the possible exception of the fairytale ending.
A disabled rental car delayed the arrival of Koster and co-pilot Iradj Alexander of Switzerland until an hour before the only Barber Dodge Pro Series practice session at the 1.58-mile, 13-turn Scott Brayton Memorial Street Circuit in downtown Grand Rapids Friday.
Forced to rely on his memory, Koster hopped into his cockpit and promptly set the fastest lap of the day in the 30-minute practice at the West Michigan Grand Prix. Koster's best time of 1:16.821 averaging 74.042 mph edged defending series champion Jeff Simmons (1:16.965/73.904) for top honors. Simmons finished second at Grand Rapids last year.
"Yesterday night we were supposed to come out from Indiana, where we were staying with some friends, and the rental car did not fire up. We took it to the garage this morning and they weren't able to fix it so we had to borrow a car from the people we were staying with and drive up," Koster said. "I felt comfortable about the weekend, because I have a new mechanic that I work well with, Bill Henderson. I thought about setup for a long time and decided to go my own way. It's okay for the moment, but the track will change quite a bit tomorrow."
Todd Snyder, entering the weekend with a two-race winning streak that vaulted him to second in the championship point standings, was third quickest at 117.154 at 73.723 mph.
Jamie Menninga, who finished third on the street circuit at Detroit's Belle Isle, had the fourth best time of the day at 1:17.238/73.643 mph.
"I qualified 24th out of 26 cars here last year, but the race went well and I finished ninth," Menninga said. "This year is going to be nice. It's a rhythm track, which I like, so I'm looking for a good finish."
Jon Fogarty (1:17.463/73.429) followed Menninga, with Roger Yasukawa (1:17.673/73.230 mph) and Alexander (1:17.725/73.181 mph) slotting to the sixth and seventh slots, respectively. Brian Pelke, Nilton Rossoni and Peter Boss comprised the remainder of the top 10.
The track was still under construction in the morning hours, but came together rapidly and opened only half an hour behind schedule. The layout, which snakes through the narrow downtown streets, presented a number of challenges to the drivers with a combination of tight first gear corners and faster sweeping turns. Precision is a mandatory asset.
"If you get off in one corner, you're screwed up for the next few. And there's a jump in the braking zone going into turn one," Menninga said. "There's a lot of people watching and it's cool that it's set right downtown. It gets loud going between the buildings and excites everybody."
Koster, having already survived one ordeal, was ready to defend his position in the two qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday.
"I won't give it up for free," promised the amiable Dutchman.