Skip Barber National at Hallett: Bonilla and Mandarino Split the Weekend TULSA, Okla. (June 6) - With his runaway victory in round seven on Saturday, Gerardo Bonilla became the year's sixth different winner in the 2004 Skip Barber National ...
Skip Barber National at Hallett: Bonilla and Mandarino Split the Weekend
TULSA, Okla. (June 6) - With his runaway victory in round seven on Saturday, Gerardo Bonilla became the year's sixth different winner in the 2004 Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER. On Sunday, when Lorenzo Mandarino scored top honors in round eight, the Canadian joined Benny Moon as the only other driver to win twice. Still, Marco Andretti's double-podium results -- a third and a second -- after the races this weekend at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit saw him increase his points lead: He went from 8 points over Moon to 22 points over Victor Ramos and Chris Prey. From Mandarino's point of view, however, things went pretty darn well at Hallett. He not only went from seventh to sixth in points, he gained six points overall on Andretti. And this despite missing the first two races of the year.
The first race was, up front, a bit of a snore. Just the way Bonilla wanted it. Bonilla had taken the pole by .161 over Mandarino. At the start, third-starting Andretti snuck in front of Mandarino as Bonilla held the point; within two laps, these three had left Robbie Pecorari behind. Meanwhile, Bonilla was driving in picture-perfect fashion and by lap eight of the scheduled 19 was already 2.2 second up on Andretti -- huge in Formula Dodge terms. While Bonilla was stretching the lead, Mandarino was all over Andretti like you read about and finally went for it in the complex called (mothers, cover the kids' ears) The Bitch, a fourth-gear rising left followed by dropping, off-camber sweeper to the right followed instantly by a short downhill chute to a first gear righthand hairpin. And it worked. And that was the race, Bonilla over Mandarino over Andretti, Pecorari came under late pressure from Prey, who was charging through the field from ninth, but held the round four race winner off to take fourth.
Qualifying for Sunday's round eight was in the morning; clear and hot, the Formula Dodges on the BFG slicks rather than the wets used in Saturday's damp-but-drying track for the race one qualifier. But it didn't matter to Bonilla, who took his second pole of the weekend -- and fourth of the season. Andretti and Mandarino were just a gnat's eyelash behind, with Pecorari again starting fourth and Prey fifth. On this start, Andretti stayed right next to Bonilla into One, a fast third-gear sweeper that leads to a first gear left-hand hairpin, but off-line he had much less grip and no room, so Mandarino took advantage and slotted into second. Bonilla again started to gap the field but Mandarino began to reel him in after four laps. By the start of lap nine, he was right behind Bonilla. Into One they went, and as Mandarino said after the race, "Gerardo didn't make a mistake in One, but I just nailed it perfectly." Mandarino thus got the run and popped to pass into the hairpin.
It was a clean, well executed move, but the problem was, Andretti also tried to get under Bonilla. Late and a touch ill-advised, Andretti's nose caught Bonilla's left-rear and around the erstwhile
leader went (he would re-join quickly, in ninth and finished eighth). After the race series officials discussed the possibility of a sanction, but concluded the move wasn't deliberate, though it should have been avoided, and officially handed Andretti a written warning.
On the last lap, Pecorari tried valiantly to pry third from Prey; he flew under Prey into The Bitch but had way too much speed. As Pecorari slid to the outside, Prey shot underneath him to take the spot back. Victor Ramos, who was just 10 points behind Andretti coming into the weekend, fell off the rails at Hallett. He crashed in the race one qualifier, before the track was at its best, and started a dismal 15th. He worked his way to finish ninth. He salvaged something, at least, in Sunday's race, taking fifth ahead of Moon, who had an equally dismal weekend (12th on Saturday).
With a bit of a break for the series -- up next is a Canadian double-double, as there'll be a Tuesday-Wednesday doubleheader at Mosport July 20-21, followed by a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader at Mt. Tremblant July 24-25 -- the Skip Barber National frontrunners have some time to think about how they can win the $100,000 championship bonus.
Round 7, June 5, 2004
19 laps of 1.8-mile circuit/34.2 miles
Margin of Victory: 4.580 seconds
Leaders: Bonilla 1-19
Fastest Qualifier: Bonilla, 1:26.187/75.185 mph (damp-to-drying)
Fastest Race-lap: Bonilla, 1:25.737/75.580 mph, lap 3
Finishing order (starting position in parentheses)
1. (1) Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, Fla.
2. (2) Lorenzo Mandarino, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
3. (3) Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa.
4. (4) Robbie Pecorari, Aston, Pa.
5. (9) Chris Prey, Oshkosh, Wis.
6. (5) Harrison Brix, Marina del Rey, Calif.
7. (6) Matt Varsha, Atlanta, Ga.
8. (11) Sergio Perez, Zapopan, Mexico
9. (15) Victor Ramos, Brasilia, Brazil
10. (8) Mark Burt, Debary, Fla.
11. (10) John Edwards, Little Rock, Ark.
12. (12) Benny Moon, Shingle Springs, Calif.
13. (13) Jeff Relic, Palm Coast, Fla.
14. (7) Blake Yager, Effingham, Ill.
15. (16) Jonathan Eriksen, Northville, N.Y.
16. (14) Robin Warner, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Round 8, June 6, 2004
20 laps of 1.8-mile circuit/36.0 miles
Margin of Victory: 2.748 seconds
Leaders: Bonilla 1-8; Mandarino 9-20
Fastest Qualifier: Bonilla, 1:24.623/76.575 mph
Fastest Race-lap: Bonilla, 1:24.899/76.326 mph, lap 13
1. (3) Lorenzo Mandarino
2. (2) Marco Andretti
3. (5) Chris Prey
4. (4) Robbie Pecorari
5. (6) Victor Ramos
6. (7) Benny Moon
7. (11) Harrison Brix
8. (1) Gerardo Bonilla
9. (8) Matt Varsha
10. (14) John Edwards
11. (12) Sergio Perez
12. (9) Mark Burt
13. (13) Robin Warner
14. (16) Jonathan Eriksen
15. (15) Jeff Relic
16. (10) Blake Yager
Points standings after 8 of 14 rounds:
1. Marco Andretti, 120
2. Victor Ramos, 98
3. Chris Prey, 98
4. Benny Moon, 96
5. Gerardo Bonilla, 94
6. Lorenzo Mandarino, 77
7. Robbie Pecorari, 74
8. John Edwards, 43
9. Jeff Relic, 38
10. Sergio Perez, 33
11. Harrison Brix, 31
12. Matt Varsha, 30
13. Mark Burt, 28
14. Jason Bowles, 23
15. Robin Warner, 20