The prowess that Japanese driver Akihira Okamoto displayed during the first round of qualifying for the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER finale yesterday was no fluke. Okamoto, an at-large invite to the championship series'...
The prowess that Japanese driver Akihira Okamoto displayed during the first round of qualifying for the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER finale yesterday was no fluke. Okamoto, an at-large invite to the championship series' final race set the qualifying benchmark in the first round of qualifying to take the over night pole at 56.219 sec over the 1.53-mile Lime Rock Park circuit. This morning, none of the National Championship regulars could topple him. Neither for that matter could Okamoto beat his own time. Compatriot Toshinobu Shigemitsu, who will start second on the grid, topped this morning's session. His fast time of 56.254 sec was only fractions off the time set by Okamoto in the first session. Jonathan Strohm of Wildwood, Mo. leapfrogged Landon Yee to start third.
Lime Rock Park basked in radiant morning sunshine when the green flag dropped. Despite that, cold track temperatures and an incompatibility between the rubber compounds of the Michelin Pilot CS racing slicks that shod the Formula Dodge R/T 2000 and the rubber laid down by the other competitors contributed to the inability of many drivers to make significant improvements in their provisional times.
"I made a mistake in turn-3 this morning, and because I was on the pole I let off and took it easy. Yesterday I ended up with my best time on the lap that I was really going for it," said Okamoto who admitted to being surprised at being on pole. "I am surprised, but it is always my goal to be in first place."
Okamoto, 21, from Osaka, Japan completed his first season of racing in the United States last week in the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship. He finished second to Chip Bryant in that series. Prior to racing in America, Okamoto raced in karts before moving onto Formula Junior 1600 in Japan.
Shigemitsu, like Okamoto, has prior experience in karting and Formula Junior 1600 before coming to the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship at the beginning of the year. His effort to topple friend Okamoto fell just fractions short, though he was satisfied to top final session.
"I had confidence left over from last weekend (at the Eastern Regional finale at Lime Rock Park)," said the Hiroshima, Japan native. "The track was cold this morning and I did not get a clear lap. If I had, I might have beaten Akihiro."
Strohm put on one of his best performances of the season since the second round at New Hampshire International Raceway. He was among the few drivers who managed to improve on their provisional positions. Second quick in today's session, he will start the final race of the season from the inside of row 2.
The title protagonists were unable to make any significant headway through the field. Bryan Sellers finished seventh in the session improving his time but not his tenth position on the grid. He needs a win over Canadian Anthony Simone who actually fell back three spots and will start the race in 12th. Regardless of what Sellers does, Simone will be crowned the champion with an 11th place or higher finish.
The final round of the 2000 Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER will see the green flag drop at 11:15 a.m. later today, Saturday, Oct. 14.
<pre> Final Qualifying Results Round 13 Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER Lime Rock Park Oct. 14, 2000
1. Akihira Okamoto/0:56.219 2. Toshinobu Shigemitsu/0:56.344 3. Jonathan Strohm/0:56.507 4. Landon Yee/0:56.581 5. Jon Morley/0:56.632 6. Scott Presti/0:56.769 7. Leonardo Maia/0:56.779 8. Christian Szymczak/0:56.810 9. Craig Duerson/0:56.842 10. Bryan Sellers/0:56.845 11. Chip Bryant/0:56.861 12. Anthony Simone/0:56.912 13. Brian Rivera/0:56.922 14. Dan Di Leo/0:57.010 15. Tophie Stewart/0:57.074 16. Damian Della Santina/0:57.107 17. Kevin Christensen/0:57.165 18. Davy Cook/0:57.208 19. Chris Baker/0:57.472 20. Michael Rossi/0:57.474 21. Todd Russo/0:57.901
- George Tamayo