SBRS: Okamoto Narrows the Gap

Akihira Okamoto was perfect, winning twice at the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship to reduce the points lead held by Chip Bryant. Five measly points now separate the two, who had been undefeated going into rounds seven and eight of the...

Akihira Okamoto was perfect, winning twice at the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship to reduce the points lead held by Chip Bryant. Five measly points now separate the two, who had been undefeated going into rounds seven and eight of the series. Seventy-one racers participated in rounds nine and ten this weekend at scenic Lime Rock Park, Connecticut.

On the first day of racing, Group 1 saw Chip Bryant start out with a win to temporarily extend his lead over Okamoto. Bryant, starting from pole, led the entire race to win convincingly. Paul Zube took second place, Mikel Miller third. Miller's result was notable for having starting from 12th on the grid. Chris Otis was awarded maximum points for first among Master's class, the 40-plus category.

In Group 2, Todd Russo won his first race of the weekend in a classic battle with Chris Willcox. Russo, who had the fastest lap of the session at 1:02.093 sec., got a run on Willcox on the final turn and snared the victory by a nose cone. Robert Grien took third place honors.

In Group 3, Dan Kraus pulled out to an early lead en route to an uncontested victory. The real scrapping occurred between Roland Isra and Len Forman for second place, with Isra eventually gaining the result. Isra's second place was still good enough for best among the Master's category. Tom Nastasi had a notable drive, advancing from 12th at the start to finish in sixth.

Okamoto made the most of his first race opportunity in Group 4, withstanding a strong challenge from Todd Russo before relegating him to second place. Okamoto, starting from pole, was jumped at the start but re-secured the lead by lap seven for the balance of the race. Russo finished in second and David Kaemmer in third. Mike Marino turned in an incredible performance, finishing in fifth after starting from the last spot (15th) on the grid.

In the last race of the day, Pro Series driver, Gilles Tinguely won his first race of the weekend taking the checkered flag ahead of David Wieringa (2nd) and Dave Figurski (3rd). Figurski netted additional points in the Master's category.

Mikel Miller secured the lead after the first lap and maintained it en route to a win in Group 1, Race 1 action. The race featured consistent nose-to-tail battling among the racers challenging Miller. In the end, Chip Bryant took the next-best result to Miller's win, Gareth Nixon was the third place finisher.

In Group 2, Toshinobu Shigemitsu had an awesome race, craftily advancing from furthest back on the grid (13th) to victory lane. Shigemitsu advanced six positions in the first lap and was in second place by lap five. That gave him 20 laps to figure out how to get past race leader Todd Russo. Shigetmitsu needed only nine as he passed Russo on lap 13 and held on for the win. Russo's second place was his third podium finish of the weekend. Jim Mevay finished in third. Both Russo and Mevay earned additional Master's class points for their efforts.

In Group 3, Race Series veteran, Len Forman bested rookie Dan Kraus for first place, but it wasn't easy. The race featured several lead changes between the two before Forman settled in for good. Kraus, who started from pole, finished in second, Brian Kleeman in third.

Akihira Okamoto made it two-for-two in Group 4, winning in wire-to-wire fashion. Starting from the prime spot on the grid, Okamoto had to fend off efforts from Todd Russo and Mike Marino, the eventual second and third place finishers, respectively. Russo completed the weekend with two wins, two second place finishes, four podium appearances and maximum points in Master's class competition.

Group 5 saw Gilles Tinguely win his second race of the weekend. While he focused on that statistic, David Wieringa and Dave Figurski focused on second place honors, pre-occupied with eachother and the position for most of the race. Wieringa eventually took the honors, with Figurski settling for third.

Rounds eleven and twelve of the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship will take place at historic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Labor Day weekend, September 2-3.

- Andrew Torres

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers David Wieringa , Tom Nastasi , Roland Isra , Paul Zube , Chip Bryan , Mikel Miller , Akihira Okamoto , David Kaemmer , Brian Kleeman