Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER Magazine Rounds Four and Five Road America Duran doubles at Road America ELKHART LAKE, WI (June 2, 2003)-Mexico's Salvador Duran had a breakthrough weekend at Road America, taking wins...
Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER Magazine
Rounds Four and Five
Duran doubles at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, WI (June 2, 2003)-Mexico's Salvador Duran had a breakthrough weekend at Road America, taking wins in both Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER Magazine races at Road America to vault himself to the top of the championship standings. Duran ran from a position of strength all weekend, taking the pole position in qualifying for both races as well as setting a new track record in the second race. The two wins were the first in National Championship competition for Duran, improving on his previous-best finish of third, earned in the first race at Virginia International Raceway in April.
The National Championship utilized the 2.2-mile "short course" at Road America, which combined the fast flowing speed sections of the long course, with the all-important Carrousel corner, with several slower-speed technical corners. The first race of the weekend got underway under drying conditions, and the National Championship crew elected to have the field race on treaded Michelin Pilots in case the weather were to return during the race.
The first race start was waived off as Duran, eager to get racing, was judged to have brought the field in too fast for the green, but the order was perfect on the second time by as the green flag flew. The green running was brief, though, as an incident between Jad Dea and Ricky Schmidt brought out the yellow flag to move their Formula Dodge R/T2000s out of harms way, and regrouping the field behind the Dodge Viper pace car. The restart saw Duran again lead the field to the green, only to have the yellow reappear after Sergey Shleikin had an off-course excursion, which also required that his car be moved.
On the restart, Barber-Champ Car Scholarship driver Raphael Matos passed Zoltan Bodor to take second place, with Salvador Duran holding on to the lead. Behind the duel for the lead, Matos' fellow Scholarship driver Joe D'Agostino passed Gerardo Bonilla to take fourth position after Bonilla's car began to understeer, robbing him of crucial exit speed in the long Carrousel corner. Matt Jaskol, who won the season-opening round in Sebring, made the most of the passing zones at Road America to move himself steadily up from his 21st starting position to move into twelfth at the finish.
Despite carding the fastest lap of the race, Matos was unable to find a way by Duran, who was overjoyed after taking his first win in Formula Dodge National Championship competition.
"It was a really good race between me and Rafael," said Duran. "He was really pushing me hard along the way, but I was able to keep the lead and take the win. I hope I can do that again tomorrow."
The second race of the weekend again saw Duran start from the pole and the race got off to a fast start on the first try, with Duran taking the lead and Gerardo Bonilla filing into second as Matos moved up quickly to third after starting from fifth position. Dominique Claessens, who scored his best finish of the season with a sixth in the first race, was on a tear, moving from sixth at the start and getting by Barber-Champ Car Scholarship driver Philippe Gelinas, and then Zoltan Bodor, and then Ricky Schmidt. Claessens netted one more spot when Matos, who had been contesting the second position with Bonilla, dropped out of the race with gearbox problems. Claessens then set his sights on Bonilla, shadowing him for several laps before making the pass to take second place in the late stages of the race after getting a run on Bonilla out of the Carrousel corner. Duran kept his head down and his speeds up to motor to his second victory of the weekend.
"This was a dream weekend for me, to take the poles and my first National Championship wins is just excellent for me and my sponsors," exclaimed Duran. "I just had to drive as well as my car was set up, and keep calm and consistent for the whole race. I could see that the guys behind me were having a good battle as well, so I just pushed as much as I needed to keep the gap back to them the same. I love this track, it was one of my favorites even before this weekend! My goal was to move up in the points, and that really motivated me here at Road America to do well. I was hoping to be strongly in the top five, and now I am leading the points, so I'm really excited for the next race!"
The battle between Bonilla and Claessens was fraught but clean, as Bonilla knew he was going to have to cede the position.
"I saw that he was faster than I was in the Carrousel, and I knew he was going to pass me, but I held him off as long as I could," said Bonilla. "I am still very happy with the result. To come in third in a series that's as absolutely competitive as the National Championship really just feels great. It was some fantastic racing between us. I left him exactly the room he needed to get by me, I hope he remembers the favor sometime down the line!"
Claessens, of Torrance, California, who has experience in the cutthroat racing environs of European Karting, was excited about the racing and especially about the result.
" I am feeling more and more comfortable in this car, and this was really a good weekend for me," said Claessens. "It's going to help a lot with the points battle. I had a lot of fun out there with Gerardo, since we were racing each other all the way around this track."
Despite the extremely competitive nature of the series, the racers in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship are a tight group, and they just as often give each other a hard time off the track as the do on it. Claessens joked that while he appreciated that Bonilla gave him enough room to make the pass, "I'm not in any rush to return the favor..."
The Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER Magazine will race next at Mosport on the weekend of June 13. Full results and story to be posted at www.formuladodge.com. The Championship points remain close, with Duran atop the standings with Ben Freudenberg in second, while third and fifth positions are tied.
The Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by Racer Magazine boasts an illustrious list of graduates, from last years champion, Grant Maiman, who will compete this summer in European Formula Renault as part of the Red Bull Formula One Drivers search, to Ryan Hunter-Reay, who made his first Champ Car World Series start last month in St. Petersburg, Florida. Other graduates include 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion A.J. Allmendinger, 2002 FF2000 Champion Brian Sellars, and 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series competitors Al Unser, Scott Proirier, Leo Maia, and Colin Fleming.
The 2003 Championship again features a field deep in talent comprised of champions from lower formulae and karting. Raphael Matos of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, secured his Barber-Champ Car Scholarship at Sebring last December in the Formula Dodge National Run-Off, and is hoping to convert this opportunity into a championship. The young Brazilian was quickest in every session during the event, and is hoping to keep the pace up through the 2003 season. Four other drivers in the field are also members of the Barber-Champ Car Scholarship program, as Joe D'Agostino of Plantation, FL, Philippe Gelinas of Grand-Mere, Quebec, Matt Jaskol of Las Vegas, NV, and David Jurca of Federal Way, WA all secured a funded ride in the 2003 Formula Dodge Championship after impressing in the Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Run-Off in January.
Skip Barber Racing School is the world's leading provider of automotive education and entertainment. With five base locations in Connecticut, Florida, California, and Wisconsin, Skip Barber operates at over twenty tracks nationwide. The Dodge Division of DaimlerChrysler, Michelin North America, and Quaker State are key strategic partners for the company. NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon, Indianapolis 500 Champion and Champ Car Champion Juan Montoya, and legend Michael Andretti are but three graduates to have emerged from Skip Barber Racing's nearly thirty years of training and expertise.
<pre> Race 1 1 Salvador Duran 1:04.06 2 Rafael Matos 1:04.06 3 Zoltan Bodor 1:04.07 4 Joe D'Agostino 1:04.07 5 Gerardo Bonilla 1:04.07 6 Dominique Claessens 1:04.08 7 Abraham Zimroth 1:04.09 8 Phillipe Gelinas 1:04.10 9 Brian Frisselle 1:04.10 10 Ben Freudenberg 1:04.12
Race 2 1 Salvador Duran 29.36.643 2 Dominique Claessens 29.39.012 3 Gerardo Bonilla 29.40.267 4 Ricky Schmidt 29.42.348 5 Zoltan Bodor 29.42.844 6 Abraham Zimroth 29.43.224 7 John Angelone 29.43.541 8 Ben Freudenberg 29.44.295 9 Joe D'Agostino 29.51.953 10 Aivaras Pyragius 29.52.014
Points Salvador Duran 69 Ben Freeudenberg 57 Dominique Claessens 46 Raphael Matos 46 Philippe Gelinas 45 Matt Jaskol 45