SBRS: Sebring Race Story

SBRS: Sebring Race Story
Mar 21, 1998, 6:56 PM

MAJOR COMEBACK FOR TODD SNYDER Wins Barber Dodge Opener by Rick Roso SEBRING, Fla. (Mar. 21) - Before the Barber Dodge race at Sebring International Raceway, noteworthy because it was the first with the new carbon-fiber Reynard chassis and ...

MAJOR COMEBACK FOR TODD SNYDER Wins Barber Dodge Opener by Rick Roso SEBRING, Fla. (Mar. 21) - Before the Barber Dodge race at Sebring International Raceway, noteworthy because it was the first with the new carbon-fiber Reynard chassis and Michelin radials, Todd Snyder would have told you that he would have been happy finishing in the top five. Instead, after qualifying a distant fourth (seven-tenths off polesitter Sepp Koster), Snyder took grand advantage of mistakes in front of him and had the lead by the start of the second lap. Snyder took his Zippo Reynard Dodge to an unchallenged win, in what was his first professional open-wheel race in nearly seven years. The 29-year-old Skip Barber Racing School instructor's last pro race was way back in 1991. Snyder was fast then, too: in the Barber Saab race at Laguna Seca Raceway, he finished second to current CART FedEx Champ Car star Bryan Herta, that year's Pro Series champion. Koster, a Dutch driver coming from Formula Vauxhall Lotus, had nipped the pole from Italian Giovanni Anapoli in qualifying, turning a 2:10.943 to Anapoli's 2:11.008. Rocky Moran, Jr., qualified third, a scant 43 one-hundredths back. Snyder's response after seeing the qualifying sheet, which had him fourth (with a 2:11.729), was, "No way." As in, I'm that high up? He had missed track time during testing on Wednesday due to an electrical problem, and the final practice session was in the wet. His cause wasn't helped when first qualifying was cancelled, thanks to a huge downpour that left Sebring's historic 3.7 miles flooded. And there was a big question mark hanging over the front row; neither Koster nor Anapoli had ever done a rolling start before. But the Euro drivers looked liked old hands at this sort of thing (or, more cynically, they are simply not skilled at the rolling start games drivers can play), and as they brought the field through the final corner, the full field of 30 were perfectly aligned as they took the green to begin Barber Dodge's new era. What hasn't changed is the mega competitiveness, demonstrated by a 10-wide flare heading into One. Some wings were bent and some bodywork flew mid-pack and back, but up front, things were close and everything sorted out cleanly, with Koster in the lead, Moran slotting into second, Anapoli third and Snyder fourth. But coming into 17, the long, wide-to-narrow 180-degree righthander, Anapoli tried a way too optimistic inside move on Moran. He slid into Little Rock, almost flipping him and sending him gently, but broken, into the tires. That gave Snyder second. As officials decided on whether to go full-course yellow or not, Koster motored away. When he got to turn 16, he saw the yellows and backed out. Then he saw the field bearing down on him and got back into the throttle, but he gave it too much gas and bounded off into the tulies. Snyder, Anapoli and Martin Stenshorne went by as Koster bounced through the field and fought to get the Reynard back on track. Two laps later the green flew---and so did Snyder, off into the distance. Koster eventually retired when a wishbone broke. Behind him, Stenshorne and Anapoli were hard at it, and on lap 11 it came to a head as Stenshorne tried to go around the outside of Anapoli in Turn 3. It didn't worked, they touched, spun and stopped. Anapoli re-fired and limped to the pits, but Stenshorne had abandoned ship and a full-course caution was called. On the re-start, Snyder galloped away for the final time, leaving Samer Hindi, Victor Gonzalez, Thomas Schie and Big Scholarship driver Shane Donley to scrap for the scraps. While third, after Gonzalez outbraked him for second place in the Hairpin, Hindi missed the apex at 10 and spun. Meanwhile Donley got Schie, then was elevated to third after Hindi's spin, but he couldn't hold on as Schie pressured him into a too-early-on-the-gas spin, also in the Hairpin. So it ended Snyder, Gonzalez (ecstatic over his first podium, well deserved) and Schie ("I was lucky for the podium, I was getting eaten up on the backstraight."). G.J. Mennen, Jr., drove a very smart race to fourth, Hindi was fifth, followed by John McCaig, Jon Fogarty and Tom Woods, winner of the Progressive Custom Wheels Most Progressive Driver award, for finishing eighth after starting 28th. The top 10 was rounded out by Memo Rojas, Jr., and another Skip Barber instructor, Gregg Borland. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Nicolas Rondet, struggled with a big push right from the start and eventually fell off the road in Turn 16., finishing 18th; Donley restarted after his spin to take 15th, Team KOOL Green driver Alex Gurney was taken out of the running by an over-anxious Jamie Menninga while in ninth, and heralded Irishman Owen McAuley, ninth on the grid, had his hands full, including dealing with a bent front wing that likely caused a couple of offs, and finished on the lead lap but out of the points. Snyder said, "I was lucky, I was trying to be conservative and just finish high. With all the rain yesterday and last night, I knew the track was going to be green. I can't believe how many people drove off in 16! To get the win is great, really great. With everybody fighting behind me, I guess that's why I kept getting the big leads." Well, that had something to do with it, but when the result sheet came out later, Snyder was in for another shock: he had set fastest race-lap, by nearly eight-tenths of a second. "I didn't know I did that." We'll see if he knows better in May at Lime Rock Park, his home track, for round two.

Results Saturday of 40-minute Barber Dodge Pro Series race at Sebring International Raceway, 3.70-mile, 17-turn road course, with starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown or country, winner's average speed, laps completed (reason out, if any) and prize money. All cars identical Reynard Dodge V6, open-wheel, single-seat race cars.

Length: 17 laps of 3.70-mile circuit for 62.90 miles Time: 41 minutes, 53.694 seconds Average speed: 90.083 mph 5.325-second margin of victory Leaders: Koster, 1; Snyder, 2 - 17 Fastest Lap: Snyder, 2:11.306, 101.442 mph, lap 13 Pole: Koster, 2:10.943, 101.724 mph Payout: $55,100

1 (4) Todd Snyder, Sheffield, Mass, 17 laps, $12,000 2 (14) Victor Gonzalez, Jr., Hatoray, Puerto Rico, 17, $8,000 3 (8) Thomas Schie, Norway, 17, $6,000 4 (12) G.J. Mennen, Jr., Austin, Texas, 17, $4,000 5 (10) Samer Hindi, Los Angeles, 17, $2,500 6 (18) John McCaig, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 17, $2,000 7 (23) Jon Fogarty, Portola Valley, Calif., 17, $1,800 8 (28) Tom Woods, Rancho Cordova, Calif., 17, $2,200 9 (20) Memo Rojas, Jr., Mexico, 17, $1,600 10 (17) Gregg Borland, Elkhart Lake, Wis., 17, $1,500 11 (29) Brian Pelke, Lansing, Ill., 17, $1,400 12 (15) Peter Boss, Narragansett, R.I., 17, $1,300 13 (24) Giovanni Gulinelli, Italy, 17, $1,200 14 (22) Owen Trinkler, Nashville, Tenn., 17, $1,100 15 (21) Shane Donley, Las Vegas, 17, $1,000 16 (9) Owen McAuley, Ireland, 17, $500 17 (30) Scott Mayer, Franklin, Wis., 17, $500 18 (6) Nicolas Rondet, San Diego, 16, $500 19 (7) Eric Tresslar, Denver, 16, $500 20 (11) Alex Gurney, Newport Beach, Calif., 15, $500 21 (25) Charles Willis, Germantown, Tenn., 14 (throttle cable), $500 22 (27) Nilton Rossoni, Brazil, 14 (accident), $500 23 (2) Giovanni Anapoli, Italy, 13 (accident), $500 24 (5) Martin Stenshorne, Norway, 10 (accident), $500 25 (19) Will Langhorne, Washington, D.C., 9 (gearbox), $500 26 (1) Sepp Koster, The Netherlands, 7 (contact), $500 27 (13) Jarrett Boon, Phoenix, 6 (retired), $500 28 (16) Townsend Bell, Santa Barbara, Calif., 4 (accident), $500 29 (26) Jamie Menninga, Pella, Iowa, 4 (accident), $500 30 (3) Rocky Moran, Jr., Coto de Caza, Calif., 1 (accident), $500

Points: 1 Todd Snyder 20 2 Victor Gonzalez, Jr. 16 3 Thomas Schie, Norway 14 4 G.J. Mennen, Jr. 12 5 Samer Hindi 11 6 John McCaig 10 7 Jon Fogarty 9 8 Tom Woods 8 9 Memo Rojas, Jr. 7 10 Gregg Borland 6 11 Brian Pelke 5 12 Peter Boss 4 13 Giovanni Gulinelli 3 14 Owen Trinkler 2 15 Shane Donley, Sepp Koster 1

Next Race: Lime Rock Park, May 25


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