Chip Bryant was perfect in race action this past weekend, besting his rival in the points chase Akihira Okamoto twice at the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship held at Lime Rock Park, Conn. Both drivers were undefeated going into...
Chip Bryant was perfect in race action this past weekend, besting his rival in the points chase Akihira Okamoto twice at the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship held at Lime Rock Park, Conn. Both drivers were undefeated going into rounds seven and eight of the series. Group 2, a match up of point leaders, saw the combatants swap leads more than once before Bryant claimed it for the last time. The victory puts Bryant in sole possession of first place and establishes some distance between himself and Okamoto. Russ Buckley, who started seventh, finished in third. Terry Ray drove a strong race, advancing from 11th at the start to finish fifth. Fourth overall, but first in the Master's category, was Tim Hoagland.
In Group 1, Barber Dodge Pro Series driver Andy Lally battled with pole-sitter Craig Duerson and went on to win his first start in the Eastern Regional Series. Lally used the extra seat time to hone his racing skills. Starting from second position, Lally set a new track record of 0:59.365 sec. on a course that added a 90-degree configuration at turn 1. The Pro Series veteran, who nipped at Duerson's lead most of the race, was finally able to gain the spot and hold him off to win by a margin of 0.817 sec. Todd Russo nabbed the third spot and his first points of the weekend as well as points in the Master's class.
Group 3 saw Master's leader Chris Willcox win with a late overtaking of Andy Lally, running in his second race. Willcox maintains a perfect Master's record and extends his lead in the 40-plus category over Chris Otis and Roland Isra. Paul Zube, who led at one point, took the flag in second. Andy Lally, who was aggressively pursued all race, relinquished the front two spots and finished third.
Rain that threatened early eventually arrived, but couldn't douse Group 4. The contest was stopped 10 laps in to switch over from Michelin slicks to more appropriate rain gear. The tire change benefited David Kaemmer and Dan Kraus, who couldn't get by Juan Manuel Polar in dry conditions. Kaemmer and Kraus battled a tight race thereafter, swapped leads in the wet and went on to place first and second, respectively. Rich Bell improved from his sixth start position to finish third. Polar, the early race leader, finished fourth.
The rain had abated by Group 5 but a wet track may have been a factor when two cars tangled on the parade lap. Toshinobu Shigemitsu was the victim of a miscue with a fellow driver that left him with a damaged car at race start. Undaunted, Shigemitsu jumped into a cold replacement, took the second spot on grid and went about business-as-usual. The rookie driver, currently fifth in the standings, jumped the pole-sitter Mike Marino two laps into the race and went on to win in near-flag-to-flag fashion. Marino finished in second place, Tom Nastasi came in third. Master racer Walter Riley turned in a notable performance, finishing fourth after starting from way back (12th) on the grid.
In Group 1, race two, Todd Russo made a last lap charge to best Andy Lally, who had started from pole and led most of the race. Russo nets points for the win as well as maximum points for victory in Master's class competition. Lally, racing for the third time in two days, held the lead until passed on the final lap by Russo, Bill Telesco and Peter Janssen. Len Forman, Gary Longo and Russo had a spicy battle for most of the race until Longo tried an inside maneuver in turn one that Forman wasn't buying. The unsolicited advance caused contact and landed both drivers out of the race.
Group 2 featured a rematch of the marquee race in Group 1. Chip Bryant and Akihira Okamoto, undefeated up until a day earlier, dropped the gloves, so to speak, as Okamoto looked to avenge his loss of a day earlier. A win by the Japanese rookie would have re-knotted the two as leaders in point standings. It didn't happen. Bryant out-dueled Okamoto for a second time and extended his lead to 10 points overall. Tamafumi Kamiya showed he didn't belong in twelfth, where he started, by distinguishing himself with assertive moves that earned him a third place result. The points reward moves Kamiya to within the Top-10 on the Championship leader board. Tim Hoagland gained first place points in the Master's class for the second time on the weekend.
Andy Lally was at it again in Group 3 and led most every lap to make a competitive race appear easy. While he set the pace, Chris Willcox and Paul Zube fought for space in his rear-view mirrors. Master's leader Willcox was able to pass the Pro Series veteran and reclaim the top spot after starting from pole. Willcox's second win confirmed his dominance in the Master's class. He now has a commanding 50-point lead over fellow Master Chris Otis. Zube and Todd Russo also had late passes on Lally, finishing second and third, respectively.
Group 4 saw David Kaemmer, who won his earlier race, win again but not before warding off challenges from the feisty Dan Kraus. Kaemmer surrendered the lead position immediately but battled Kraus in a series of exchanges. Kaemmer's maximum points for the weekend move him to sixth overall in Championship points. Kraus took the flag less than a second after the winner to take the second spot. Rich Bell, who had started in third, couldn't better his position but successfully defended his turf to finish in third. Dave Figurski beat out Jim Mevay for the Master's class win.
Toshinobu Shigemitsu took his second victory of the weekend by outlasting Mike Marino in Group 5. This race featured excellent nose-to-tail driving as these two racers went at it for the second time in as many tries. Shigemitsu turned on the jets late and was able to pull away on the last straightaway to take the checkered flag. Marino would settle for second again, though he did have the fastest lap for the session at 0:59.489 secs. Walter Riley had another strong race and took third place overall and Master's class honors.
In the Memorial session, the last race of the weekend, Mike Marino secured an elusive win in impressive style. After starting 15th on the grid, he zigged-zagged through a tight field, advancing 10 spots by lap six and to the front of the field by lap eleven. Don Drislane derailed him and held the lead with four laps to go, but it was only temporary. Marino, determined to take the flag first, re-established himself in front and secured the last win of the weekend.
Rounds nine and ten of the Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship will take place at picturesque Lime Rock Park on August 18-19.
- Andrew Torres