Barber-CART Big Scholarship co-winner Rafael Sperafico scorched the test track at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. earlier this week as pre-season testing continues in preparation for the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series, the Official ...
Barber-CART Big Scholarship co-winner Rafael Sperafico scorched the test track at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. earlier this week as pre-season testing continues in preparation for the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series, the Official Professional Entry Level Series of CART. Sperafico, 18, from Toledo, Parana, Brazil, was the only driver to dip into the 1:03.00 sec bracket around the 1.75-mile stretch of the circuit. He stopped the clocks at 1:03.90 sec. The impressive performance by Sperafico bodes well as the season opener approaches in less than two months in support of the Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17 having also been quickest at the previous test. His best lap time then over the same circuit configuration was 1:04.60 sec.
The most recent round of testing which took place on Jan. 26-27, was the first time that the Barber Dodge racers had an opportunity to drive the Barber Dodge Reynard 98E in 2001 spec. The primary difference is in the development Michelin undertook in the Pilot SX tires. The newest iteration allows greater negative camber to be run on the front wheels which aids the car in developing greater front end lateral grip. Further, the ride characteristics have allowed the Pro Series engineering staff to develop the Penske Triple Adjustable Racing Shocks in concert with the springs and anti-roll bars to give the Reynard chassis more responsiveness and balance making it a faster package overall. The developments proved immediately quicker in the hands of test drivers Ozwaldo Negri and Rod MacLeod, and has been bared out in the hands of the Barber Dodge drivers.
Two other rookie contenders followed Sperafico. Peruvian Juan Manuel Polar wrapped up the two-day test with an impressively quick time of 1:04.30 sec. Polar has been working closely with Barber Dodge driver coach Jim Pace, bring with him a methodical and focussed approach which is beginning to pay dividends. American Davy Cook was two-tenths behind Polar with a 1:04.50 sec. quick time as he continues to come more to terms with the Dodge Reynard.
Current Pro Series Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay had a trying two days as his car was beset with teething problems that limited his track time. In spite of that he still managed to wring out that fastest time of the final session and the fourth quickest time overall with a 1:04.60 sec. He felt that the all the problems had been sorted by then, but the weather sensitive track that tends to get slower as the day ends prevented him from going faster. With the car fully sorted Hunter-Reay looks toward the next test in two weeks time to be a better gauge of his speed.
A few tenths off the pace were Barber Dodge veterans Alexandre Sperafico and Tommy Fogarty. Both drivers focussed on learning the nuances of the 2001 spec car, and making changes to the car’s set up to see how it reacted. Neither driver was really concerned with setting a fast lap.
Finally, Sri Lankan driver Ron Attapatu, a regular in the Lamborghini Diablo Series in Europe, took his maiden run in the Barber Dodge Reynard as he considers doing a few Pro Series events in 2001. Despite not having driven single-seaters in some time, Attapatu turned in some respectable lap times with his quickest at a 1:05.80.
- George Tamayo