SBRS: VIR National preview

Can Ramos and Moon Shine at VIR? LAKEVILLE, Conn. (Apr. 16) - With rounds three and four of the 14-race 2004 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER Magazine on tap at Virginia International Raceway April 24-25,...

Can Ramos and Moon Shine at VIR?

LAKEVILLE, Conn. (Apr. 16) - With rounds three and four of the 14-race 2004 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER Magazine on tap at Virginia International Raceway April 24-25, Brazil's Victor Ramos is hoping to capitalize on his double-podium result in rounds one and two at Sebring in March; his Thursday third paired with a Friday first has him atop the points standings, with 35. Benny Moon was the Thursday winner -- fifth on Friday -- and sits second at 31, with Robbie Pecorari, Chris Prey, Marco Andretti and Jason Bowles all within 8-point shouting distances.

As a Skip Barber National venue, VIR couldn't be more different than Sebring: Where Sebring has its charming bumps (hey, look, the old girl has earned every last one of them), VIR is baby-butt smooth. Where Sebring's Ulmann Straight is 3,080 feet long, VIR's Back Straight is 4,000 (plus a Front Straight 3,000 feet in length). Where at Sebring the only hill you'll find begins with a capital ''H,'' the total elevation change at VIR is 130 feet.

And where Sebring's 3.7 miles and 17 corners are not overly difficult to learn, the subtle secrets needed to be truly fast are only gleaned from much experience (as befits the queen of American road courses). VIR, on the other hand, with its 17 turns in a complex configuration a half-mile shorter, has a virtual cornucopia of corner types. Take away the straights, and that means VIR's corners are all crammed into less than two miles. It is, as one very experienced driving coach says, ''...very easy to get 'lost' at VIR because there are so many different corners. Technical ability is rewarded with big chunks of lap time.''

The Skip Barber National VIR entry list shows 23 names, and includes Lorenzo Mandarino. He was one of the five ''second place'' scholarship winners from the January '04 Skip Barber Karting Run-off (he won $20,000 in cash to race in the National this year), but was forced to miss the Sebring openers due to a family illness (all is well, we're told). Also new to the series is a young New Zealand shoe named Chris Pither, a Formula Ford standout down there. (Other than John Pew, a 40-something ''master'' who's beaten many of these kids more than once, 14 of the 23 drivers are age 20 or under.)

The VIR event is also the season-opener for both the Midwest and East Regional Skip Barber Championships. Including the National field, there will be 80 drivers competing in 10 different races utilizing a fleet of 60+ R/T 2000 race cars over the weekend.

<pre> Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER Magazine Points standings after two of 14 rounds:

1. Victor Ramos         Brazil                          35
2. Benny Moon           Shingle Springs, Calif.         31
3. Robbie Pecorari      Aston, Pa.                      28
4. Chris Prey           Oshkosh, Wis.                   24
5. Marco Andretti       Nazareth, Pa.                   23
6. Jason Bowles         Ontario, Calif.                 23
7. Ron White            San Jose, Calif.                15
8. Ricky Schmidt        Lebec, Calif.                   15
9. Carlos Fonseca       Costa Rica                      14
10. Gerardo Bonilla     Orlando, Fla.                   11

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Skip Barber , Marco Andretti , Robbie Pecorari , John Pew , Jason Bowles , Ron White , Gerardo Bonilla