Southern Series at Sebring, Rounds 3 & 4
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 Rounds three and four of the 2007-2008 Southern Series were on the 12-hour course at Sebring International Raceway. There were two Sportsman groups, one Championship group, and the third-ever Skip Barber MX-5 Cup group (the first was at Road Atlanta in November; the second was at MRLS in early December). Saturday’s races were of the always exciting wet variety, but Sunday dawned sunny and dry. And for the second time in American open-wheel road racing history, a 12-year-old driver won a race; Sean Rayhall, in fact, won twice over the weekend. (John Edwards, in 2004, was the first.) But Rayhall, by two months, is officially now the youngest driver to win a Skip Barber Series event! Below is an overview of the weekend…
With the track only slightly ‘‘sprinkled’’ (it would begin to rain much harder after this race was checkered), poleboy Sean Rayhall led all eight laps to take his first SBRS win. Doug Beachem had slotted into P2 on lap 1, but mid-pack on lap 2, five cars spun in 17. The killer drive was by Ross Monckton – he had gridded 15th but took full advantage of the spinners in Turn 17 (Monckton himself had spun on the first lap!) and by the start of lap 3 he was already into third place. Coming with Monckton was Keith Smith, so between laps 3 and 5, the top-five order was Rayhall, Beachem, Monckton, Smith and George Ebel. On lap 6 Jay Fuchs got around both Smith and Ebel to take over fourth. On the next go-round, Ebel snatched fifth from Smith. By the last lap, Rayhall was more than 4 seconds up the road and under no challenge, but Monckton wanted P2 – and got it, getting around Beachem. Fuchs and Ebel rounded out the top five, followed by Smith, Erik Brumme, Rod Ryan, Ed Rowland and Ryan Hardin.
With the track a bit more precarious than Saturday – it hadn’t fully dried out from Saturday’s rain – Rayhall fell from pole to third on the fdirst lap, with Monckton leading the way, trailed by Beachem. Brumme was fourth and Smith sixth. The dicing up front was good, but it would end in tears on lap 4: Beachem got into the back of Monckton in T10 and though the damage wasn’t great, it was enough to put them both out. The incident put Rayhall into the lead and he proceeded to gallop away from Ebel. Brumme’s third place, however, was under threat from Smith and on the last lap, Brumme succumbed. Fifth at the checker was Rod Ryan, while Michael Potapow came from 11th at the start to sixth. Rowland, Hardin, Andy Pasquale and Jeff Wine rounded out the top 10.
This one was a fast mix of up-and-coming karters and SBRS old hands, dealing with a wet Sebring International. Teens Gabby Chaves and Hayden Duerson went at it right from the start, their task made a bit easier by two contenders – Conner De Phillippe and Dion von Moltke – both slipping off the road (De Phillippe in the Hairpin, von Moltke in 10). Gianmarco Raimondo’s good start in concert with those four-offs in front of him put him in third, which he never relinquished. When von Moltke showed up in pitlane on lap 4 for his early off, Michael Denino took over P4. But that lasted just one lap as Michael Vincec (charging up from a fourth-row start) grabbed fourth with 2 laps to go. Up front, Duerson hounded Chaves but fell 2/10s short, with Raimondo 20 seconds back in third followed by Vincec and Denino. Recovering nicely, von Moltke was sixth, ahead of John Potter, Luca Orlandi, De Phillippe and Harsha Sen.
This race was a barn burner, with a fistful of position changes. In fact, during the 7-lap race, the order of the top five was never the same twice! Chaves led lap 1, inches ahead of von Moltke and Duerson. Lap 2, Duerson took over second place. Then it was all-singing, all-dancing time as the top five shuffled positions amongst themselves. Duerson led, then Chaves, then Duerson again. And things were changing every lap all the way through the 17-car field. It was good stuff, and as the last lap started, Duerson led over Chaves, von Moltke, Potter and Vincec. Chaves made his last-lap pass work to nip Duerson by a 10th of a second. Meanwhile, von Moltke’s P3 wasn’t ‘‘real.’’ On lap 5, he and Denino had had some side-by-side contact, so although Denino had come in lap 6, von Moltke waited until lap 7, the last. When he did, that gave Potter third, about 12 second behind Duerson. Behind Potter were von Moltke, Vincec, a brilliantly charging Dom bastien (from 14th on the grid), Raimondo, David Libby, Orlandi and Sen.
This was the wettest of Saturday’s races and yes, there were at least a dozen spins and/or four-offs. Even the early leader at one point in the race spun – and rejoined in the lead after his pit stop. That was Roberto Dalton, on lap 3. He had taken the lead from Dan Graeff on lap 2, but spun in T10. On lap 4, Graeff went past Dalton and held the lead the rest of the way. Dalton held on to second place, even after another spin in 10, but he and Ashley Freiberg were going at it great guns and on the next to last lap, Freiberg got P2. But Dalton wasn’t done and regained second place on the last lap. Fourth – he ran there the whole race – was Dennis Trebing, while the ‘‘Most Progressive Driver’’ was Marc Bastien, 14th to fifth at the checker. Following him home were Robert Hill, Jr., Amos Givol, George Fusner, keith Smith and Brad Hagerman.
This race was a lot calmer as Dalton stole the lead from Graeff on the first lap and waltzed to a 7-second win. Over the last five laps, third place was disputed entertainingly by Fusner, Freiberg and Smith (good climb from deep in the field) while Trebing came home sixth. hagerman, Bastien, Hill and Geoff Bond rounded out the top 10.
These were the fifth- and sixth-ever Skip Barber MX-5 Cup races, and when they were over Ross Monckton had his first MX-5 win, over Dom Bastien and Ken Greenberg (with Jack Dertinger, Pax Lemmon and Rod Ryan following) in the first race, and Gabby Chaves just nipped Monckton in race two, followed by Bastien, Dertinger, Greenberg, Ryan and Lemmon. These cars are a lot of fun and as we gear up for a full-fledged series come springtime, the line might be long…
Both the Southern and Western Series take a bit of a Christmas and holiday break before the next race weekends. But come January 11-13, rounds five and six of the West take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca followed by the Homestead event for the Southern Series. Then, the first three days of February are the 11th annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, at Sebring. And don’t forget, the big West/South ‘Combo,’ always a lot of fun, is February 15-17, at Sebring on the full course.
Think fast and have a wonderful holiday!