After three days of intensive competition at Sebring International Raceway, the Barber Dodge Pro Series was able to announce the winners of the annual Barber-CART Scholarship run-off, with Colin Fleming taking the top prize of $100,000 in funding towards the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series season.

Fleming impressed the judging panel, which included racing insiders such as Bobby Rahal, Tommy Kendall, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Michael Valiante with his composure outside of the car, and his speed and consistency inside it. Fleming's performance was particularly impressive given that he had never driven a Barber Dodge Pro Series car before this week.

Remarkably, the award was Fleming's second major award from the Skip Barber organisation, as he took last year's Barber-CART Karting Scholarship, which propelled him into the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship, where he placed sixth in the season championship standings.

"I'm ecstatic," he said on hearing the news of his 'double', "I was really intimidated at the beginning of the week since I had never been in the car before, and this group of drivers is really talented.

"This is a great break for me in my career, and I want to make a strong run at the Rookie of the Year title this season, and then come back and hopefully win the Barber Dodge championship in 2004 and then move up the ladder towards Champcars."

Reflecting the new scholarship format for the 2003 season, every driver who participated went home with some level of funding as the 'winner take all' structure was changed to give more drivers the funding to advance their careers. Scott Poirer will enter the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series season with $70,000 of support, while Ward Imrie will receive $50,000. Al Unser, Robbie Montinola, and Burt Frisselle will each receive $30,000 towards racing in the series.

Poirer, who finished second in the 2002 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship, will look to turn his new funding into a full season of Pro Series racing.

"I am really looking forward to getting racing again at St Petersburg," said the Florida native, "This was a great event, and Colin did a really good job. I was impressed with everyone in the group and I am happy to walk away from this week with some important funding towards next season."

Imrie who, like Fleming, had never been in a Barber Dodge Pro Series car before this week, was enthusiastic about winning $50,000 towards next season.

"Every dollar counts in this sport, so I am happy to have gotten up to speed in time to get a good result here," he said, "I was fast in testing earlier in the week, and was gunning for the top award, but its great that, this year, it's not 'winner take all' and I will still get funding towards my racing even though I didn't end up at the top.

"I am really looking forward to racing in these cars now, especially for the Canadian rounds of the season, since those are such great events, and it will give me the chance to race in front of my fellow Canadians."

The drivers participated in an intensive seminar with Human Performance International on the opening day of the competition, to focus on the importance of physical conditioning and diet towards the highest levels of performance in a race car. Thursday was the first day in the Barber Dodge Pro Series cars for the young guns, and the drivers took to the track for three sessions. The first outing was a practice to give the drivers an opportunity to make set up changes to the car and to have their first run in
front of the judging panel.

"Every single one of the six drivers impressed the panel in their own way and all believe quite strongly that each has a bright future ahead of them," said George Tamayo, director of marketing and communications for Skip Barber, "Judging these events, while never easy, is enormously gratifying as each of the drivers will hopefully take this opportunity and parlay it into future racing success."

The second session put a premium on technical understanding rather than speed, as the Barber crew made adjustments to the set-up of the car and then sent the drivers out to see how accurately each driver could diagnose what changes had been made. The final on-track session of the day was a qualifying session, with the premium set on speed on the Sebring 'Modified' course.

After the track session, the drivers faced the cameras as they participated in a mock press conference about the qualifying session, then were grilled about their performance, their racing background and futures by the panel of judges.

The third day of the event saw thunderstorms interrupt the proceedings before the weather cleared, giving the drivers an opportunity to show their stuff on a wet track during the simulated race session.

 

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