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By Doyle Potenteau
The Daily Courier

A broken gearbox ruined Mike Richardson's hopes of a top-five placing in Vancouver on Sunday. A busted suspension then added insult to injury. In a showing best called forgetful, Richardson placed 14th out of 17 in Barber Dodge Pro Series racing, part of the Molson Indy weekend autofest. Richardson, having placed 8th in Toronto two weeks prior, was hoping for a better result, Instead, mechanical woes plagued the 35-year-old Kelowna resident. "My weekend went from bad to worse," summed up Richardson. "All weekend long, their was something wrong with the car. As a racer, there's nothing you can do when that happens. It's frustrating . . . especially with it being in (Vancouver). "I had (19) family and friends here to watch and I wanted to do well. I guess that's racing." Richardson's woes began Thursday when informed his blue and silver Prestige Inns Dodge, which suffered damage in Toronto, was unavailable and he'd have to use his orange backup. In free practice Friday, the transmission plug vibrated free, spilling oil over the track and earning him a black flag. On Saturday, during qualifying, his gearbox disintegrated. He qualified without fourth gear, but did so at the back of the 17-car field instead of a projected 10th. Then, while hotlapping just prior to Sunday's race, the sponsor-less car began shuddering heavily under hard braking. The culprit: a broken rear wishbone. His pit crew rapidly repaired the wishbone and shoved Richardson back out onto the track just as 'Gentlemen, start your engines,' was being said. Fifteen laps into the 45-minute timed race, Memo Rojas of Mexico City rear-ended Richardson, breaking the car's rear end. "I had a good start," said Richardson," as I jumped up five spots right after the green flag. And then (Rojas) got into me. Yeah, it was a crappy weekend all around. Nothing went right and something was wrong with the backup each session. "What else can I say?" Taking the checkered flag was Leo Maia of Oakland, Calif., who, having qualified first, led the final eight laps. The victory, worth $13,000 US, also secured the series championship for the 22-year-old racer. Each year, the series champion scores a scholarship entry into the CART Toyota Atlantic championship and two full days of testing with RuSport Toyota. "The championship means a lot," Maia said after his fifth win of the season, which earned him the $255,000 US scholarship. "It gives me something to bring to the table with all the Atlantic owners when I'm talking to them about next season. So this means a lot to me and should be very important to my career. "I began watching the Barber Dodge Pro Series when I was 15 years old, and to set this championship as a goal, which seemed so unattainable. And to now realize that goal, I don't even know how to describe it. Its so rewarding to dedicate yourself to something, and then to achieve it." Maia finished nine seconds ahead of runner-up Scott Poirer of Deerfield Beach, Fla., on the 1.781-mile Concord Pacific Place street course. Finishing third was Nelson Philippe of France. The Barber Dodge Pro Series will race again in two weeks time at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, although Richardson says his next outing will be Aug. 22-24 at the Molson Indy Montreal.