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Better track next time!
By Doyle Potenteau
The Daily Courier

The weather was great. Other than that, Mike Richardson's trip to Monterrey, Mexico wasn't an enjoyable one. Electrical problems capped a less-than-memorable weekend of racing for Richardson, who finished 19th out of 21 in Saturday's Tecate-Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey, the second stop of the 2003 Barber-Dodge Pro Tour Series season. Running 12th under a caution flag with two laps remaining, Richardson's blue and silver Dodge suddenly quit. Seven cars instantly passed him, and the Kelowna resident could do nothing but sit and fume. "It was just a summary of my whole weekend," said Richardson, who never fully figured out the 12-turn, 2.104-mile slippery track. In earlier qualifying, the 35-year-old finished 19th. "It was a bad track, but it was bad for everyone," said Richardson. "No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get any flow going. Our cars have six gears, and we maybe got into fifth (gear) for a second, second-and-a-half. "It wasn't a high-speed track. It has a lot of tight corners, stuff where you have to be easy on the throttle. I found it difficult to manage." Richardson wasn't the only racer to complain about Fundidora Park. The track, located in a setting nearly identical to Stanley Park in Vancouver, is used very little. With hardly any traffic roaring over the pavement, not much rubber is laid down, which is crucial for tires to grip. "We had a test day on Thursday, and the track was bare of rubber," said Richardson. "It was like driving in rain. No, it was worse than driving in rain. "I've never experienced anything like that. The track conditions got better as more cars got on it, but it still wasn't the best." Taking the checkered flag was hometown native David Martinez, who led every lap to take a flag-to-flag win and the $13,000 U.S. first-place cheque. Polesitter Leonardo Maia of Oakland, Calif., came home second to extend his championship points lead, with Memo Rojas of Mexico City taking his second consecutive third place finish this season to move into second in the points. Colin Fleming of North Hills, California finished fourth with Nelson Philippe of Velence, France taking his first-ever top five finish in Barber Dodge competition. Dan Di Leo of Markham, Ont., recovered from a first-lap off-course excursion to finish sixth, while Josh Beaulieu of Langley was 11th, Chris Green of Beaconsfield, Que., 12th and Antoine Bessette of St. Bruno, Que., 13th. Each took home $1,000 in winnings. Martinez had just one start in the Barber Dodge Pro Series before this weekend, at Cleveland in 1998, took the lead at the start of the race, and never looked back, building up a six second lead over Leo Maia and the rest of the field. In taking the win, Martinez is the first Mexican driver to win an international race in Mexico. "I knew that I had to find a hole at the start to get by Leo, and fortunately, I found one," said Martinez. "Leo has been fast all weekend, so I wanted to get the lead because if he did, it would have been really difficult to pass him. Once I did on the first lap, I just got into a rhythm that was comfortable for me . . . I knew I had a fast car if we went back to green, but I am really happy with this win in my hometown. Its really a dream for me." In drivers standings, Maia is first with 21 points, followed by Di Leo with 17 and Rojas with 14. Richardson is 13th with three while Beaulieu is 16th with one. As for electrical problems, Richardson wasn't the only racer to have problems. Al Unser, the son of famed racer Al Unser Jr., stalled 10 feet in front of Richardson. And Di Leo stalled in pit lane just at race's end. "(Unser and I) were just sitting there on the 12th corner, doing nothing," said Richardson, who won $750 U.S. "It was just one of those weekends where I struggled." The next stop on the Barber-Dodge circuit is the Milwaukee Mile, an oval race, on May 31. It's the first oval race the series will have run in more than two seasons, and the first of Richardson's career. "I'm looking forward to it," said Richardson. "I was disappointed they didn't run one last season. I think it's great they put one back into the schedule."

Earlier this month, the series announced its races will be broadcast on the Speed Channel for a second straight year. The series' 40-minute timed races will be shown over weekends in an hour-long format on a tape-delayed basis.