Several drivers have been honing their skills this off-season in the Skip Barber Winter Series and will continue to do so over the coming months.
Thankfully, the dreadful non-racing months are no longer wholly encompassed with bench racing. Drivers are actively prepping for 2012. The following is a brief update on the Skip Barber Winter Series.
The Series opened midway through November with two races at Road Atlanta. Two extremely talented up-and-coming drivers earned a trip to victory lane despite fierce competition from other junior open-wheel talent.
Nick Neri — runner-up in the 2011 Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shootout — picked up his first career open-wheel win on the 12-turn, 2.5-mile undulating Georgia circuit. Neri passed pole-sitter Danilo Estrela under hard-braking into Turn 10a on Lap 8. The two would trade the point five times until Estrela suffered an off in the closing laps. Jake Eidson clocked the fastest lap of the race en route to second place at the checkered flag. Azim Gandhi worked his way from 18th to sixth-place, improving 12 spots.
The second race of the weekend presented onlookers with an equally competitive battle for supremacy. After running at the front and then suffering an untimely demise from the opening race (due to a mechanical issue), Jack Mitchell Jr. proved he belongs at the sharp-end of the field by surviving a multi-car battle for the race win. Mitchell Jr., Estrela (2nd), Eidson (3rd), and Neri (4th) all took their turn at the front before the checkered flag waved. Estrela picked up seven spots in his charge to second-place.
On Dec. 10-11 the drivers traveled West to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2011-12 Winter Series. Estrela dominated the opening race by snaring pole and later leading every lap of Round 4 on the prestigious 11-turn circuit. Finishing second was newcomer Adrian Starrantino, who proved his mettle by edging Neri and Mitchell Jr. at the stripe. Starrantino clocked the fastest lap of the 16-lap race (140.510) under cloudy skies.
In Round 4, Mitchell Jr. returned to the top-spot after repeatedly swapping the lead with Neri. Eidson was third with Starrantino fifth. Thanks to his consistency, Neri leads the drivers’ championship with 125 points after four races. Eidson is second, trailing by 11 points with Jack Mitchell Jr. (-13) in third.
The drivers return to action for Rounds 5 and 6 on Jan. 21-22 and Homestead-Miami Speedway.