The first weekend of June, Team Tiger made the short two-and-a-half hour trip north to Lexington, Ohio and our favorite race track…Mid Ohio. The track is set in the scenic Amish country and is one marketed as the “most competitive” in the US. This is the track where we won our GT2 National Championship in 1999, so we have great memories here. The track has become more challenging over the past 10 years with NASCAR, Indy Car and other pro races having worn the surface very smooth, so it is difficult to get good bite. Mid Ohio is definitely a driver’s track and this weekend we were just a bit off.
The Tiger was actually the fastest in the speed trap in sessions with a top speed just over 150 mph. But I was struggling to be consistent and as a result we qualified fourth out of eight GT2 cars. When we reviewed the data, it was clear that the car had the performance, but the driver (me) needed to be smoother on entry into the turns and allow the car to roll into the apex and get the shot coming out of the corner.
Race one on Saturday was a great day as air temps were in the high 70s and, for Ohio, low humidity. On the start, going into turn one, we lost fourth place to a TA2 Camaro. The Tiger dropped in behind and set out to regain the spot as I waited for my tires to come in. As we entered the last corner to complete lap one, Janet alerted me by radio that the pole GT2 Toyota had just spun into the pit wall on the front straight.
Just then the corner workers popped up the double yellow flags. The pace car picked the field up as we exited turn one. Shortly thereafter the black flag was displayed. The pace car took the field into the pits where we stopped and awaited the restart.
The race is on a timer and the clock continues to run during a black flag. Since a complete first lap had not been done by the full field, we restarted in our original spots; in my case, we were third.
We finally got the signal for the restart. We would possibly get only three green flag race laps due to the allotted time remaining. We came to the green flag. The Vette that was on the pole made a jump, but I got a good start and gapped the fourth place Camaro. Sure enough as we came to complete the third lap, the checker flag waved over the Tiger.
We finished third, making our first podium of 2018. I felt much better about our performance, but we were disappointed that we did not get to run the 20 laps. Nevertheless, we did get some much-needed points.
Sunday weather problems
All week Sunday had been predicted to be a washout. But when we got to the track that morning, the skies were clear and the forecast looked much better. That all changed in the race group right before lunch. The skies opened up with five laps to go. It continued raining during the lunch break; we were the next race group up. I used to love to race on a wet track especially at Mid Ohio, but like I said before the track has changed and it is now a slippery mess in the wet. We mounted the Hoosier rain tires on the Tiger and disconnected the front and rear anti roll bars to allow the car to be as soft as possible. On the formation lap it started raining again. Only four GT2s were on the grid; many did not start due to the conditions. Normally I would not have either, but we need points. My goal was just to tame the Tiger and keep it on the track. The rain stopped half way through and a dry line started to appear rather quickly. So the last four laps were on a dry track. We kept our nose clean and brought the Tiger home again on the bottom step of the podium… another third. Our report card for Mid Ohio, A+ for the engine, A for the Tiger and B- for the driver who will now be the focus of attention.
This past week we added to our standard post race list cleaning all the debris and mess from the Tiger. Running on a wet track makes a terrible mess. My first order of business: disassembly of the front suspension to inspect, clean and lubricate the rod ends and mono balls. I also cleaned and reset the nitrogen pressure in the Penske coil over shocks. This was our first race with Carbotech brake pads which we felt was a big step in the right direction. As always, the Tiger will get scaled and realigned. All that is left now is to clean and repack drive plates and the wheel bearings front and rear before we head to our next race June 22-24 at Watkins Glen International.