Orange, CA. - "A Top Ten Finish" - That was our goal and that goal was reached. For this race at Laguna SECA, that is. After a miserable string of engine failures beginning back at Mosport, Canada, in June, the team could not be happier with its faith in Lozano Bros. for producing what they are so well-known for, competitive and reliable Ford race engines.
"Finally the team was able to concentrate on chassis and aero tuning throughout the weekend rather than whether or not we had enough Bars Leak (water stop leak additive) on hand to slow the blown head gasket process that became quite routine," said Rod Everett, team owner.
While all that was going so well, we were expecting a very good result despite breaking in a new driver, Rick Sutherland, this weekend. Rick did a remarkable job, without even a test day. He slipped right into the cockpit and did not put a wheel wrong all weekend. It didn't come without some trouble, however. While Chris Bingham was one of the quicker drivers on Thursday's open test, he did manage to find his way off the track at turn six at approximately 160 M.P.H. Although initially there appeared to be very little damage, the dirt, rocks and debris from this left Rick without use of the clutch on Friday. Debris had damaged the clutch release mechanism seals which, of course, gave us no clutch actuation. Rick adapted well and continued on. "We completely underestimated the magnitude of Chris's flying lap mishap. These cars are just big shovels when they get off in the dirt and debris was everywhere," said Everett.
"I tried something a little different at turn six that lap. The car was so good I knew that I could push it. It turns out that I was attempting to squeeze another twelve M.P.H. through that section of racetrack which, now we know, can allow only eight," explained Bingham.
On Saturday the team had another problem which resulted in a qualifying session without fourth gear. While researching every complicated possibility for this trouble after the practice session and having the gearbox completely disassembled, aligning and blueprinting, the cure was actually quite simple: an incorrectly machined gear ratio not allowing for full engagement. Needless to say, we did not put on our best possible qualifying lap. All considered, though, not a bad lap--14th on the grid of 43 cars.
The race was furious. Green flag for two hours and forty-five minutes. Very unusual. Everett said, "These two drivers managed themselves well with only two mistakes, one of which I would still dispute." Both Chris and Rick received a stop and go penalty for pit speed. The impressive top ten result comes from maturity and fuel management by both Bingham and Sutherland, enabling only a two-stop race (for fuel) and needing only one Yokohama tire change. This is where the team made a tactical decision on a compound conforming to the drastically changing track conditions. It proved very successful. While Sutherland had raced on competitors' brand tires this year, he had this to say: "I prefer the Yokohamas. They are far better over a long run. Even the double stints."
The last stint of the race was the best one as the lap times were the same as those of the leaders and quicker than the three positions ahead of the team. This was a result of the Yokohama tire selection and a hard charge by Bingham.
During this weekend meetings were taking place while team owner Everett was firming up the team's plans for the next season, which include a new and very unique chassis/engine combination and additional financial support. Most of this, Everett was informed, stems from the team's performance and dedicated efforts put forth this season, knowing how little there was to work with, i.e., the team's current chassis/engine combination and lack of funding.
With a solid engine and chassis package now under control, the team leaves immediately from Laguna SECA down to its home track at Willow Springs for a two day test beginning on Wednesday. That is confidence!
Hybrid R&D is an Orange, California-based racing car team that competes in the International Prototype Sports Car category of the America LeMans Series.
The racing car is a Riley & Scott MKIII with an all aluminum Ford six-liter engine built for sprint and endurance racing such as the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Financial and technical support is appreciated from Yokohama Tire Corp, Park Place, Ltd., Landmark Motorsport Equipment, Active Engineering, Redline Oil, Mark V products, Performance Friction Brakes and Globalstar of Canada.