CHAMPCAR/CART: Gidley, Della Penna face the ultimate challenge at Laguna Seca

American driver Memo Gidley and his Argentine owner John Della Penna are having a bittersweet homecoming at Laguna Seca Raceway this weekend, paying a heavy price for being unable to participate in CART's open test here last month. While both...

American driver Memo Gidley and his Argentine owner John Della Penna are having a bittersweet homecoming at Laguna Seca Raceway this weekend, paying a heavy price for being unable to participate in CART's open test here last month. While both men have a long history of driving experience on the Northern California circuit, their one-car team lacks the fat notebook of setup data generated by two-car efforts that enjoyed a full two days of running at the August open test.

Immediately after the session, owner Della Penna was candid about the uphill battle faced by his team. "We just got our butts kicked today. Obviously missing the CART open test is hurting us more than I thought it would. I don't want to just throw something completely unknown on the car for tomorrow, but we obviously need to do some intensive work tonight."

According to Gidley, "You always try to pick out what's good about a particular setup, build on that, and then improve the other parts. Our challenge tonight is to rebound from a situation where the setup is so far off that you wonder what the good qualities might be. The effort and desire are there, yet the results don't yet show it. But you know the old saying, "it ain't over 'til it's over, and we have one more practice session to get it right before the green flag drops tomorrow afternoon."

Echoing Gidley's underdog spirit, Della Penna reminded the Red Menace crew that "everyday's a new day, and we have had some of our best finishes starting from way in the back of the pack."

Memo Gidley on navigating the classic Corkscrew turn. "You're going up the hill, and the car feels like it's about to take off into the sky, and then you brake as late as possible before the crest of the hill. The corkscrew is tight and completely blind, so you have to select reference points to know where you are. A lot of times your left front wheel is in the air for a moment, but in fact most of the steering load is on the outside front tire and the inside tire is along for the ride anyway. It's a complex balancing act to carry as much speed through the turn as possible, and get on the throttle as soon and as hard as you can based on how much traction is available. And that traction changes throughout the races based on weather conditions, dust on the surface, tire wear and fuel load. It's a bit different every time through."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley