RACE: Mid-Ohio Runoffs Tuesday notes

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Runoffs Notes - 4 - Tuesday copyright 1996 John P. M. Dillon Tuesday dawned greyer, cooler, with a slight threat of rain, but so far (and it's after 5 PM now) the track has stayed dry. The sun peeked out around 10 AM, just as the GT1 cars...

Runoffs Notes - 4 - Tuesday copyright 1996 John P. M. Dillon

Tuesday dawned greyer, cooler, with a slight threat of rain, but so far (and it's after 5 PM now) the track has stayed dry. The sun peeked out around 10 AM, just as the GT1 cars began their (short- lived) practice. now, however, as the day's end draws near, overcast skies have returned. It's possible that tomorrow's qualifying sessions may be a rain-tire experience. I flagged for a half-day, then hit the pits for mingling and gossip.

In no particular order.... According to Clay Silvestre, the Spec Racers had a big pile-up in "Madness," the 6-7-8 complex, after one guy blew oil or coolant all over the track and several others thumped and whacked walls and each other. John Bowden was one of the drivers caught in the mess. Silvestre, meanwhile, says "The car looks bad, but it's faster than I am. Maybe rebuilding the car from the ground up at the track is the hot trick!"

A Sedans are on track now, sounding good. Talked to Mike Lewis (GT1, GT3) this morning. He's pretty comfortable with the GT3 Mazda, but the GT1 Mustang is still getting sorted out. "It's hard to learn a track when you only race here once a year." He only got in three or four laps of practice, since Ray Montalvo stuffed his car in the wall at Turn 8 and forced a premature end of session. Lewis said he almost got caught out by Montalvo. "When he went off course, I thought I could get by, then realized he might try to get back on track, so I backed off--and it's a good thing I did."

This year, to alleviate pregrid problems with qualifying cars, a lottery is being held for each of the two qualifying days. It's like drawing for your starting position, except it's for qualifying. Dave Killian, one of the Timing Chiefs, calls it the "Skibbe Lotto," but Bill Skibbe, the other Timing Chief, says "Don't credit me! It should be called the Doug Reed Lotto!" Alternatives to the lottery were considered, including the use of practice times. I tossed in a really weird randomizer... Use the practice times from group 1 to set the qualifying grid for group 2, and so on. You'd have to shuffle things a little since the car counts are different in each class, but it's an easy idea. Never to be taken seriously, of course....

Speaking of "Killer" Killian, he stood at the bulletin board where drivers were gathered about attempting to read their times and muttered, "I wonder just how accurate we were today." The next day he laughed, saying "It doesn't matter how accurate we are, but we're official." In fairness, Timing is using two completely independent systems to get the best results possible. It's nice to see they have a sense of humor about the whole affair.

Pratt Cole missed practice today after buzzing his motor yesterday. He went from 3rd to 2nd gear in frustration of trying to get around another car. As a result, he said he had to take his car "to the BMW store."

Russ McHugh, SSC driver, is in his first Runoffs. He's having fun so far, but admits "I need to go faster," adding "Neons are a pain." McHugh races a Miata.

Richard Crites finally received a new transmission at 10 AM. With the help of Larry Cress, Sue Mashiko, and others, Crites got the tranny installed with 20 minutes to spare--of a 2 PM start. He completed the practice session, finishing next-to-last of the runners with only the single session in the books. The SSA practice session was busy and started off with a wild ride for octogenarian Les Gaylord. He didn't actually commit a driver's error, but he sure bobbled wildly through Turns 8 and 9.

Bob Henderson and Bob Beede only got their cars together last week. Beede is fairing the better of the two, holding the 10th fastest time. The whole SSA practice session was exciting for spectators as Tony Swan, Jack Tippens, and Kjell Skavnes diced and duked their way through practice. Swan had lost his oil plug in Turn 3 yesterday to oil the course.

Tim Brecht started off slow. "I'm used to SoPac tracks where the track temperature is always at least 130 degrees, so my tire pressures here were too low. Now that I've added 8 psi, the car is running much better." He uses the new Hoosier tires for Showroom Stock classes. "These are great; all the BMW's like them."

Bob Coffin said he ran faster today despite have his left front shock disconnected. John Strickler said "If I was having any more fun I'd have to be twins--which I am!" as he pointed to Spec Racers powered by Ford and Renault both. "I've never been here before, so hopefully driving one car will help with the other." Like several of the competitors, he hates to see the Renaults go, claiming they would be a good entry level regional-only class. "A lot of guys wish that would happen," he says. As for any secret to winning, he said "just stay out of trouble--oops, I just jinxed myself."

Phil Lowe is much happier this year than last. After his first practice he's 17th faster, which is twice as good as last year. SSC driver George Liebl was reclining on a chaise lounge on a Tuesday afternoon, basking in the sun. He said the car is coming along just fine. "We've got the right tire combination (BFG's) thanks to crew chief Bill Stinson." His goal is to qualify in the top 15, and finish in the top 10. "I took a 23 year vacation from racing, but then my son go the bug. He's one of only two MR2's racing in SSB, and he moved up from 20th to 12th in practice. He wants to be in the top 8."

Cliff Knudsen races a Swift DB5 in S2000, serving as his own crew chief along with wife Carolyn. "We do a lot of work prepping the car ourselves, but we get hints from Mike Shank Racing. The engine is a Quicksilver and the tranny came from Craig Taylor." The ShelCans (all four of them) will be racing with the Sports 2000, which doesn't set well with Knudsen. "Those cars are heavier than ours, they brake much earlier, and they can't see us in their mirrors. Every S2000 driver I know passes them as if they don't know we're there."

Okay, so I just saw a little contact on the front straight when a yellow car nosed into the left rear corner of Lee Fleming's SRF while John Hollansworth passed them both. And now the checkered flag has fallen for the last time today. Tonight's worker parter features brats and beer. I'll have a brat, thank you.

Steve Anderson, AS driver from Cal Club, said he spent yesterday just scrubbing in tires. "On Sunday we were as quick as yesterday's fast time." I mentioned the qualifying lottery earlier--Anderson lucked out, drawing #1 for tomorrow. Another drawing will be held later for Thursday qualifying.

Rober Nagel, a Mustang AS pilot, said the secret to being a Ford in a pack of Chevies was to "pretend I'm a Chevy." Nagel, who's "Alf" mysteriously "committed suicide" or was lynched, depending on whom you ask, now has his brother r'Alf serving as Nagel's navigator. "I'll let r'Alf plan our race strategy," says Nagel. This is their first time to the Runoffs and to Mid-Ohio. "I like it; it's a very challenging course, especially in a Mustang. It's too damn cold though!"

Steve Tollefson said "Everything is going fine for us. It feels good (knock on wood) and we hope to avoid the 'R' word. At Willow Springs we worry about the 'W' word." He thinks the qualifying lottery is fairer than using practice times. "It lets you work on different setups and different sections of the track rather than forcing you into trying to go fast right away."

Steve Kelso hasn't experienced the same easy visit so far. A persistent oil leak finally forced the engine to be yanked and a main oil seal replaced. As we've seen in other cases, his Cal Club AS friends all pitched in and helped. He's also had a distributor gear break, which meant the timing refused to stay set. The front wheel bearings are going bad too, so he'll replace them tonight. Even his aircleaner was a concern--he wasn't sure if it would arrive on time. A crewman decided to carry it with him on the plane. After he got to the track, they finished assembling and riveting. Kelso has some new sponsors: Ringers Resource, a mechanic's clothing company, and Nitrotech, a freeze tempering company.

The Cal Club AS drivers are sharing a big tent with a banner proclaiming "The Cal Club American Sedan Drivers Southern Pacific Division; Thanks to all the SCCA workers."

I asked Lee Fleming about the track. "Oh, I like the track," he said. But the surface is a mixed texture, part concrete, part asphalt, so setting up the car is a challenge." He added that the setup you choose depends on the lines you select, based on the concrete/asphalt transitions. "We're making big changes each time we go out. You might say we're operating at 'full grope.'"

Time for brats and soda.... more as time permits. Tomorrow morning I'll flag, then return to the pits for more of whatever I can find.

John Dillon Mostly SoPac

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