Auto racing's equivalent of the Barnum & Bailey Ringling Bros. Circus -- a million horsepower circus -- is happening at the Road Atlanta Motor Sports Center this weekend, and a trio of Lynx Racing drivers find themselves in starring...
Auto racing's equivalent of the Barnum & Bailey Ringling Bros. Circus -- a million horsepower circus -- is happening at the Road Atlanta Motor Sports Center this weekend, and a trio of Lynx Racing drivers find themselves in starring roles. Memo Gidley is the latest graduate of the unique and remarkably successful Lynx Racing driver development program, and he'll be making his sports car debut in the Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S Prototype regularly driven by Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell. Gidley is a driver much in demand these days. After distinguishing himself in a four race stint in the Walker-Alpine Reynard Honda, filling in for the injured Naoki Hattori, Gidley has been signed to run the #71 Herdez-sponsored car for Payton-Coyne for the remaining road courses and street circuits in the 1999 season. He tested the Panoz, at the invitation of Don Panoz, at Road Atlanta on August 24, and came away mightily impressed. "It's like driving the Batmobile in the way that it challenges you to muscle it around, which is a pretty interesting change from driving open wheel cars that demand you be really delicate," says Gidley. "I ran two sessions, just 5-6 laps in the first one to find my way around the track and get used to the car. In the second session, I was pretty much in the ballpark with the other drivers who were in the test, including Johnny O'Connell and David Brabham. Because of my experiences with stock cars and Can-Am cars, I was able to adjust to it fairly quickly, and it was good to meet Don Panoz because it's clear that he has big plans for the future." And it's apparent from his comments, and the fact that he invited Gidley to drive, that Don Panoz was also impressed, "Memo Gidley caught our eye some time ago as he's young, ambitious and very fast around the track. I think he'll fit in extremely well with the rest of my guys, which is going to be important for this race as they are up against some tough competition." Also running during the Petit Le Mans weekend is Lynx Racing driver Sara Senske, the hottest female driver in auto racing today. She'll be competing in the fourth round of the innovative new Women's Global GT Series, created by Indy 500 driver Lyn St. James and Road Atlanta / Panoz Motorsports owner Don Panoz. This support race features the fastest women drivers from around the world competing in identically-prepared Panoz Esperante sports cars. Senske won the third round of the WGGTS, at Portland International Raceway. She qualified on the pole, led every lap, set the fastest lap, and won by a margin of 27 seconds over the 2nd-place finisher. "Road Atlanta was where the tryouts for the WGGTS were held, so I'm familiar with the track, and the fact that I was fastest in the first practice sessions on Wednesday gives me some confidence going into the weekend," says Senske, who is currently third in the WGGTS points battle. "This is an extremely competitive series full of some of the top drivers in the world, and to do well is a real accomplishment. My goal is to be the first woman to win the Indy 500, and gaining experience in a variety of cars and situations is important to achieving that goal." The third Lynx driver participating in the Petit Le Mans is Mike Conte, who drives for the team in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship as a teammate to CART FedEx hot prospect Buddy Rice. Conte will be campaigning a Porsche 911 entered under his own Contemporary Motorsport banner in the GT class -- the same car with which he finished third at the 12 hours of Sebring earlier this year. "I'm particularly partial to natural road courses, and Road Atlanta is one of the best in the world," says Conte. "This race is an interesting one in that the ten-hour length is enough to qualify it as an 'endurance' race, but short enough that everyone will be driving at very nearly top speed the entire time. Mechanical reliability will be a big part of how things turn out, but so will car setup and the physical fitness of the drivers. There are a lot more factors in a race like this than just who is the fastest, and I think we've got a pretty good balance."
Schedule of Events:
Friday, September 17 10:30 a.m. -- 11:30 a.m. Combined practice - Prototype/GTS/GT 11:45 a.m. -- 12:15 p.m. WGGTS qualifying / session 1 12:30 p.m. -- 1:15 p.m. Driver autograph session on Manufacturer' Row 1:15 p.m. -- 1:45 p.m. WGGTS qualifying / session 2 2:00 p.m. -- 2:30 p.m. GT qualifying 2:24 p.m. -- 3;15 p.m. Prototype qualifying 3:20 p.m. Post-qualifying press conference for class pole-sitters in Media Center 3:45 p.m. WGGTS drivers meeting
Saturday, September 18 7:45 a.m. -- 8:15 a.m. Combined warm-up / Prototype/GTS/GT 8:30 a.m. -- 9:15 a.m. WGGTS Race / 45 minutes 9:25 a.m. WGGTS podium finishers press conference in Media Center 11:00 a.m. Start of Petit Le Mans / 1,000 miles or 10 hours 9:15 p.m. Post race press conference for class winners in Media Center
The opening and closing hours of the race will be carried live on NBC. Check your local listings.