Mid-Ohio: Corsa Motorsports race report

\FRUSTRATING WEEKEND FOR CORSA MOTORSPORTS AT MID OHIO Lexington, OH (August 9, 2009). As has become seemingly regimen to date, the Corsa Motorsports team faced an uphill battle at this weekend's Acura Sports Car Challenge at Lexington, Ohio...


Lexington, OH (August 9, 2009). As has become seemingly regimen to date, the Corsa Motorsports team faced an uphill battle at this weekend's Acura Sports Car Challenge at Lexington, Ohio with its revolutionary LMP1 hybrid electric GZ09-SH racecar.

The test this weekend was the 2.258 Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. The weekend having began with missed practice and qualifying sessions due to the first problems with its new hybrid powertrain, the No.48 LMP1 having logged only 23 laps, with no qualifying time found itself relegated to the back of the grid making the thirty minute morning warm up session even more important as it would be the only opportunity for the team to test the reinstallation of the hybrid motor prior to the start of the race.

As the morning warm-up began, as was Corsa's luck all weekend, it began to rain making the course slippery and virtually void of grip. Unable to run on the slick tires with the conditions, the team placed rain tires on the car and Johnny Mowlem recorded the fastest lap of the session with a 1:37.308 time but more importantly the repair of the car's hybrid motor was successfully completed.

With a watchful eye on the weather after the warm-up session and three hours before the race start, the team began to clean and inspect the car while hoping for dry conditions to return to match the car's setup. Although threatening, the weather held insuring a dry start for the race.

Taking up its place on the starting grid at the rear of the 26 car field with Stefan Johansson at the wheel, strategy and luck would dictate that Stefan be careful as he would have to weave his way through the slower GT car field that would start ahead of him. When the green flag finally dropped, there was an immediate off from one of the GT cars resulting in an eight lap yellow period. In an attempt to take advantage of the yellow, the team decided to bring the car in two times during the yellow for fuel hoping that a long green run would enable the team to make its way through the field and be ahead of the other teams' pit stop and fuel strategies.

When the green flag dropped again, Stefan was again at the back of the field but fully topped up on fuel. It took three laps to clear the last and leading No.45 Flying Lizard GT2 car but by that time, pole sitter Simon Pagenaud in the No.66 Acura had already built nearly a one lap lead over Stefan and it was not long before Stefan began to lap backmarkers that the No.48 went a lap down to the leader and eventually fell to eighth place overall.

Focused on a finish and the potential of a podium, Stefan ran consistent laps and climbed to as high as 3rd in class and 4th overall but in doing so, a gremlin hit the communications system in his helmet and the team lost communication with him. As he passed the pit box, he caught a command to pit and did so on lap 52. With the car fully serviced, Johnny Mowlem took over driving duties entering the track at the back of the prototype running order.

One of the impediments of trying to push the envelope with such revolutionary technologies is the initial use of less than desirable components based on size and weight also requiring them to be placed at higher centers of gravity making the handling of the car a continuing challenge for the team's engineers. Also, with the potential of the hybrid system vested in its ability to deliver voltage to the electric motor from its lithium-ion battery, the battery continues to be the weak link as the team searches for solutions so that the electric motor can offset the weight and resulting handling problems.

These problems began to manifest themselves halfway through Johnny's stint as the rubber marbles that litter and accumulate in the off-line areas of the track and with overtaking a must to climb back up through the field, the Dunlop tires suffered greatly with pickup and Johnny's lap times began to fall with the resulting imbalance and though having climbed to as high as 5th in the overall field, Johnny crossed the finish line in 6th place overall and 4th in class behind overall race winners Simon Pegenaud and Gil deFerran in the No.66 LMP1 Acura.

"It was another frustrating weekend with a whole new set of problems that seem to have become the rule but the team rose to each challenge and car proved again its ability to take the punishment of endurance racing" said Corsa Team Principal Steve Pruitt. "The project is equally not boring and frustrating as the team attempts to move the envelope for the revolutionary technology of the car which we still see as being at the frontier of the electrification of transportation and we have a very short turn around before next weekend's race at the Road America circuit at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin where hopefully we will be able to take advantage of the practice sessions and complete a proper setup before we have to qualify and race."

The next race for the team is the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase at the fastest track in North America Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

-credit: cr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Gil de Ferran , Johnny Mowlem , Simon Pagenaud , Steve Pruitt