TURNING POINTS Lynx Racing experienced a pair of turning points this weekend, one in Trois Rivieres and one in Portland. Trois Rivieres The Lynx Racing KOOL/Toyota Atlantic team of Buddy Rice and Mike Conte, qualified fourth and ...
Lynx Racing experienced a pair of turning points this weekend, one in Trois Rivieres and one in Portland.
The Lynx Racing KOOL/Toyota Atlantic team of Buddy Rice and Mike Conte, qualified fourth and ninth, respectively, for the thirtieth annual running of the Grand Prix Player's du Trois Rivieres. They ultimately finished 17th (Conte) and 21st (Rice), falling prey to the fickle fortunes of racing -- but proved a point anyway.
Conte fell afoul of the scientific maxim "No two objects may occupy the same place at the same time" early in the race -- two turns into the first lap. In a wild scramble for position going into the Arch Turn, he was punted off-course by Andrew Bordin, who was nonetheless able to continue. Conte, however, suffered a bent toe link on the left rear and spent three laps in the pits while the crew returned his car to running order.
"From that point on, it just didn't handle right, so there must have been something else bent that wasn't immediately apparent," said Conte. "The team has been giving me great cars at every race, and for the first two turns of this one, we were on our way to a good finish. The up side is that I qualified in the top 10 ahead of a lot of really fast drivers. Besides, Mid-Ohio is next up on the schedule, and to drive a really good car on such a smooth, beautiful, challenging track is the stuff of a driver's dreams."
Rice got the better of the opening lap melee, despite being rammed from behind by last year's winner Alexandre Tagliani, and crosses the start/ finish line in second place. On the eighth lap, Rice passes pole-sitter and points leader Anthony Lazzaro for the lead, which he holds until lap 15. On lap 31, however, he finds debris on the exit of turn 8 and his car understeered off the road into the tire barrier. He was unhurt, but his day was done. Lazzaro goes on to the victory, and Rice drops from second to fourth in the championship battle.
"I had a great car at the start of the race, but I slightly bent a toe link getting past Anthony for the lead and the handling deteriorated just enough that I couldn't hold it," said Rice. "As for the crash, I saw Lazzaro lock up his brakes going into the turn, and they told me afterward that the car behind me, Kenny Wilden, got sideways in a big way, so I'm assuming there was some dirt or oil on the track, even though I don't recall seeing a flag in the corner. From my point of view, I went into the turn just as I had in previous laps and on the exit the car just understeered into the tire wall. But we've got plenty of time to get ready before the next race, and despite the crash the team is feeling like we've turned the corner in our ability to consistently field front-running cars, so we're very positive about the future."
The next race on the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic schedule is the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 15. The Trois Rivieres race will be broadcast Sunday, August 8 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
Lynx Racing driver Sara Senske was the principal player in the parallel drama being played out at Portland International Raceway while the Atlantic team was in Trois Rivieres.
Competing in both the Star Formula Mazda event and the third round of the Women's Global GT Series, she was involved in the supremely difficult task of switching back and forth between two completely different kinds of race cars several times per day.
In the Star Mazda event for open-wheel 'formula' cars, she qualified her #19 Lynx Racing/S3 Racing car in fifth, and was in a running battle for second place when she hit some coolant remaining on the track from an earlier pair of cars that had tangled and been removed. She spun off course, but was able to continue and drive her way back up to a 7th-place finish.
In the Women's GT event, a racing series comprised entirely of the fastest female drivers from around the world, she was consistently the fastest car in every practice session and qualified on the pole. In the race, she admits she "got a little over-aggressive at the start," slid off-course and bounced through the gravel trap. She was able to continue, and, not having gained any advantage from the off-course short-cut, was not penalized. She won the race with a 27-second margin of victory over the second-place car of Cindy Lux.
"We were fast right from the first session, just blowing past everybody," said Senske. "I also have to give some credit to the Michelin tire guys who came over and gave me some help during practice, like a sort of mini tire-test. I wasn't making some do-or-die effort in the race, but we were still a second a lap faster than everyone else, and it just felt comfortable to run at that pace. This is a real momentum-builder for the rest of the season, and hopefully will be a step forward in my goal to race Indy cars."
Senske's next Women's GT race is at Road Atlanta on September 18. She continues her battle for the Star Mazda championship at the Thunderhill track in Northern California on August 14 - 15.
Lynx Racing, owned by Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty and now entering its ninth year of operation, is both a championship-winning racing team and a unique driver development program. The team's mission is to seek out young drivers with championship potential and provide them with the training, resources and opportunity to realize that potential and make the jump to auto racing's 'major leagues.'
Lynx Racing alumni include CART FedEx series drivers Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Forsythe), Alex Barron (All-American Racers and Marlboro Penske) and Memo Gidley (Alpine/Walker).
"This weekend was a turning point for the team," says Lynx Racing co-owner Peggy Haas. "It's our goal that every time a Lynx driver goes out on track, it is reasonable to expect that they will be the fastest car, win the pole and win the race. They may or may not actually achieve that, but we want it to be a reasonable expectation, and we are now at that point."