Jonathan Summerton of Newman Wachs Racing captured a critical victory in Saturday's Atlantic Championship race at Mid-Ohio. His second win of the season helped propel him back into title contention after holding off several charges from Simona de...
Jonathan Summerton of Newman Wachs Racing captured a critical victory in Saturday's Atlantic Championship race at Mid-Ohio. His second win of the season helped propel him back into title contention after holding off several charges from Simona de Silvestro of Team Stargate Worlds, and avoiding the pitfalls that befell his NWR teammate John Edwards.
"We both (Summerton and De Silvestro) had good starts and going into turn 2, I think we both just missed the braking points or weren't expecting the track to be so slippery," Summerton said. "We overbraked ourselves and luckily both of us were able to continue on and keep racing. Later on in the race, through traffic, Simona was able to get side-by-side with me."
Summerton, the pole sitter, referred to the start where he and de Silvestro almost collided on the entrance to the aforementioned turn 2, the Keyhole. Not as lucky in this case was Edwards, who got away slowly from the outside pole, and fell into a collision with Tonis Kasemets and Frankie Muniz. Kasemets was done on the spot while Edwards and Muniz pitted for repairs.
"The problem that I had was the start, because John (Edwards) stalled the car or had a problem with the clutch of something," explained Borja Garcia, the Spanish rookie who completed the podium in third place. Garcia had a front row seat to the shenanigans at the Keyhole.
Once the wreckage was cleared the race was on between Summerton and de Silvestro. The female driver from Switzerland ran within a few tenths of a second of Summerton, and had her best chances to overtake when encountering the C2 class entry of Michael Mallinen.
That's when things got hairy. Mallinen was minding his own business exiting turn one but it was right in the path of the two leaders. This made for dicey overtaking maneuvers and suddenly de Silvestro had a huge run on Summerton with an opportunity to overtake into the Keyhole.
"When you have two (cars) in front of you, you lose a lot of downforce," she admitted. "I got the run, and it was a little bit close into turn 2. All the patches are good, because you have a lot of mechanical grip. I think we caught traffic, for me it was good because I didn't really have anyone behind me."
Summerton explained his take, following right in Mallinen's tire tracks. "For me, definitely I was planning to pass out of turn one," he said. "It didn't play into my hands as well as I thought I would. I lost my front downforce and go to the inside. She had a bit of a run. Of course I saw my shift lights later. Going down the backstraight, she had a good draft, but I was just hoping there would be grip where there was."
De Silvestro made another attempt into turn 4, off the long back straight, but was unable to make the pass. It was game over as far as the win went, but Summerton was gracious over a clean battle for the win.
"She did a hard, fair race with me there and I really appreciate that," Summerton said. "We were able to hold on and basically I just kept running lap after lap consistently and trying to keep my tires. In the last few laps, I decided to try and go for it. I think we were able to do the fastest lap, so I'm pretty happy."
Behind them, Garcia was very quick all weekend and was always destined for a podium finish with a bit of luck. A slow start saw him stuck behind Frederic Vervisch but he got past and ran similar lap times as the leaders. It was the third podium finish of the season for the Condor Motorsports driver.
"Vervisch was maybe one or two second slower than me and I could pass," Garcia said. "When I passed him, I could do my pace. I think I went faster than (Jonathan) Summerton and Simona (De Silvestro), but always in the race, when I found the traffic, I lost a little bit just when I was catching Simona. Finally, third place is a good result. We'll see what happen next week in the street race."
Markus Niemela equaled his best result of the season in fourth place for Jensen Motorsport, with Vervisch completing the top five.
Mallinen ran behind his teammate and series debutante Hans Peter for most of the race in C2, but Peter pulled off track after 26 laps with mechanical gremlins. Mallinen recorded his fourth C2 class win of the season thanks to the issue, and gave credit to Peter's efforts.
"Hans is good friend of mine and we've raced together for many, many years," Mallinen said. "He was faster today. He should have got the win, but you know how racing is. Sometimes things happen. I hit a curb on Lap 2 on the back and whacked my left front wheel and I had a bad vibration, so I was kind of nursing it all the way home. I was just trying to stay out of the way. Hans had some bad luck and here I am, so I'll take it."
Points-wise, de Silvestro capitalized on Edwards' demise as the Kentucky native finished 11th overall (9th in the Atlantic class). She leads Edwards now by 16 points, 135-119, on the strength of seven consecutive podium finishes.
Summerton is now just six points behind Edwards. A key to the series' title this year is that the lowest result is dropped. Summerton's worst was 11th last round at Autobahn, Edwards' today. De Silvestro's is merely a 5th at Sebring, her only finish out of the top three this season.
With four races to go, it's game on for the Atlantic title between three protagonists. Summerton made sure to include his name in that list with his and the Newman Wachs' team's performance this weekend.