STALKING THE ELUSIVE 'SWEET SPOT' Lynx Racing drivers Memo Gidley and Buddy Rice discovered something useful in an otherwise difficult weekend at Trois-Riviers... that the 'sweet spot' of their new Swift 008.a Atlantic cars is ...
STALKING THE ELUSIVE 'SWEET SPOT'
Lynx Racing drivers Memo Gidley and Buddy Rice discovered something useful in an otherwise difficult weekend at Trois-Riviers... that the 'sweet spot' of their new Swift 008.a Atlantic cars is improbably small, and the drop-off on either side is like falling off a cliff.
After topping the time sheets in early practice, the best Gidley and Rice could manage in qualifying was fourth and seventh. It was a step up the ladder from the fifth and tenth they endured at the previous race in Toronto, but still nowhere near the sort of performance everyone expects from Lynx Racing... and the team expects from itself.
In the race, both drivers made brilliant starts and came around on the first lap running third and fourth, giving the team reasonable cause to suppose that they finally had these new cars figured out. That mood of optimism lasted only a few laps, however, as the handling of the cars began to deteriorate. In the end, Gidley again showed his talent and maturity by coddling his balky machine into a fourth-place finish while Rice, who was running a solid sixth, suffered a transmission failure in the closing laps and finished 20th.
"It's becoming clear to us that the 'sweet spot' on these Swifts is a lot smaller than it was on the Ralts, and that if you miss it, the car is a real handful," says Gidley. "Tire pressure is extremely critical, and the car doesn't respond to spring and shock absorber changes in the way you'd expect. We'll be spending every waking minute between now and next weekend's race at Mid-Ohio taking the cars apart to make sure the problem isn't mechanical, and studying the information from the on-board data system to try and get a sense of where we're going wrong with the setup. Everyone on the team is completely committed to finding out what the problem is, getting it solved and getting us back up front where we belong."
The Grand Prix Player's du Trois Rivieres was won by Player's driver Alexandre Tagliani, who also won at Toronto. Anthony Lazzaro was second and Lee Bentham was third. In the championship points battle, Bentham is in first with 100, while Gidley and Tagliani are tied for second at 98. Andrew Bordin is in third with 87, while Matt Sielsky is fourth with 73 and Rice is in fifth with 70. With 20 points awarded for an victory in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, and five races still on the schedule, the battle is far from over.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks for the team, but there's an up side to all this," says Rice. "For us drivers, learning to work with a new car is a valuable experience because when we get to CART, it's something we’ll be doing every season as you upgrade from last year's car to next year's. And for the team as a whole, the challenge really has everyone pulling together to get it figured out. This year's championship is going to be a battle right down to the last lap."
The next events on the 1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic schedule include the Miller 200 at Mid-Ohio on August 9 and the Texaco/Havoline 200 on August 16. The final three races of the season are the Molson Indy Vancouver on September 5, the Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca on September 12 and the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston on October 4.
KOOL/Toyota Atlantic action at Mid-Ohio begins with a test day on Thursday, and a pair of practice sessions on Friday. Qualifying takes place Saturday at 3:00 p.m., with the 25-lap race scheduled to take the green flag on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. The race will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, August 15.
Lynx Racing, now entering its ninth year of operation, is a uniquely successful driver development team owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty. The team is dedicated to seeking out young drivers with championship potential but without financial resources and helping them make the jump to the top levels of the sport.
In addition to the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, Lynx Racing has a 'junior team', Lynx/DSTP Motorsports, operating one step down on the ladder, in the U.S. F2000 series. Lynx also fields an effort, in conjunction with Kent Stacy's S3 Racing, in the Star Formula Mazda Championship for Lynx Racing driver Sara Senske, 19, of Kennewick, Washington.
In the Star Mazda race on the oval at Pike's Peak, she qualified on the front row and finished third, becoming the first woman in both track and series history to score a podium finish. In the most recent event, on the Laguna Seca road course, Senske fought a 21-lap battle with far more experienced drivers and survived a last-lap, last-turn wheel-banging incident to finish fourth and move from 8th to 5th in the points.
"I'm driving for one of the best teams in auto racing, I'm learning like mad and having a blast," says Senske. "No woman in the history of auto racing has ever had an opportunity like this, and I'm very grateful to Peggy and Jackie for helping make my dream come true."
For further information on Lynx Racing and its drivers, please visit the team's web site at www.lynxracing.com.