Engineers hate the word 'luck'; it mocks the precise control they strive so mightily to achieve. Yet it is undeniable that in any complex undertaking, unforeseen events can result in a significant change of direction and momentum.
Engineers hate the word 'luck'; it mocks the precise control they strive so mightily to achieve.
Yet it is undeniable that in any complex undertaking, unforeseen events can result in a significant change of direction and momentum. So, if not luck, then what? Reaching into his fund of technical jargon, an engineer might come up with the term 'pivot point.'
Lynx Racing is quietly confident that the outcome of the KOOL/ Toyota Atlantic race during the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America marks such a point, while the rival Player's team is fervently hoping the opposite, that it was just a 'blip on the screen.' And the race was won by yet another team occupied with their own designs.
Lynx driver Memo Gidley (who won three of the first four races), secured a spot on the front row of the grid in a final Sunday morning qualifying session, led several laps and drove a fierce and intelligent race to finish second to pole-sitter Anthony Lazzaro of the PPI-MCI Racing team.
Interestingly, it was an incident involving Lazzaro that was Lynx Racing's pivot point earlier in the season when he and Gidley, who had won the pole with a new track record and was on his way to an almost certain fourth victory, collided at Cleveland.
Not necessarily as a result of, but certainly coincident with Lynx's Cleveland misadventure, the Player's team hit their stride and won the next three races in a row. At Road America, however, Player's teammates Lee Bentham (the championship points leader coming into the event) and Alexandre Tagliani (winner of the previous race at Trois Rivieres) experienced a pivot point of their own as both suffered various on-track maladies and finished out of the points.
"Momentum affects not just racing cars but teams as well," says Gidley. "We built up a lot of momentum in the first four races, but it all seemed to change when we had to switch from our Ralts to the new Swifts at Cleveland. We didn't have enough testing time, and trying to work out the kinks in a new car during a race weekend is a sure recipe for late-night head-scratching and mediocre results. But we finally got if figured out and I'm confident that Road America was a major turning point."
As a result, though Bentham still leads the series with 121 points, Gidley has moved to within easy striking range with 114 points. Tagliani is back in third with 101, with Andrew Bordin at 98 and Road America winner Lazzaro at 92.
Gidley's Lynx Racing teammate, Buddy Rice, who has been upholding the team's honor with a series of podium finishes while Gidley struggled with mechanical gremlins, suffered an engine failure early in the race, languishes (for the moment) in seventh with 86 points.
With 20 points awarded for a victory, and three races still left on the schedule (Vancouver on Sept. 5, Laguna Seca on Sept. 12 and Houston on Oct. 4), the championship is far from decided, and probably will not be until the final race... barring any further dramatic pivot points, of course.
"This two-week break in the schedule between now and Vancouver gives us time to make several major mechanical and structural fixes that the cars really need," says Rice. "Teams like Player's and MCI that started running their Swifts earlier in the season have already sorted these problems out, and once we get ours solved, I think the rest of the season will be less of a reliability contest and more of a battle between drivers."
The KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship race at the Texaco/ Havoline 200 will be televised on ESPN2, Saturday, August 22 at 2:30 p.m. The upcoming event at the Molson Indy Vancouver will air on Sunday, September 6 at 1:00 p.m.