It's human nature to focus on the best and brightest, but events at this past weekend's KOOL/Toyota Atlantic race in Vancouver offered up a lesson in observing such objects when they are temporarily obscured. The objects...
It's human nature to focus on the best and brightest, but events at this past weekend's KOOL/Toyota Atlantic race in Vancouver offered up a lesson in observing such objects when they are temporarily obscured.
The objects under discussion are Lynx Racing drivers Memo Gidley and Buddy Rice, who spent the weekend struggling with uncooperative machinery and yet managed to turn in brilliant drives that will likely go unnoticed by all but the most discerning eye.
After a complete rebuild of both of the team's Swift 008.a Atlantic cars, and several days of testing that resulted in a new setup strategy, the Lynx team arrived in Vancouver cautiously optimistic. The very first practice session on Friday morning, however, demonstrated that what worked well at the test track did not translate to the streets of Vancouver.
Gidley almost immediately discarded the testing setup while Rice suffered a sudden excursion into the wall that left the team scrambling to replace the right-side front and rear suspension in the few short hours before afternoon qualifying. The duo wound up ranked 12th and 27th for the session. In a pair of qualifying sessions, one on Friday afternoon and another on Saturday morning, Gidley posted the 4th-fastest time, while Rice managed 7th after suffering simultaneous failures of his fuel-injection system and alternator that left him stranded on course halfway through the final session.
The bad luck that dogged him all weekend also reared it's head on the first lap of Rice's race when series points leader Lee Bentham banged wheels with him, bending a steering rod and forcing the Lynx rookie into the pits for a quick, brute-force repair (ie: having the biggest, strongest guy on the crew bend the rod back more or less straight by hand).
From that point on, Rice slashed his way back up through the field, finally finishing fifth. Some small measure of justice was achieved when, on the last lap, the car he passed to finish fifth was... Lee Bentham.
"It was the kind of weekend where we could have used an exorcist," says Rice. "One of the hardest things to learn about racing is that, despite all the effort the team puts in, good or bad luck still plays a big part. It's the driver's job to keep focused in spite of it all, and we'll go to the final two races the same way we always do... expecting to win."
Bentham also figured in Memo Gidley's race. The two leading competitors for the series championship were running fourth and fifth in the early stages of the race when the three leading cars, including that of Road America winner Anthony Lazzaro, encountered oil laid down by a backmarker. The trio pirouetted, one after another, into both each other and the tire wall.
Gidley, hot on their heels, was able to stop inches short of the disaster, but was bumped from behind by Bentham. Both were eventually able to re-join the race, with Gidley in last place. Despite his car's suspension being deranged just enough to upset the handling, Gidley again demonstrated his mastery of traffic and short time frames to move back up to 7th.
"It was a difficult weekend for the entire Lynx team," says Gidley.
"And the circumstances of the race didn't cooperate either. Half of it was run under yellow, and my car just didn't feel right after getting bumped by Bentham. With the championship points chase so close and just two races left, I think he and I were both driving more cautiously than usual, but we'll be back to going flat-out at Laguna"
In the final analysis, the championship battle stacks up thus; with 20 points awarded for a win, one point for the pole and one point for leading the most laps, eight drivers are still technically in the hunt.
Bentham (who finished 6th) leads with 131 points, while Gidley is just eight points back with 123. Vancouver winner Andrew Bordin now figures in the championship battle with 118 points. Matt Sielsky (who had Vancouver won until a late-race spin) sits at 102, Alexandre Tagliani is at 101, Buddy Rice is at 97, Anthony Lazzaro is at 92 and Kenny Wilden is at 78.
The next race on the schedule is the Grand Prix of Monterey, September 12... an event Lynx Racing has won the last two years in a row (Patrick Carpentier in 1996 and Alex Barron in 1997).
The Vancouver race will be televised on ESPN2 on Sunday, September 6, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.