MID-OHIO, OHIO -- Round 8 2001 CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship, 12th August 2001 -- I have to say that Mid-Ohio is one of my favourite tracks in North America. I have raced there before - in the USF2000 Championship - and was very successful....
MID-OHIO, OHIO -- Round 8 2001 CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship, 12th August 2001 -- I have to say that Mid-Ohio is one of my favourite tracks in North America. I have raced there before - in the USF2000 Championship - and was very successful. I had two races there in 1999; in the first race I started second on the grid and finished first, while in the second race I started first and finished second. The track is very similar to some of the ones I have raced at in Europe, which makes me feel very at home.
A couple of days before arriving at Mid-Ohio we had completed a one-day test at Gingerman where I was comfortably the quickest. Our test had given us the confidence to know that we were going to be one of the cars to be reckoned with, if not the car. I must say it was great to be back in the car at Gingerman. I had been out of the car for about four weeks and, I kid you not, I was chomping at the bit after only a day of being out of the car. Knowing I had to wait another three weeks and six days before I could get in the car again was very, very hard - to say the least!
Practice started just how I wanted it to, although I did give the team a little bit of extra work, (but hey, every now and then you have to make sure you are pushing the car to the limit, even if it does mean going off and damaging the floor of the car)! We did finish the session quickest, but it was very tight at the top between one other driver and me. The first qualifying session later on that afternoon was somewhat disappointing, even though we finished the session on the outside of the front row. I just wasn't quite able to get the most out of the new tyres before the chequered flag came out, but I was certainly very determined to swap the order around on the front row the next day. Unfortunately, second practice and second qualifying followed the same trend as first qualifying. We were comfortably in second position, but we were just a fraction of a second off the quickest car. We had adjusted the car a lot for both of these sessions and it was obvious that we had gone the wrong way. However, it was important to do this though, because it enables us to get a direction on set-up, where we certainly needed to find a couple of tenths.
Mid-Ohio is typically not an overtaking track, so the start was going to be crucial. You can run side-by-side through turn three (which is actually turn one) when you take the green flag, because you start on the back straight. This was certainly going to be my plan but, unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. Nonetheless, I tucked in behind the leading car and focused on putting as much pressure on him as I could. It turned out, however, to be a pretty uneventful race at the front. After the first quarter of the race, the leading car started to pull away slightly from me and the same could be said about me pulling away from the third placed car.
This was the way the race continued until the chequered flag, even with the interruptions of a few yellow flag caution periods towards the end of the race. So, second place it was, which is OK, but not that elusive first win that I am still seeking. In every series I have raced in - up until now - I have always scored, at the very least, one win before the mid-point of the season. This one is a little bit harder to come by, but I know the PacWest Indy Lights team and I are easily capable of doing it. We will, however, just have to work harder to make sure that it happens sooner rather than later.
Our next race is this weekend in St Louis at the mile and a quarter oval called Gateway International. I have actually just returned from completing a one-day test there. It was an official CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship test and, straight out of the box, my PacWest Lights/Gemstar Communications car was fantastic. We finished the test fastest overall, one tenth of a second quicker than the Championship leader. To be honest, I was a little surprised to be fastest, as it was my first time at this oval in an Indy Lights car. I had been around this oval last year, when I raced in a Toyota Atlantic car, but the Indy Lights car required a completely different driving technique. For example, I actually had to change gear on this oval, which is new to me. Maybe this will be the event where I win my first Indy Lights race; I certainly hope so as we have to start thinking about my plans for next year.
Best wishes, Dan