Elkhart Lake, Wisc: (August 18th, 2001): Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, MN., and the Banner racing team came to Road America with a plan. Finish strong and earn as many championship points as possible. The plan worked reasonably well as Reese...
Elkhart Lake, Wisc: (August 18th, 2001): Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, MN., and the Banner racing team came to Road America with a plan. Finish strong and earn as many championship points as possible. The plan worked reasonably well as Reese ran a strong 4th in the rain soaked Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Cup here at Road America.
While practice and qualifying were dry the actual The Johnson Controls 100 race at Road America was wet and wild. The race had to be shortened to 17 laps when the steady light rain, which had fallen throughout the race, escalated to a heavy down pour and lightning on lap 18 and made the 4-mile track unpassable. The race was eventually red flagged then ended due to the degrading conditions that caused several cars including Leighton Reese, to crash in turn 5 on lap 18.
"It had been raining lightly all day and then I came over the hill down towards turn 5 at about 150 MPH," recounted Leighton Reese. "And drove into a deluge of water. The car hydroplaned and I knew I was going to crash. It was a terrible position to be in, sliding hundreds of feet till I hit something. I got the car straightened out, and realized that I wasn't alone. There were several other cars there already. Then as I was just about to get going, Mike Davis slid into me hard!"
Fortunately for Reese, the race was suspended and the final results were tabulated at the end of lap 17. Mike Lewis, who had led every lap, was declared the winner even though he spun off the track as he was following the pace car at the end of the race. Johnny Miller finished 2nd ahead of teammate Paul Gentilozzi as Leighton Reese brought the Banner Engineering Corvette home in fourth behind the trio of Jaguars.
Leighton Reese, starting in 7th, elected to start on rain tires and ran easily in the top five throughout the race. Reese's Banner Racing Team made the correct call this time by starting the grooved rain tires. Several other teams elected to start on slicks and that proved to be a mistake. The early part of the race saw several cars driving off track and later making pit stops for rain tires. The conditions were drivable, but barely!
"It was an out of control race the whole way," Reese recounted. "I have never driven so fast in wet conditions before. It was really scary out there. The car feels like it has one thousand and five hundred horsepower in these conditions!"
"This was a good race for us," said Reese. "We needed this finish. It moves us up in the standings. We still have a goal of finishing in the top ten in points. It will be tough, especially after I screwed up in Cleveland. But this race really helped our cause."
"The car isn't too badly torn up," said crew chief Joe Kantarik commenting on the damage from the water soaked crash on lap 18. "The nose, again, and hood are messed up and we broke a spindle and upper A-arm but all that will be easily repaired. The car won't be cosmetically great at Mid-Ohio (next weeks race), but it should be fine mechanically."
Leighton Reese couldn't have been happier with the way the Banner Engineering Corvette was handling during Thursday's practice and qualifying on Friday, but the high drag body work is hurting the car move down the long straight stretches here at Road America.
"I couldn't be happier with the way the car is handling," said an upbeat Reese after the Fast-Five Qualifying session here at Road America. "The car is really good through the turns and is driving better than it has all season!"
The performance issues still exist as far as straight line speed however. "We are faster than ever, but using the same gears we can't get this car up to the rev limiter, Trans-Am mandated rev limiter that limits engine revolutions to 8250 RPM, like we could last season in the Grand Prix body," continued Reese. "Air drag is our nemesis, especially at this track. There isn't much we can do at this point, but we obviously do not have the horsepower to push this bodywork to the speeds enjoyed by the Jaguars."
"I love this track and it is a great facility," Leighton concluded. "We were fortunate to get in 17 good laps without serious difficulty. The team is very up beat and feeling good that they are squeezing every bit of speed available out of the Banner Corvette."