National at Mid-Ohio (personal report)

Big news... There is now SIX lakes in the great lakes...Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Ohio (of which the island Lexington is in the middle of). It rained almost the ENTIRE time we were in Ohio. We...

Big news...

There is now SIX lakes in the great lakes...Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Ohio (of which the island Lexington is in the middle of).

It rained almost the ENTIRE time we were in Ohio. We arrived at the track around 3:00 on Friday, and it stopped raining, briefly, around 4:30 on Sunday.

So, not having a lot of experience of racing in the rain, it was quite a learning experience for me.

Saturday's Practice was the wettest session for us. We were grouped with Formula Fords, and it was so wet that the Fords were just as fast as we were...well, at least the top guys. At several places there was water running across the track, as well as a new pond just off the track in the esses. A few guys went off, but it was pretty much a learning event for everyone on the track.

Qualifying went a little better. I was still not used to running in the rain, so I took about the first 15 minutes to get comfortable, and actually spun in the chicane leading to Keyhole trying to see how fast I could take it. The car was fine, maybe a lettle dirtier, and I was soon following a few guys around to spy on how they were driving. Finally I am starting to build up more and more speed, but traffic is becomming a major problem. Evidentally not many of the Formula Ford drivers were too keen on using their mirrors. So I would slow for about half a lap and try to get some room, but I just ended up out of time. I was quite disappointed in the result, 19th, and not extremely optimistic on my chances in Sunday's race, which it looked like was going to be in the rain.

Driving in the rain is certainly a different experience. Visability is nil, and at times it just seems crazy. It is fun, as the car is very pointable with the throttle. Unfortunately, I am just not fast enough yet in the rain to be able to qualify and race as well as in the dry.

Sunday involoved sitting around and waiting for our race, which was the last of the day. Then, the race before ours, it stopped raining. Everybody started wandering around, looking at everyone else, wondering which tires to use. When I raced at Watkins Glen last year, it also stopped just before the race, and running on rain tires did not work at all there, as the track dried within laps of the green flag. Sunday, however, we stuck with rains for two reasons: 1) The track was still wet in several places, and there was still a possibility of rain during the race, and 2) our only other option was new Goodyears, which were not scrubbed in, and which I had never run on before. Sticking with the rains turned out to be the correct choice, and in fact, the winning Formula Ford went form slicks to rains while on the grid. We did, however, go to what we hoped would be a good intermediate set-up by adjusting the front anti-roll bar to full hard, and attaching the rear at full soft (it had been de-attached the entire weekend in a search of more bite).

My race was pretty non-eventful. Quite a few cars dropped out on the first lap, and a couple of guys spun in front of me. My start was not good at all, as I got passed by one or two guys, but I was helped by everyone else's attrition. I basically just drove, not pushing too hard, trying to get used to the car and trying to save my tires (which are pretty much trash at this point). The car kept going looser and looser, though, to the point that I was actually dirt-tracking through turn one (normally flat in third in the dry...a little braking needed for the wet, however). I was actually having fun with that, and seemed to be faster than many others there. The slow corners were just killing me, though, as the aerodynamics helped less, and my grip went away more every lap. I was holding off guys quite well, though. They were faster than me, but couldn't pass in the wet. A couple of guys on slicks spun trying to pass.

With about five minutes left (rain races are 30 minute timed events) tachometer started to act-up. First, it was reacting quite sluggishly, then not reading above 4000, then 2000, then nothing at all. My temperature was right around 100 celsius, and the engine started missing. I was quite fearful of losing my engine so I began babying the engine the best I could...shifting to fourth on every straight wether I needed to or not. I had been running eleventh, but was dropping steadily as I was no longer fighting...just trying to finish. Finally I reached the checker, and shut everything off as soon as I crossed, in 16th.

I was disappointed in my finish, as I had hoped to finish top five. THe engine was also disappointing, but fortunately it turned out to be a broken battery...several thousand dollars cheaper to fix! Also, at least I didn't crash, as several guys did.

All in all, a disappointing weekend, but at least I finished...the first time in a while.

RESULTS (Formula Continental Only)

1   Peter Baron        Grayslake, IL
2   Rolf Stutz         Cambridge, MA
3   Jonathan Bottoms   Buffalo, NY
4   Michael Varacins   Woodstock, NY
5   Kent Jones         Marblehead, MA
6   Ron Thomas         Galena, OH
7   Dave Weitzenhof    Bath, OH
8   K. W. Scott III    Plainfield, IN
9   Mark Dickens       White Lake, MI
10  Dennis Macchio     Watermill, GA
11  Craig Keller       Cherry Valley, IL
12  Steve Fried        Mentor, OH
13  Kim Dabe           Cincinnati, OH
14  Bill Jordan        Waterford, MI
15  Mark Defer         Streetsboro, OH
16  Dana LaLiberte     Ann Arbor, MI
17  Richard Bartolacci Easton, PA
18  Steve Blashak      Williamsport, PA
19  Joe Tesone         Wildwood, PA
20  Jonathan Newberg   St. Petersburg, FL
21  Jason Bach         Toledo, OH
22  D. W. Bleke        Whiteland, IN
DNF Jeremy Fox         Malvern, OH
DNF Jon Herb           Barrington, IL
DNF Justin Pritchard   Pinkerington, OH
DNF Tony Stefanelli    Belvidere, IL
DNF David Rutledge     Vancouver, CAN
DNF Michael Varacins   Woodstock, NY
DNF Lewis Cooper, JR   MI
DNF Steve Demeter      Dayton, OH
DNF Larry Vatri        Canal Winchester, OH
DNF Ken Dromm          Seminole, FL
DNF James Mills        Marshall, IL
DNF Scott Dick         Cincinnati, OH
DNF Kevin Bloomstran   Aururn Hills, MI
DNF Rod Galbreath      Lewis Center, OH
DNF Paul Kiebler       Chardon, OH

Dana

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Dana LaLiberte                                          jmfangio@umich.edu
Dana LaLiberte Motorsports         http://www-personal.umich..edu/~jmfangio
Ann Arbor, Michigan                                    Kalamazoo, Michigan
Car #98                                    US FF2000 National Championship

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Jon Herb , David Rutledge , Peter Baron , Mark Defer , Scott Dick , Bill Jordan , Justin Pritchard , Kent Jones
Teams Williams