I am just home from the 64th running of the June Sprints at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This 4-mile track is one of the best facilities in North America and always seems to provide for good racing and large fields. This year was no exception (14 P1 cars entered) except for the fact that we ended up running in the mid-pack instead of the front pack. For the first time we failed to make the podium in either race over the weekend. The improved and redone Elan DP02s have rejuvenated the P1 class and are now the predominant car. The level of driver competition has improved markedly as additional quality drivers have joined the fun. So the success of P1 as a class is on the rise and that is a good thing. I just wish we weren’t so handicapped at this particular venue where power and a smaller frontal area mean so much to the outcome. We tried several different things over the course of the weekend to improve our situation and some worked and some didn’t. Since the Runoffs are coming back here in 2020, we’ve got a lot of incentive to see what we can do to make things better.
I captured some great video and post the best of it here:
After Q1, we were in a disappointing 8th on the grid. In Q2, we finally improved to 4th. In race 1, we got a great start moving up to 3rd but then it was all over a few corners later when I got hit in turn 3 and knocked off track. The bodywork was damaged enough that we had to retire. The driver, Brian French, came up to me after the race and apologized and fortunately we were able to fix the damage and return for race 2 on Sunday. Timing and scoring took the best lap time from both qualifying sessions and race 1 for establishing the final grid starting positions for race 2. I was demoted one spot to 5th as another driver turned a better lap in race 1. Race 2 got off to a clean start for everyone and broke off into 2 great battles for the remainder of the race; the battle among the top 3 for the podium spots and the battle for 5th through 8th from my group. Chip Romer, who started behind me in a DP02, got himself into 4th after one lap and ran by himself for the rest of the race and missed all the fun.
The level of driving quality in my battle group was excellent. The driver I battled the most with was Jean-Luc Liverato in a DP02 as he led me for most of the time. I was able to stay close in his draft and eventually got around him twice but he was able to get me back each time. The first time was because I caught a slower car at the high speed kink and had to get out of the throttle. The second time was because he just powered by me down the long back straight and I fought back in the brake zone, but he was able to do a brilliant over and under move and just squeak by with only inches to spare. His handling started to get a bit dicey at the very end and but for me having to get off the gas coming on the front straight to avoid contact, I would have got him in the run up the hill to the checkered flag. Darryl Shoff who I raced a lot last year at the Sprints was closing in and finished right behind me also in a DP02. Darryl had worked his way around John McAleer’s DP02 who followed me early on. Both races were won by Jason Miller, the hometown favorite, who runs the very unique 6 cylinder two stroke Kohler powered machine that is really fast at this track. They seemed to have solved some of the reliability issues that have haunted this car for a long time, so he looks to be a big factor at this year’s Runoffs at VIR.
As a sidebar to all of this, I had a couple of good chats with Brian French (he’s the fellow who hit me Saturday) and we became friends and he introduced me to James, his son, who is a rising star in sports car racing running LMP2 in Europe and LMP3 in the USA. Brian is no slouch either as he finished 2nd on Saturday… as I declined to protest… and 3rd on Sunday. Brian was a real gentlemen under trying circumstances and I hope he races with us more. His car is a one-off beautifully prepared car. Enjoy the videos.