Any racer will tell you, no weekend is complete without ups and downs. The perfect race is pretty much impossible to find, but it’s the hunt for perfection that allows a team to develop the skills and tools necessary to succeed, regardless of the unachievable nature of perfection itself. The other major factor, an ever present pillar of any form of competition, is luck. Combined, the hunt for perfection and the luck required to activate it drives a race weekend from the very bottom to the very top, and Mid-Ohio was a fundamental illustration of these two factors dancing together, resulting in a few trophies and a wicked burn to go with them.
Mid-Ohio is always known for having less than stellar weather, and while the team got off their
private jet airline flights they knew that there would be a lot of water involved. Thursday started early with a dense fog, continuing on to drizzle throughout the morning. We caught a break in the rain for the start of our first session and the cars were prepped and went out on dry weather tires for the first of two one-hour long introductory test sessions. A momentarily lapse of concentration on the first outing onto the track resulted in the #8 Audi R8 being submerged in a mud pit, and after it was pulled out and wiped off, the practice sessions would continue at a much better rate. Times steadily decreased and the four cars were hitting their stride.
When the official IMSA timing tower was switched on the next day, the three eEuroparts.com ROWE racing cars and the #61 Roadshagger Racing By eEuroparts car were moving up towards the top of the time sheets in the wet weather sessions. In the dry, however, work still had to be done. The long stretches of time on the setup pads and revision after revision resulted in a solid set of cars for qualifying with two effective Mid-Ohio setups for each car, one wet and one dry. The engines were topped off with ROWE Motor Oil and it was called a day.
The crew arrived to the track on Saturday morning early, to prepare for the 9:30am session. They were greeted by steady rain and a completely saturated Mid-Ohio racing facility. This would be beneficial if it continued, as the times in the wet were fast enough to reliably get to the top of the grid for race later that day. Of course, about 40 minutes prior to qualifying the sun came out in force, and began to dry the track. Mixed with the high downforce prototypes sucking the water off the surface the session before, that meant the start of qualifying would feature a dry track. TCR would be the first of the two classes to go out.
The two eEuroparts.com TCR cars were able to land around mid pack for the start of the race. It’s a comfortable position to be in, ready to take advantage of anything the front runners get themselves in to. By the end of the TCR qualifying session however, the rain started coming down again. The team put wet weather tires on the R8’s as the track got progressively wetter and wetter, and the rain dance paid off.
After the short 15min qualifying session, the #2 would come out on top, pole position for the upcoming race with Kenton Koch starting for the Mid-Ohio 120. The #8 wasn’t far back in 4th, with Rodrigo Sales behind the wheel. Interestingly enough, due to the dry TCR session, a pair of TCR class cars were able to out qualify the GS field outright. However it would be a split start, so the TCR’s did not actually start ahead of the GS field for obvious reasons.
The crew finalized setting up pit lane after qualifying, getting tires and fuel ready for the 2hr long enduro that would take place at 1:30pm. Everyone kept their eyes on the weather radar, which was constantly flashing patches of light green that would immediately dissipate.
It was clear that it was going to rain at some point at Mid-Ohio, but impossible to know exactly when that would be. Wet weather tires were stationed behind every pitbox, numbered and ready to go. As the cars left the grid to begin their formation lap, the air hoses were turned on and the fuel rigs were filled. Helmets on, visors down, green green green.
The 4 eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing cars managed to get away without much drama or contact, allowing the drivers to concentrate on the long stint ahead of them. With rain in the air, the crew watched the monitors in the pit box while listening to the crew channel. Throughout the race, the two pit crews would service 4 cars. The strategies were mixed throughout the field, and there were teams that ended up doing quite well and teams that got caught out.
As rain and caution periods came and went, timing pitstops correctly was impossible. Unfortunately, the polesitting #2 would be one to get caught out on tire strategy, along with the #8. Kenton and Tyler crossed the line in 8th place overall, while Rodrigo and Gunnar finished in 14th place out of 37 cars after a pit stop error required the car to come in twice.
TCR however, was a different story. Playing a conservative strategy, both the #12 eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Audi RS 3 LMS and the Roadshagger Racing By eEuroparts.com #61 car took advantage of the competitions’ mistakes and continued to steadily move up the field. With some last lap heroics, both cars made it to the podium to spray some champagne in 2nd and 3rd place.
So, with some luck, 4 cars returned to the trailer undamaged and we got some great TV time. Regardless of the outcome in GS, the team engineers have proven that they can get the brand new R8’s to work in varied conditions.
Set your DVRs this Sunday (5/12) on NBCSN to 12am-2am and catch the rain-soaked action on the big screen!
The TCR side of the trailer is raring to go, knowing that wins are in the future. The whole team is eager to get to Watkins Glen in only a few short weeks to try again, this time with 4 hours of racing. Last year eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing was in great shape for a podium and it didn’t work out, so the team has a lot to prove on the go-around. Stay tuned for a Watkins Glen Preview, coming soon!