Race to Regatta: Mid-Ohio Weather Jumbles Final Hour
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge ended under parc ferme conditions this weekend, when a rainstorm continued to flood the track. With 11 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 45-minute race, officials threw the red flag which brought the participants to a standstill in the hot pit lane. The maximum time limit for the race was allowed to run out.
Round of the 2011 ALMS series saw Corvette Racing qualify their cars in P5 and P8 for the busy weekend in Lexington, Ohio. The 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit brought out plenty of sun-worshiping spectators as the temperatures headed toward the nineties.
Oliver Gavin put the #4 Compuware Corvette C6.R fifth on the GT grid with a best time of 1:20.944, while Tommy Milner’s 1:21.280 lap put the #3 Corvette down three positions. With the gap to the pole position being less than a half second, Gavin was not discouraged by the showing. “We won from sixth on the grid at Mosport, and I don’t see why we can’t do the same here,” he said.
When the green flag fell on Saturday, the #4 Corvette, driven by Jan Magnussen, took little time moving the front of the GT-class competitors. By the end of the first lap, Magnussen was holding down P2 and in the hunt for the BMW ahead. After dispatching that obstacle, Magnussen continued to lead the class until coming into the pits to hand the car over.
Gavin took over the #4 Corvette an hour into the race and held position until the weather changed an hour later. Meanwhile, Olivier Beretta, who was celebrating his 100th ALMS race start, climbed from his P8 start to seventh before handing the #3 Corvette over to Tommy Milner.
Milner immediately set out in pursuit of his teammate and, an hour into his stint was sitting in third place. The rain began around the two-hour mark, lightly at first, but it wasn’t long before most teams had pitted for rain tires. Some gambled and lost, as the rain grew steadily heavier. Milner managed to get to P2 before contact with another car sent him off course. He rejoined the race, which by now more resembled a regatta, in sixth place.
“We had a phenomenal race car in the dry,” said Milner. “In the wet, it’s the same for everybody – really crazy. Unfortunately Mid-Ohio is one of those tracks that has zero grip in the rain. When you have monsoon conditions like this, it’s a roll of the dice and we got snake eyes.”
The regular safety car, which had run out of gas earlier, had been replaced by the medical vehicle and the all-wheel drive SUV was likely now the fastest vehicle on course. According to the ALMS web site, there were unconfirmed reports, on Twitter, of wildlife on the open track. With 11 minutes remaining, series officials pulled the plug and stopped the race, waiting for clearing weather or the time limit to expire.
It was clear that the weather would not yield and, so, the finishing order for the race was that in effect when the red flag was called for. That put the #4 Corvette of Gavin and Magnussen on the second step of the podium, while the 3 car of Beretta and Milner would retain sixth place.
From Ohio, the series now heads to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for the four hour long Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase. Heading for a sunset finish, the event will start at 3:00 p.m. local time on Saturday, August 20th.