Feeling the Heat
Northeast Grand Prix
Lime Rock Park, Lakeville CT
July 19-20, 2019
The heat was on. With skyrocketing temperatures, a pressure-packed schedule and a notoriously finicky track, the 6th race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge had the potential to be a scorcher in more ways than one.
Sweating the strategy
The Legistics/Racing to End Alzheimer’s/FastMD/Speed Syndicate team was definitely feeling the heat – both literally and figuratively. Well aware that the “Bullring” at Lime Rock Park tends to favor nimbleness over power, they knew they had their work cut out for them to overcome the advantages the Hyundais, Hondas and Alfa Romeos would have on the tight turns of this track. The blistering temps just added another layer of difficulty and uncertainty to an already-daunting challenge.
With a two-day race schedule instead of the usual three, the action was non-stop. During qualifying, the #23 Audi RS3 helmed by Nick Galante rocketed to the top of the sheets with the fastest first lap of all TCR competitors. After getting caught in some traffic on the 3rd and 4th laps, “Violet” (the nickname for our purple Audi) narrowly avoided contact with the wall as Galante poured on the power to hold his own in a tightly packed field. Just one second separated the 4th through 11th qualifying spots.
Into the pressure cooker
The grid before the race was mind-numbingly hot, and drivers knew it would only get hotter once they were strapped into their cars. Galante got off to a good start, immediately picking up a couple of spots and finding a groove with a pack of five cars running 3rd – 7th. Conscious that the heat was turning the track into a cooktop that was melting the #23’s tires at an alarming rate, the team had to juggle the need for speed with the high cost of additional stress on the tires.
At about the 35-minute mark, the #23 side-collided with a GS car as they were battling to overtake an injured Alfa Romeo. With no obvious damage, Galante kept up the pace. But 10 minutes later, the shift paddle on the steering wheel popped off, and Galante was forced to use the back-up gear level on the console to shift up.
Pitting at the halfway point, James Vance took the wheel. With temperatures continuing to rise, the race was turning into an endurance test for drivers. Vance picked up a few spots with some heavy pressure, but the effort was at the cost of over-heating the tires. Dropping back, the team settled for 9th place in a race that gave new meaning to the phrase “hotly contested.”
Stay tuned for the next action-packed race of the season: Road America on August 2-4 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.