riding out the storm
ELKHART LAKE, WI — Rain was in the forecast (again!) for the weekend of August 4-6 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Having won on the world famous Road America course the previous season, team RS1/Legistics/rickiefowler.com was looking forward to a repeat performance on a track normally well suited to the powerful capabilities of their #17 Porsche Cayman. But unpredictable weather can lead to unpredictable results.
The first practice session of the weekend was canceled due to torrential downpours. The remaining two practice sessions commenced under soaking conditions, with teams only able to get in four laps in dry conditions to set up their cars for what was predicted to be a dry race.
Driver Nick Galante, proudly displaying the r2endalz.org livery to promote the nonprofit Racing to End Alzheimer’s initiative*, laid down some decent laps in the first ten minutes. On his best and final lap, Galante was set to jump from 10th to 7th when power suddenly cut out to his car as the checkered flag was flying. A fuel pump delay bled seconds from his time, costing the team a couple of spots on the starting grid.
Slipping and sliding
At the start of the race, all teams were on dry slick tires, relying on predictions that the still-wet track would dry out quickly after the light rain. It was a mismatched start, as many cars slipped and struggled to keep up with the pace car. Galante quickly found his pace and was able to hold his ground in the challenging conditions.
Just as the track was starting to dry, another brief shower re-soaked the course. The RS1 team opted to stick with their initial strategy and stay out on dry tires. It was a great call – as the track dried, Galante pressed his advantage and moved up from 8th to 6th position.
A little more than halfway through the race, an eager Spencer Pumpelly was readying to take over the wheel and claw back some points in the championship fight. Galante, now up to 4th place, headed toward the pits for a driver change and full service. Just 200 feet before Galante hit the pit lane, the track went into a full course caution for two cars disabled on the track. With the pits closed, all cars on the track did caution laps behind the pace car as black clouds loomed overhead.
Suddenly the race officials called all cars to the pit lane, placing the track under a red flag due to lightning in the area. Just as the cars reported to the pits, the skies opened up with a heavy downpour. Thunder clapped and lightning flashed as the stranded drivers rode out the storm in the parc fermé area, unable to receive assistance from their crews.
After 30 minutes in their hot and oppressively humid cars, the drivers were informed that the race was officially being declared over. The RS1 team would have to settle for a 4th place finish in this dramatic and unusual “lightning round” of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
Up next: Virginia International Raceway on August 26th.
* There’s still time to honor the people in your life who have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease with a unique remembrance sponsored by the non-profit Racing to End Alzheimer’s Foundation. For a donation of $250, their names will be featured on the #17 RS1/Legistics/RickieFowler.com racecar during the penultimate race of the 2017 season. For more information, visit r2endalz.org.