March 26, 2019
Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
SEBRING, FLORIDA — There are times in racing when the simple act of crossing the finish line is its own kind of victory. For the Legistics/Racing to End Alzheimer’s/FastMD/Speed Syndicate team – plagued by major mechanical issues all weekend – the race at Sebring International Raceway was a master class in sheer grit and shared determination.
The problems for the #23 Audi RS3 started on the first full day of practice. Fuel issues and brake trouble meant that valuable time on the track was sacrificed to troubleshooting the car. Short on practice and grappling with ongoing mechanical problems, the team had to settle for 11th position at qualifying.
A harrowing start
At the start of the race, driver Nick Galante immediately picked off two spots to take 9th position. A rough first lap with lots of collisions resulted in a full course caution to clean up the mess. At the restart, Galante fought his way to 7th position before his brakes started to falter. Easing off on the pressure and braking much earlier than before, Galante thought the brakes had stabilized. Then his foot went all the way to the floor coming out of the 140-mph braking zone of turn 7.
“I was able to scrub off a couple of mph but was heading for the wall straight in. Luckily this was the first racecar I’ve been in that had a hand brake. So to save the motor and radiator, just before hitting the wall, I pulled the hand brake and spun the car around, somehow backing the car in perfectly squarely. The car made it back to the pits, where the skilled guys from Speed Syndicate were able to get the brakes working again. Kinda.”
Tires fly as Nick masterfully spins the helpless Audi using his handbrake, slamming rear-end first into the far corner of the hairpin turn.
A heroic finish
Down two laps at this point, many teams would have parked the car and licked their wounds. With valuable season points for finishing the race at stake, the r2endalz team decided to go for it. At the halfway point, James Vance took the wheel and got to work trying to make up for lost time.
With 10 minutes remaining in the race, the brakes failed completely and the car was once again careening toward the wall. Vance managed to avoid impact, but he had to resort to using the hand brake, which quickly overheated. For the final 1.5 laps, Vance struggled to keep the car on the track with no working brakes. None. Under those circumstances, crossing the finish line in 11th place was a triumph for a team that met adversity with a never-give-up attitude.
To watch this harrowing race, go to IMSA.TV and look for the 2019 Alan Jay Automotive Network. About 26:30 in (remaining time onscreen will show 1:39:00) you can see what happened, and watch Galante’s response to save the Audi. The next race in the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is Saturday, May 4th at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
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