Our delayed racing season officially started June 12 to 14 at the 65th Chicago Region June Sprints. The June Sprints is one of the oldest races in the country and one of the first races held on a dedicated race track rather than closed public roads. Across the 25 classes racing in 2020, there were well over 500 entries from coast to coast.
Road America has exclusively hosted the June Sprints and the early days saw top drivers like Roger Penske, Carroll Shelby, and Augie Pabst battling for the win. Road America is one of the premier race tracks in the United States as its 4 mile, 14 turn course winds up and down the hills of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine region.
We decided to enter a test day prior to the race in order to make sure the car (and driver) were operating properly as this was our first race since October of 2017. Additionally, the race event schedule featured one practice session, two qualifying sessions, a short 25 minute “Dash” race on Saturday and the Feature race on Sunday. The qualifying sessions set the grid for the Dash race, and the fastest lap of each driver in either qualifying or the dash sets the grid for the feature race. After an uneventful Thursday test day, we were ready to go.
The first qualifying session saw us on provisional pole position in our class by some margin. In fact, we were quick enough that we decided not to go out in the second qualifying session. Our main competition did not go any faster in the second session, so we were starting the Dash race in first.
Its important to note that our goal as a team is to increase our chances of winning a National Championship. Season long race wins are great, but the objective is a championship. This sets a conservative strategy throughout the year, which included not participating in the second qualifying. Our race strategy was also cautious, with the objective to win without taking unnecessary risks.
The Dash race started according to plan with nearly 60 cars in 4 classes charging into Turn 1 safely. We quickly built a lead of more than 45 seconds over our nearest challenger, a former factory racer from Northern California driving a car I once owned. Everything was going to plan, right up until it didn’t…
The Carousel at Road America is a corner known worldwide. It’s a long, high speed downhill 180 degree corner that, in our little car sees mid corner speeds in excess of 90mph and sustained cornering forces of 2 times the force of gravity or 2G’s.
With about 5 minutes left in the 25-minute race, we entered to Carousel at about 75mph, accelerating as cornering forces began to build. Halfway through the long corner, the left rear wheel hub fractured and broken in two pieces. The back of the car lost grip without warning as the outside rear wheel flopped around with only a modest connection to the rest of the car. We maintained control, slowed, and drove into pit lane. Given the size of our lead, we still finished second while stopped in pit lane.
Mechanical failures like this are rare and highly disappointing. Thankfully we had spares and the rest of the car was undamaged. We would be ready for the Feature race to make up for Saturday’s disappointing finish.
Sunday’s Feature race started the same as Saturday. We started on pole with 60 other cars racing towards the first turn. We quickly built up a sizable lead and then employed our typical conservative approach to manage the gap to second place. Our lead built to over one minute and we held it through to the finish.
While still a success, the 2020 June Sprints was far from perfect. We maintain high expectations and will go back to the shop and review the hub failure.
What was a success was the overall weekend. After months of sitting in our houses and avoiding people, it was glorious to be outside in the 75 degree Wisconsin summer sun with family and friends from across the country. Being only a few miles from Johnsonville, the grilled brats, a staple of every trip to Road America never tasted so good.
Between Road America and Chicago Region, SCCA there were a number of COVID-19 precautious in place, but none were invasive. As with most of my personal experiences, attendees were able to assess their own risk and act accordingly.
With a full slate of upgrades on the horizon, we will begin testing in earnest for our ultimate objective, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs in October at Road America. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the season.