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Hot Action at OH/IN Season Opener!

Lexington, OH - After a long winter, six Challenge Series racers hit the road for Mid-Ohio on April 20-22. April at Mid-Ohio is always something of an unknown when it comes to weather but for the past two years the weather has been excellent. This, in part, is due to moving the opening event to the third weekend of the month. Jim Schenck, Dave Riha (both from Wareham, MA), Gary McDaniel (Kansas City, MO), John George (Nashua, NH), Ed Boothman (Naples, FL), and Brian Sanders (Cincinnati, OH) set out to test the new Toyo tires on the one year old Mid-Ohio surface. And to add a new twist, the Pro-course configuration was used, eliminating the chicane near the Keyhole.

Friday was a test and tune day for the racers. Being the first event at Mid-Ohio for the year, the track was extremely green and slick. But as the temperature rose, the times started falling. Boothman missed all the sessions due to having a car in multiple pieces. But everyone lent a hand as time permitted in between sessions and their own tuning. We just about had him ready for the last session when it was discovered that George had bolted in the seat on top of the harness and it just couldn’t be corrected in time. Sanders spent the day testing the Toyo’s with pressures and temps and decided to work in a spring change. All around it was a busy day but enjoyed by all.

Saturday morning brought higher morning temps and more promise of lower lap times. After working on the cars Friday, the racers thought they’d settle back into a normal weekend routine of concentrating on racing. But this was not to be. On the second lap of the warm-up session, Sanders lost 3rd gear in the tranny. After limping the car to complete the lap, he pulled into the paddock and got the car up on stands. By the time the session was complete he was ready to pull the broken tranny and McDaniel jumped into help. An hour later the replacement was in and McDaniel joined the others for qualifying while Sanders finished buttoning up the repairs. Sanders was heard to say, “It’s not so bad to miss qualifying when you only have to start at the back of a six car field.” Dave Riha really turned up the heat in qualifying with a fast lap of 1:39.934. This was faster than three years ago when we ran the pro-course on the Kumho VictoRacers.

By the 1:30 race time, the temperature had reached 70, and the track had come in with all the rubber put down. It was decided prior to the weekend that Saturdays race would be a rolling start. With Riha on the pole and Schenck beside him, followed by George and McDaniel in the second row and Boothman and Sanders bringing up the rear, the green flag dropped on the back straight. A couple drivers were caught asleep and Sanders had made his way to running side by side with Schenck entering Madness with Riha pulling out a good lead as the others dealt with slow traffic. But after running two laps in traffic, things sorted themselves and found Schenck right behind Riha followed by George and Sanders. This order would not change for the next six laps.

On lap 8, the weld broke on Riha’s J-pipe and as this threw him off not knowing if it would be terminal, both Schenck and George passed him. Further back on the same lap, McDaniel tried out-breaking Sanders on the back straight to improve his position. But McDaniel picked the wrong time to make this move as a yellow flag was out in the corner and he would later be disqualified for passing under yellow. While all this was going on in front of him, Boothman was still working on making sure everything on his car was on par. Finally, deciding the broken weld as not going to damage the car, Riha started back on a charge and was able to regain second passing George with two laps to go. At the same time, Sanders was able to pass McDaniel to take back fourth position. In the end it was Schenck with the win followed by Riha, George, Sanders, McDaniel (DQ), and Boothman.

Sunday brought more of the same, great weather, great racing, and great friends! Today’s qualifying saw a slight shuffle in starting position for the race start which was a standing start shared with the CMC cars behind us. Schenck captured the pole with Riha closely behind followed by George, McDaniel, Sanders and Boothman.

When the green flag dropped and the race was on everyone held their positions for the first two laps. On lap 3, Sanders passed McDaniel for fourth position. On lap 5, Riha finally made his move on Schenck and took over the lead. From this point on, everyone maintained their positions until the checkers flew. In the end, it was Riha with the win followed by Schenck, George, Sanders, McDaniel, and Boothman.

Many were concerned with the introduction of the Toyo as the spec tire this year. But now those concerns have lessened as all drivers were able to turn respectable times on the new Toyo’s and when compared to the old VictoRacer’s, the lap times are better. Dave Riha set the fast lap time and new Pro-course record at Mid-Ohio in Sunday’s race with a 1:39.675.

Next on the schedule for the OH/IN Challenge Series is Putnam Park on May 19-20.

C’ya at the track!

 --Brian Sanders

OH/IN Series Director

Page last updated: 07/02/2008

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