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Monday, July 10, 2006

Mid-Ohio Race

The Mid-Ohio race experience was unique to say the least. The team arrived in our transporter from Los Angeles and was greeted by rain and mud. The paddock for World Challenge was the worst I have ever seen for any type of professional racing. Many rigs got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out multiple times during the roll in period, and things didn't exactly improve as the week went on. There was lots of rain and no hard surface. The working environment for the crew was terrible.

One of the practice sessions ended up in the rain. That was fun in a GT-R. I had never driven this car in the rain before, and so I took care to warm up to it slowly, but even with such conservative mindset, the car blew by the competitors. With the GT-R's all-wheel-drive, I could come out of the corner with nearly full throttle, reaching full throttle very rapidly with the car hooking up with all four tires. The stability at over 120 miles an hour in the wet was also tremendous. All the rest of the cars could do was spin rear tires during for nearly entire duration of the straights.

With the rain disappearing for the remainder of practice and the weekend, that is when things began to go wrong. I actually lost a wheel due to faulty studs - it got loose at Mid-Ohio's rear straightaway. There is a small kink in the middle, and usually a tiny input is all it takes to changes direction, since the speed is well beyond 120 miles per hour there. Not this time.... my regular input in the steering wheel did nothing to change direction, and I barely managed to not slide off the outside of the corner exit, nearly yanking on the steering wheel. I quickly radioed Sean Morris and told him something is definately loose on my left front side. I attempted to baby the car back to the pits, but did not make it, losing the wheel at nearly 0 speed right before Madness. Because I was already going slower than a turtle, the car got no damage and I safely got it off the track.

The car was towed back to our paddock and the damage incurred by the tow truck was fixed.... Some of those guys need to be fired. But more on this later.

We sat out one practice session to fix the broken studs and went back on the track. However, the tune appeared to be an issue on the engine, causing the turbo wheel to go to shreds. The crew worked all night long to replace the turbos for next morning's qualifying session. But a water leak and a gamble to at least put in one full lap in qualifying resulted in a toasted engine. Unfortunately, we did not have time to swap the RB26DETT before the race and had to retire.

The Mid-Ohio tow truck guys ended up bending our car's front core support despite my clear protests that their way of picking up the car would result in just that.

Not only that, I heard that one of the Aston Martin DBR9s was also damaged by the tow crew.

AND maybe you got to see the World Challenge GT race on TV - when a tow truck pulled a Viper INTO Leighton Reese's Corvette at a rather considerable speed in attempt to get it out of the gravel. That might have been a first in history - a T-bone of two race cars caused by idiot tow crew at a RACE TRACK. I thought they needed some kind of qualifications to hold that sort of job.

Now, I want to make it clear that the Mid-Ohio management team is top notch, and I had a great time with them, including an autograph session promoting the race track in Cleveland the first day I got there. But seriously, they really need to fire some of those tow truck crew.