For a while Saturday, I was getting a déjà vu feeling that I had been here before. I was at Mosport, it was race day for World Challenge GT, it was raining on and off and we didn’t know what to do with the set up of the car and if it would be wet, drying or dry. Just like 2006!!!, but hopefully without the electrical problems.
With the on-again, off-again weather situation, we pretty much did exactly what we did in early July in downtown Toronto - throw three set up’s at the cars to cover the bases for manufacturer’s points, even though all cars would start on wet tires.
Team Cadillac had once again entered a third car, for Canadian road racing’s ace, Ron Fellows. So at least in numbers and options we had a little advantage over the factory Porsche contingent of two cars.
We still have no advantage in the weight game though. Points leader Randy Pobst was carrying 130 pounds of SCCA-mandated REWARDS weight in his Porsche, but still hundreds of pounds lighter than the Cadillac and Eric Curran in the Corvette had 80 pounds which still made him lighter than us, but we are kind of used to this after four years.
On our team, Lawson Aschenbach had 50 extra reward pounds, I had 40 and Ron had 30. This certainly is a whole lot better than the procedure we had a couple years ago when I was carrying around the equivalent of a National Football League right-side tackle at every race.
Lawson’s full wet setup was right in qualifying because he got the pole on wet track at a 1:39.654 time. Randy Pobst and Michael Galati slotted their Porsches in second and third, followed by Ron Fellows and myself in fourth and fifth.
Behind me only one position, but surprisingly two seconds slower, was Eric Curran’s Corvette.
Most all of our qualifying times were 20 seconds off the qualifying records, but at least Lawson earned his first World Challenge pole position which was great for him.
The rains ended Saturday afternoon not too long before the race began, so the track was still wet and slick with some standing water.
And that’s where the gambling came in: do you want to bet the track will dry out, that it will stay as it is, or will the rain return? You have a one-in-three chance of being right.
Answer: All three Team Cadillac cars ended up going with wet weather tires even though their set-ups were different.
It was ugly at the start. Both Lawson and Randy stalled, leaving Galati, Fellows and myself to try and dodge them. Ron, unfortunately, tagged the rear of Randy’s car, which destroyed one of Randy’s tires and broke Ron’s right front suspension. So before the race was really started, the points leader was way back and struggling and Ron was out of the race.
By lap five, the sun came out and the track was much less wet. By this point, our part dry set up on wet tires was making the car very tricky to keep on the track and Galati, Aschenbach and Curran were pulling away from me in a struggling fourth position.
By lap six I was already 16 seconds out of the lead and dropping with every lap we raced. Also I could see in my mirrors I was being caught by Jim Sofronas, Ed Kubinski and Doug Peterson, and I was actually hating life at this point.
All I could do was to keep pushing and hope that the track would keep getting dryer as our set up should get better.
Lou Gigliotti, who had looked like a bit too much of a gambler at the start for doing the race on slicks, suddenly became the biggest wizard in the crowd because with a dry track, he was running lap times that were two seconds faster than the next-fastest car but he had lost so much time at the beginning that he was not going to be a factor for me in this one.
I had a managed to shake off Sofronas and Peterson after about twenty laps but Kubinski was super tough.
We were both the fastest cars on rain tires for the last half of the race, closing the gap on the leaders all the way to the end as our set-ups came good. I have not had that much pressure for that long during a World Challenge race in a while, and could not afford to make any mistake or he would have got me. I was a little faster in some places and he in others, it was a great run.
I think Ed is going to be a real factor in the last two races. Since arriving in the series a few races ago, he’s getting quicker at every race.
When it all ended, I was fourth, behind Eric Curran, Lawson and Galati.
But because Randy Pobst had his problems at the beginning, his lead over me for the series Drivers’ Championship went from 18 points to only four. With Lawson just two behind me, how close can it get?
Cadillac had gone into the race with a four-point lead over Chevrolet for the Manufacturers’ Championship, but with Eric’s win and Lawson’s second place, that gap dropped to three points but we are still on point which is most important.