“The thing with Mid-Ohio is,” the voice sounded coyly placid, “that it is like any other race track. Just much more of it.”
The surprise at that depiction must have shown on my face. As the otherwise reserved Voigt suddenly launched into an eager explanation.
“The thing with this track is… you have to truly prepare for the turns. Anticipate them. Understand that several of these turns may look like separate turns the first time round. But really have to be tackled as one single entity of sweeping lefts and rights.”
As Voigt was vividly describing the track, his Spanish mechanic appeared in the back of the team’s pit garage. He was a man marked by a life filled with races on tracks all over the world.
Voigt did not notice him. And continued his inspired account of a lap around Mid-Ohio.
“Do you know when you should be ready for the Carousel?” He asked with inquisitive eyes. “When you enter the Esses at the other side of the track. Everything in between those two is just part of one and the same endless sweeper.”
“And the same goes for the whole section from turn 1 till after the Keyhole,” he continued. “This whole track actually is just two turns and two straights in between.”
Marcelo, the old mechanic, now stood maliciously gloating at his pupil from out of the shadows.
“Two turns and two straights then?” He harshly spit at his driver.
“Looking at how bad we did, we’ll avoid ovals for now then,” he sneered. Adding with a slightly softer note: “But, at least, we can shelter some hope. The next track on the schedule is not an oval.”
The sarcasm in his voice turned Voigt into stone. And seemed to stiffen the entire surroundings with a rusty awkwardness. What had been busy and crowded throughout the weekend, had turned to an empty and windy place in the blink of an eye. It was the inescapable destiny of every race track.
The young driver’s eyes begged for some support. But I knew there was no helping him. He had lost his soul to the harshest and most unforgiving existence man could choose. That of a race car driver. An existence that dwindled down from one disappointment to the next. With an odd ray of happiness thrown in now and again. So as to make the next let-down hurt a good deal more. Until a man renounced struggling his deceptions and irrevocably became the next Marcelo character.
Talking about deception. There was loads of it in the garage-boxes of the pony car teams.
They had been convinced that here, at Mid-Ohio, they would finally excel. This was the first race-track on the schedule actually longer than a slot car track. And the power of their engines should thus finally hand them an advantage. So they thought at least. Hopes that quickly evaporated and had long vanished by the time the starting flag dropped.
The fastest qualifier of the big muscle cars was Suanya. Whose Barracuda posted a best time of 1.41.960 around Mid-Ohio. While the slowest of the under 2.5 litre cars managed the same lap in 1.40.297 seconds. Over 1.5 seconds a lap faster. Somehow, the Detroit teams had overlooked that the sweeping sections of Mid-Ohio required agility rather than brutal power.
The staff of the American teams did not even bother asking their head quarters for support. Instead, they made adamant statements in the press. That if they did not beat those nimble European cars, it was because they did not want to. There were no extra points to be taken for being faster than the Euro trash. And so, they had no intention on risking their championship campaigns over it.
One American driver even referred to the European cars as puddle jumpers. Then rose from his chair, left the track and couldn’t be troubled any further.
When the starting flag dropped, the American cars briefly looked like six-year-olds. Racing big bikes against the tricycles of their toddler brothers. On the first straight up to the Chicane and Keyhole, the Motown muscle kept up. And tried scaring off the Euro toys with their loud rumbling V8’s. All along the back straight, they at last seemed able to stay in the wake of the European cars.
Then, the big bikes started sliding and skidding into the family’s china collection. And the Italian and German toddlers merely coasted of to far horizons.
Goissen, the fastest of the toddler pack, did what he had to do. He claimed pole. Then firmly soldiered on to an uncontested lead and win. Leading every single lap of the race on his way. And putting young Voigt no less than 3 laps down.
Voigt seemed to have a harder time here than at the previous two races. He only qualified next to last of the under 2.5 litre class. Barely a tenth of a second faster than the slowest of the Alfa’s. Every other European car being at least a second faster.
At the start, he got terribly agonised by the mean howling Cuda of Suanya on his tail pipes. He was desperate to escape the claws of the mean machine. So desperate in fact, that he out-braked Martinelli’s Alfa into the Esses. The French driver did however not surrender and some fierce first laps followed. Resulting in a controversial coming together in the Carousel that spun the white and yellow Alfa around.
In front, Petillot smashed his car brutally out of the Chicane. The heavily damaged car limped back to the pits. To rejoin after a lengthy stop. Several laps down.
In between Bryar and Mid-Ohio, there had been some fuzz about the Escorts fuel consumption. It indeed seemed much lower than that of the Beemers. Allowing the Escorts to do full races without stopping. While as the Bavarian cars needed at least one long pit-stop for fuel.
The German headquarters had taken the issue serious and had explored possible solutions. Some of Munich’s factory cars had even been reported at Hockenheim. Testing a new fast refuelling system. But in the end, the factory decided to not ship the refuelling rig to Mid-Ohio.
“When all is said and done, a slow race driver is still better than a toasted driver.” One Bavarian official was anonymously quoted.
After the race, Voigt admitted that it had inspired them to try a race without stops. The resulting fuel load had made the car heavy early on in the race. But at some stage, it looked as if the gamble might work. As other cars stopped, Voigt sailed by and was at some point even running fifth.
Chapman, Everett and other stoppers however quickly reeled him back in. And by the time the young Brooklyner was supposed to put up a fight, he was running on very sloppy rubber. While as his assailants had brand new Firestones on their shiny rims.
All the positions gained, were swiftly lost.
By the end of the race, he even lacked fuel to make it to the end. And was forced to make a quick stop for a dash of extra fuel. Sixth was the end result of a long hard day’s work.
Meanwhile, Goissen had secured a solid lead over Le Pihive. And took his second win in a row. Le Pihive duly did what was needed, bringing his Escort home second. Thus keeping the lead in the championship. With Goissen however reducing the gap to only 9 points. The race for the title promises to become a thrilling one.
In the big boy’s bikes category, Suanya took his third straight win. He may well win every race in the championship, so it seems. This last win however came after a hard race long battle with another Cuda driven by Plaçais. Their battle entertained the crowd for the entire 2 hours of racing. And the win might just as well have gone the other way.
Next up is the Klondyke 300 at Edmonton.
Not really an oval, so Voigt may hope for a better result.
While, as to the American muscle. Well… They no longer race the Euro cats, do they?