First Time Trial of the 2017 Season for CART / NER Run & Done
By Paul Omichinski
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
On the cool damp morning of May 6 the Time Trial season got underway at Thompson. The weather forecast was intermittent showers for the morning with clearing skies and warming temps in the afternoon. This didn’t seem to deter any of the entrants, anxious to forget the long winter months and return to their motorsports passion.
35 drivers were entered including a dozen who would be driving their first track day. About half of those had participated in a Track Nights in America event and were anxious to experience more track time and the competition of a Time Trial.
As the CART staff got all the equipment and personnel in place, the drivers met with the instructors and stewards to review the schedule for the day, reviewing on track rules, and opportunities available for coaching and learning.
The morning sessions were divided into three run groups based on combinations of driver experience and expected car speed. As the first run groups were sent on track for their 20 minute sessions, the less experienced drivers went out with their instructors driving for some one on one time. The mission of the instructors at this point to give the drivers a first look at the course, pointing out key locations for braking, turn in, apex locations for a safe turn, and appropriate acceleration points. They point out flagging stations and try to have the drivers experience the physical sensations that should be expected. All this is done at conservative speeds with a focus placed on consistency. For anyone on track for the first time there is a lot to take in, so the instructors will be spending time with each driver throughout the day checking on progress and coaching.
There was one last rain shower expected just before noon, so after 3 hours on track everyone took a break for lunch and an opportunity for debriefing and bench racing.
Once the last of that rain had passed and the Flaggers took the opportunity to change corners for a different view, drivers were back on the track before 1:00 under clearing skies and a rapidly drying track. The A and B run groups were picking up the pace and some old rivalries were appearing. Some classic Ford / Chevy pairings were surfacing, with the Porsche GT3 of Matt Cummings reminding them it wasn’t all about V8’s. Like any road race track, there were Miata’s being flogged in hopes of showing the powerful the benefits of a light car. Matt Skibisky in his CSP Miata was managing to show the way to more than one of the V8 beasts. The timing crew had their equipment up and running for testing and the lap times were dropping rapidly. While the experienced drivers were taking advantage of the dry track conditions, the novices were showing an aggressive learning curve as they began to understand the benefits of what they had been learning. Big grins on their faces as they emerged from their cars after a session told their story. They were clearly starting to get the rhythm of a well-run lap.
A brief drivers meeting was called at 2:30 to review procedures for the Time Trial laps and then the cars were lined up. The timed laps went off with hardly a hitch thanks to efforts of Bob Johnson & Co. Plans had been made to run the Relay Race event for the first time at Thompson following the time trials, and the teams had been signed up. Unfortunately time was running short and it was decided to pass on that race and open the track for the remaining time.
As the 5:00 end of the track time approached, only a handful of cars remained on track. It seemed that most drivers were just too tired to run anymore laps. As the last cars were flagged off the course, the conversations around the garage area were about how much fun had been had and entering for the next event at Pocono.
Everyone gathered for the results and awards for the time trial competition. It looked like the Fords dominated the day, but not without a good fight from the Corvettes. With the drivers series points dependent on class size as well as finishing position, there will be a battle between the SS and ASP classes. At this point it looks like the ASP Mitsubishi EVO driven by Kevin Separy has an edge over the Mustang of Earl Latterell. We’ll see how that evolves at round 2 at Pocono.