The Brief

Unforeseen Circumstances
Aug 10, 2019

Dsc2000 960Px

Road America
Saturday August 3, 2019
Elkhart Lake, WI

From start to finish, there was nothing even remotely predictable about the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Road America on the first weekend in August.

Out of the blue

The weather during practice and qualifying sessions was ideal, with no hint of trouble in the forecast. The Legistics/Racing to End Alzheimer's/FastMD/Speed Syndicate team was in fine fettle, with driver Nick Galante laying down some scorching laps during qualifying to take the 3rd spot on the grid.

Just before the 4:05pm start time for the race, a thunderstorm popped up on the radar. Coming in fast and seemingly out of nowhere, the storm unleashed on the track, peppering it with hail and soaking the teams as they waited out a full hour rain delay.

A decision was made to shorten the length of the race to 1.25 hours, with a drive time requirement of 25 minutes for each driver. Such significant last-minute changes wreaked havoc on carefully plotted strategies – this was going to be a very different race than any of the teams had anticipated.

Into the storm

With the rain still coming down, the #23 Audi RS3 crew exercised the option to switch to rain tires before the delayed start, as did most of the other teams. On the warm-up lap, when Galante tried to clear some of the rain from the windshield, the wipers failed to respond. While visibility would be an issue for every car in the rain-soaked race, driving without wipers would add another level of difficulty to an already challenging situation.

Adjusting to his blurred field of vision, Galante lost one position going into turn one but battled his way back into third position by turn three. Breaking late into turn five, he was able to pick off the two front-runners and take the lead. On a roll, Galante passed another four GS cars on the outside in turns 9 and 10 to cushion the team’s lead in the TCR class. With the rain letting up, the track began to dry and the #23’s soft rain tires began to overheat.

The team pulled a full pit stop at the halfway point in the race, changing drivers, fueling up and switching to dry tires. James Vance was off and running some of the fastest times of the race when the skies again opened up and the #23 was again running blind. After another pit stop and a switch back to rain tires, Vance fought his way back to fourth place with one lap to go. In an all-out attempt to make the podium, he dipped a tire into the wet grass on turn three and lost a couple of spots – for a decent 5th place finish in a truly tempestuous race.

Feeling the Heat
Jul 29, 2019

Race Past The Bridge 960Px
Northeast Grand Prix

Lime Rock Park, Lakeville CT
July 19-20, 2019

The heat was on. With skyrocketing temperatures, a pressure-packed schedule and a notoriously finicky track, the 6th race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge had the potential to be a scorcher in more ways than one.

Sweating the strategy

The Legistics/Racing To to End Alzheimer's/FastMdFastMD/Speed Syndicate team was definitely feeling the heat – both literally and figuratively. Well aware that the “Bullring” at Lime Rock Park tends to favor nimbleness over power, they knew they had their work cut out for them to overcome the advantages the Hyundais, Hondas and Alfa Romeos would have on the tight turns of this track. The blistering temps just added another layer of difficulty and uncertainty to an already-daunting challenge.

With a two-day race schedule instead of the usual three, the action was non-stop. During qualifying, the #23 Audi RS3 helmed by Nick Galante rocketed to the top of the sheets with the fastest first lap of all TCR competitors. After getting caught in some traffic on the 3rd and 4th laps, Violet” (the nickname for our purple Audi) narrowly avoided contact with the wall as Galante poured on the power to hold his own in a tightly packed field. Just one second separated the 4th through 11th qualifying spots.

Into the pressure cooker

The grid before the race was mind-numbingly hot, and drivers knew it would only get hotter once they were strapped into their cars. Galante got off to a good start, immediately picking up a couple of spots and finding a groove with a pack of five cars running 3rd – 7th. Conscious that the heat was turning the track into a cooktop that was melting the #23’s tires at an alarming rate, the team had to juggle the need for speed with the high cost of additional stress on the tires.

At about the 35-minute mark, the #23 side-collided with a GS car as they were battling to overtake an injured Alfa Romeo. With no obvious damage, Galante kept up the pace. But 10 minutes later, the shift paddle on the steering wheel popped off, and Galante was forced to use the back-up gear level on the console to shift up.

Pitting at the halfway point, James Vance took the wheel. With temperatures continuing to rise, the race was turning into an endurance test for drivers. Vance picked up a few spots with some heavy pressure, but the effort was at the cost of over-heating the tires. Dropping back, the team settled for 9th place in a race that gave new meaning to the phrase “hotly contested.”

Stay tuned for the next action-packed race of the season: Road America on August 2-4 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

A tale of inches and miles
Jul 8, 2019

Ctmp Pit Stop 1600Px

Canadian Tire MotorSport Park
Saturday, July 6, 2019
Bowmanville, Ontario

Sometimes the true essence of a tale is in the numbers.

4 days

That’s how long the Legistics/Racing To End Alzheimer's/FastMd/Speed Syndicate team had to repair major damage to their #23 Audi RS3 (affectionately dubbed “Violet” by those who’ve come to know and love her) before qualifying rounds for the next crucial race in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series. After a catastrophic crash in their race at Watkins Glen International Raceway in upstate New York, the team knew they were facing a challenge of epic proportions.

1300 miles

With such a tight turnaround time, returning to their own repair shop more than 1300 miles away was clearly not an option. Luckily, driver James Vance had friends he could count on in the vicinity of the upcoming race. Audi Midtown Toronto and Audi super tech Jayson Van Eerdewijk stepped up to provide the team with a state-of-the-art “home away from home” to make the necessary repairs. With the shop closed for Canada Day, the Speed Syndicate Motorsports team threw mind and muscle into making the near-impossible happen.

Check it out:

6 inches

By the time qualifying day rolled around, Violet was once again ready for prime time. Driver Nick Galante placed in 10th position on the high-speed technical track formerly known as Mosport. After working his way up to 7th during the first half of the two-hour race, Nick dove into the pits for the hand-over to James Vance.

Nick was already out of the car when IMSA officials made the determination that the #23 had overshot the pit spot by 6 inches and would have to be rolled back before servicing. A nightmare scenario ensued, with precious seconds lost as the team rushed to comply with the IMSA directive. When James Vance finally took the wheel, he drove an amazing stint, clawing his way up to 6th place before time simply ran out.

5 races

With 5 races remaining in 2019, the team is currently 8th in the overall point standings. But as this roller-coaster of a series has proven, anything can – and very likely will – happen before this hard-fought season comes to a rip-roaring, nail-biting close.