The Brief

Risk & Reward
Sep 6, 2019

R2Endalz Vir Team 1

VIRginia International Raceway
Saturday, August 24, 2019
Alton, VA

It was a race for risk-takers.

Mother Nature, a force to be reckoned with all season long at the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series, was once again throwing her weight around at VIRginia International Raceway. Practice sessions alternated between extreme heat and sudden rains – and qualifying had to be canceled at the last minute due to a lightning-racked thunderstorm.

With a damp track and potential showers in the forecast, the Legistics/Racing to End Alzheimer's/FastMD/Speed Syndicate team was set to start the race in 8th position (based on season points standings). It wasn’t ideal, but the team was feeling good about their chances. The #23 Audi RS3 had been running fast and strong on the notoriously challenging VIR track (17 turns, 3.25 miles, lots of elevation changes and gnarly high-speed “esses” at turns 7,8,9 and 10) – rain, shine and everything in between.

Taking a chance

Once the green flag came down on Saturday’s race, driver Nick Galante didn’t stay where he’d been put for long, muscling up four spots before the threatened rain began to fall in earnest. With cars sliding off the track 30 minutes into the 2-hour race, a full-course caution was called, and every team on the track had a make-or-break decision to make: Tough it out on slicks or switch to wet tires.

With the radar showing only an isolated pocket of rain, the #23 team made a bold, calculated – and lonely – choice. When all of the other cars pitted to change tires, they kept “Violet” on the track, circling alone in the rain behind the pace car. When the race restarted, their risky strategy looked like a bad bet. With the rain still falling, it was like driving on black ice. Galante had to fight just to stay on course as the more sure-footed TCR class cars passed him by.

The purple Audi was back down to 8th position when the team’s luck shifted. The rain stopped, the track began to dry out – and Galante surged through the field to retake the lead just before the halfway point in the race. With a driver change and full service, the #23 had a 14-second lead until a drive-through penalty for wheel spin during the pit stop put them back into 2nd place.

Going the distance

Driver James Vance put his head down and brilliantly negotiated a second half littered with caution flags. When a car spun off the track late in the race, another full caution was called. At the restart, Vance was hot on the rear bumper of Jon Morley with just one lap to go. When Morley went into turn 11 a little too hot, Vance knew it was now or never. He seized the split-second opportunity, executing a clean swift pass underneath the lead car.

Violet roared out of the Oak Tree turn in the lead. Vance never looked back, delivering a scorching final 6 turns as a fierce three-car battle for second raged behind him. While Mother Nature and Lady Luck definitely played their part in this long-awaited victory, it was bold strategy and nerves of steel that ultimately won the day.

The Legistics/Racing to End Alzheimer's/FastMD/Speed Syndicate team will head to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California on Saturday, September 14 for the penultimate race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge 2019 season.

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.