MM driver Bradley Allen sees Mid-Ohio for the first time from behind the wheel
MANSFIELD, Ohio – After a rough shakedown weekend at Grattan Raceway two months earlier, the Myers Motorsports team addressed all issues and prepared their ’91 Honda CRX Si race car for the SCCA IT Spectacular. The annual trip to Mid Ohio Sports Car Course is the second leg of the SCCA Triple Crown, and the team’s concentrated efforts brought them home with a podium.
Sam Myers, President of Myers Motorsports, grinned while saying, “We came here with a very specific set of goals. We had some hiccups at the last event and our driver had never driven Mid-O before. We still have some work to do before the NASA Championships in September, but we accomplished our goals.” The team felt a Friday Test-n-Tune would be necessary, given the first session Saturday morning is qualifying. Bradley Allen put some final touches on the car Friday morning, Tab Hunter of RoadHunter’s Café helped load the truck and trailer, and Matt “Tinman” Johnston unloaded and set up the garage for the weekend’s festival.
Bradley is extremely familiar with the track from the eyes of a Crew Chief/Engineer. With some help from video, simulation, and riding with other drivers, he picked up the line rather quickly. He drove the #13 CRX to a mid 1:44 before the sun set on the Twilight Test-n-Tune, nearly four seconds off the ITA track record. We knew the car would be stronger in the morning with slightly newer tires and cooler temperatures. In fact, he qualified the car at a 1:43.775, just two seconds off Joe Moser on pole, and good enough for P4 on the starting grid.
The car still suffered from a bit of understeer, so the team made some adjustments before the afternoon 20-lap race. Bradley had nothing for the top three competitors, but while holding off the other contenders close behind, he radios in, “I think I just blew up the clutch” and rolls into pit lane only four laps into the race. Later investigation unveiled a failed hub, which tore the splines off the axle and the car had no drive. Fortunately for the team they had all the necessary spare parts, and Sunday’s qualifying order was determined by fast lap time. Bradley’s time of 1:44.163 was good enough for a fourth place start yet again. With more help from Tinman, the team had the car back together with time to spare.
The start of the Sunday morning qualifying race was similar to Saturday’s race, aside from the lack of pressure from behind. The goal was to keep Ruck and the Mosers in sight as long as possible. At the end of the eight lap battle, Bradley finished fourth and the top three were still within sight! Bradley shattered his fast time, running a 1:42.203 on the last lap. The next competitor was over 13 seconds behind. This lap time is lower than the current NASA Performance Touring E track record, and the car is 115 pounds overweight! The car will wear #133 and run PTE at the NASA National Championships.
The team knew temperatures would be warmer in the afternoon, and the longer race would play a factor on handling. The team continued to make adjustments. It would be necessary to take care of the old tires on the #13 car or they will not last the entire race. About an hour before the race, Kevin Ruck found a large crack in his rear trailing arm, and he decided it was unsafe to run. That moves the team into a third place starting position. Both Joey and Bob Moser arrive on grid with brand new 225 A6 Hoosiers up front. Joey holds the track record on the Club Course configuration at Mid Ohio, and has been shooting for the Pro Course record all weekend. Bradley should have an easy podium position, or he could try and force one of the Mosers into a mistake. As the green flag drops on the back straight, the cars take off. Some commotion mid-pack ends up with contact and a cut tire for one of the competitors. Bradley sets his focus on the two CRX race cars up ahead. The first time through turn one would be lap two. He is much faster than Bob through the high speed left hander and picks up several car lengths before the keyhole, unfortunately missing his braking point, putting the car off track in the gravel. As he avoids getting stuck, he watches the entire ITA field drive by. “Sorry Sam, I just went off in the keyhole.” Sam responds with a sigh, “Go get ‘em driver.”
Bradley went from battling for second place, to 13th. The team was disappointed as they just gave away an easy podium position. Bradley spent the next couple laps shaking out the gravel and getting his mind back into the race. Sometimes it is difficult to shake a competitive mindset, but the team was not at the track this weekend with any finishing position goal. The team needed to determine if the car would be reliable, to get the driver experience at the track, and dial in a good suspension setup for NASA Nationals. Aside from a fluke hub failure, we have accomplished our goals. This race is just another practice session. With frequent updates over the radio the driver knew he was working his way back through the field. He worked on track awareness, finding grip on and off the typical racing line, and working through traffic. By the halfway mark the team was in sixth place, but the rest of the ITA field was out of view.
A few laps go by and the driver hears, “The red Civic ahead is for position…and the Miata in front of him.” At this point, the cars are merely dots. “Wait…the white Miata?” “Yes, the white Miata is for P3.” Bradley is astonished. His original starting position is actually in view. It took several laps to catch up to these cars, all the while passing slower lapped traffic at various locations around the circuit. Bradley set his fastest lap of the race at a 1:43.121 tracking down these competitors. He finally catches Greg Vandersluis in the #41 Civic hatch, and gets another great run through turn one. Greg graciously moves left and makes the pass easy into the keyhole. Charlie Boehly was not too far ahead in the #51 Miata, yet it took another full lap to catch him. With yet another great run through turn one, Charlie moved to the left and gave a point by.
With engine coolant temperatures above the comfort zone, the driver backed off a bit. With three more laps to go, the car just needed to stay out of the gravel to finish on the podium. Charlie had other ideas. He set his fastest time on lap 19 of 20 and made the last lap extremely difficult for Bradley getting a tremendous run out of the keyhole. With Bradley choosing a defensive line into madness, the Miata pulled alongside, but could not make the pass stick. Single file through the esses brought the two upon slower traffic into turn 11. Unsure if the lapped traffic was aware, Bradley again took a conservative approach. The Miata succeeded in passing the #13 car on the outside, but was held up and was forced to tuck in behind. Bradley knew his demise would be giving up the inside into the carousel, and he heard the same over the radio; “DON’T give up the inside…DO NOT give up the inside!” He didn’t and finished third, less than a half second in front of the Miata.
“I have been to Mid Ohio over half a dozen times, watched hours of video, but never drove the track. I love it, and can’t wait to drive it again! We were here this weekend to shake down the car and dial in a good setup. I’d say we did that and much, much more! I know with more seat time and new sticky rubber we’d have something for Ruck and the Mosers, and I never expected that!”
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