Road America Diary:|
Waiting on the World to Change
Elkhart Lake, Wisc., September 23 ó Talk about changeable weather! Itís cold and foggy as we leave Sheboygan this morning, and because we donít know these roads, weíre extra careful about our speed. This is kind of strange, because weíre on our way to an event that celebrates driving fast. As we drive farther inland, the fog clears, and we are treated to the glorious sight of rural Wisconsin in the autumn. Itís hard to believe, but the last day of summer was just a couple of days ago, but out here, the leaves have already turned color. For someone who doesnít experience the four seasons, itís incredibly scenic. The sun finally comes out and I start wondering if itís really going to rain today. Forecasts range from seventy to ninety percent chance of precipitation. Set ups for qualifying will be much easier if the good weather persists, but it doesnít. While weíre having lunch at one of the many brats stands at Road America, the first drops of rain of the day begin to fall. If youíre a driver or part of a racing team here, you are truly waiting on the world to change.
Change for the better is still coming the way of Cristiano da Matta. While he doesnít recognize his guys from RuSport, having lost some short term memory, he immediately knows his friend Jimmy Vasser. The word today is that he may be able to return to his family home in Brazil in a day or two. This will certainly ease the burden on his family, who we understand are good people of modest means. The da Matta family has been here in Wisconsin since his accident and their care was surely part of the reason his doctors are referring to Shorty as a "walking miracle." Last nightís charity fundraiser for CARA Charities benefited Cristiano and his family. Tonight there will be a "Cruise for Cristiano," and no, Tom is not going to come here to preach Scientology. Itís a chance for race fans to bike around Road America with Champ Car and Atlantic drivers. Daryle Feistman, who organized the tailgate party last night, told me that teams were bringing her donations all day to the silent auction. My favorite item was a "Sugar Ray Tracy" t-shirt that I bid onóI donít know if I won it or not, because we left early due to battle fatigue.
Speaking of battles, many of us in the press were expecting that the 2007 series schedule would be announced at this race. When we were in San Jose, we were told the schedule was coming out in August, and naturally expected it would be done in Denver, as it was last year. No such luck as nothing was said. Iíve heard there would be an announcement in September, but nothing has been scheduled in the way of a press conference this weekend, which would certainly be a perfect time to present the schedule. I would say, based on this, that there are still details to be worked out and contracts to sign before it is released. Iím sure no one wants a situation as we had with Ansan, South Korea, which was announced two years running and then never happened.
I remain hopeful, but not confident, about there being an oval race as part of the schedule. Part of what makes Champ Car so unique is the different tracks on which the series runs. It would be a real shame to lose that part of the Champ Car heritage just because of economics. Likewise, I would like for there to be room for at least one Midwestern road course in 2007, either here at Road America or Mid-Ohio on the schedule. These races are likely not as profitable as the street courses, but there would be a real loss if Champ Car were only associated with street courses and the like. There should be room, I would hope, for many different venues so that the winner of the Vanderbilt Cup can be said to be the winner of the most challenging of all race car series. Oh, and one more wish. I wish that the series finale could be held in the United States. Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Fontana would work just fine with me. Please let me know soon, Champ Car, so I can get really good rates on my travel. Jeff says I approach the arrangements for each race we attend like Iím a commodities trader, and I must say, I enjoy chasing down good deals.
The ever changing weather conditions make Saturdayís qualifying sessions pretty boring. For the Atlantics, who were able to run before the rain really got down to business, so many positions changed from Friday. But, much of the session was spent under red flag conditions. Neither of the championship contenders was able to make a run for the pole, which went to Raphael Matos, driving for Sierra Sierra Enterprises. Championship leader Simon Pagenaud will start second on Sunday, with fellow contender Graham Rahal starting third. Sundayís race will probably be on a dry track, and Pagenaud professes to want to win the race and not focus on the championship. I still think the Frenchman will take the championship and that Rahal will land a terrific Champ Car ride for next year, probably a better one than a year in Atlantics merits. Such are the politics of racing, and the men who run Champ Car know they have a marketable commodity in young Graham Rahal.
For Champ Car, the qualifying session featured a great deal of rain. So, yesterdayís unexpected grid will remain largely intact. This means, of course, that Dan Clarke took the pole. The young Englishman has had to grow up very fast in his racing career, and one hopes that he is up for the challenge of leading the field to the green flag. He of course believes this, and that his charity sponsor, Imagine, has brought him good luck. We know that racers seek luck the way the starving search for food, so this will give him an edge. Taglianiís car still appears to be the strongest effort out there, so I am going to fearlessly predict that Tags will bring Derrick Walkerís Team Australia its first win tomorrow. I also think Allmendinger and Wilson will have strong runs. Katherine Legge has done very well all weekend, and I think she could have a surprisingly good finish. Whether all of this will shake out to there being two Frenchmen winning championships tomorrow in Wisconsin, USA, remains to be seen. Of course, it is the utter unpredictability of racing that keeps us and you fascinated.
Coming out all this distance, I want to see what a great lake looks like. Part of the difficulty in covering races is that sometimes you donít get to see much of the surrounding area. The ever changing weather has made seeing anything more challenging. We hope to remedy this tonight by going to a restaurant that has view of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, called the Seabird. It features, among other things, an Elk and Prawns combo. Thatís a bit much for me, but at least I will finally see a Great Lake. And, hopefully tomorrow, a couple of great races. Until thenÖ
Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.