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Women in Motorsport


Learning Mid-Ohio

A Race Report
by Jill Peeters

I decided to finally run Mid-Ohio. If I was ever lucky enough to come out of the SCCA Central Division with enough points to make it to the Runoffs, I’d better have hit the track at least once. I decided to purchase the MO tape, but ran short on the amount of time I had to really watch it. So with little sleep and a few views of the tape I left for MO.

I was actually lucky enough to have my car in the Auto Concepts trailer that left the day before. I was running late getting to the track on Friday and was told that a huge storm came in an hour before I got there and tore up some of the canopies of the drivers that were testing. I never had a drop of rain hit my window the whole ride up. I guess this was going to be a foreshadowing for my weekend.

I woke up Saturday still a little nervous about learning MO in a big car, but excited at the same time. I also had an idea pop in my head on the way to the track…scam a ride in the pace car when they check out the track before the first practice. With a little begging I was able to get two laps. It really helped since it was hard to know what the elevation changes felt like and how small the keyhole and carousal really are. That saved me a few laps of my practice session that I would have wasted figuring that out and adjusting my entries.

I just wanted to do something...

Finally it was my turn…no more wondering and over thinking, I just wanted to do something. It wasn’t pretty, but the learning curve began with a 1:40. I came back with the feeling that it would take a little while to get the rhythm of the track. I come from late brake, turn, and stab the gas race tracks. The blind and off camber turns would take a little getting use to, but I had a few ideas of what I need to do for qualifying. I knew I was not going to be competitive for a while and I really wanted to play with Jeannette Udwary and Amy Ruman. Unfortunately Jette grazed the wall and was not able to continue. She saved the wing, but did not have the ability to fix the small hole in the radiator and unbend a nose cage bar.

Something happened in qualifying, the light bulb went on and I began charging the corners. As you know that does not always work at MO, but I began to get confidence in the track and my abilities. I only resulted in a 1:37.5, but I had fun and had more ideas of what to change for the race. For those who do not know me, I race for the FUN of it. And my goal this weekend was to learn, have fun, and bring the car back on it’s own power. Plus, it was more important to me to have a car in good condition for the June Sprints at Road America, than to take a chance of hurting the car at MO.

Race morning came...

Race morning came and I was ready for morning practice. I was taught “Every lap of every session” and “First out and last in” when it comes to seat time. So I went out in the morning to learn more. As the few laps unfolded I realized that my clutch was going. It saved me from not making the race that I drove 8+ hours to compete in. Rick Peeters, Ray Lehor, and Kevin Keiper got the clutch in with plenty of time to spare, even ate lunch. You know how hard that can be sometimes on a race weekend.

I thought with the 5-6 hours I had for the last weekend and a half that I might take a little cat nap to get my head together for the race. I normally work through the first 3 corners in my mind. So I lay there thinking of all the ways I could work with the inside line and what the other drivers may do. I was confident in my ideas and just about to sleep when I woke with the thought…Oh, my god I am on the outside! I decided then that I should just get up and enjoy my friends and the great weather. Since I only heard about the rain races that MO provides and how lucky I was to have 70-80 degree days.

I sat down and watched the guys buttoning up the car. I watch Ray put on the tire and did not like the feel. They consulted what they were going to do with a kind of whisper and hush-hushness. It was pretty funny that they wanted to not let me know, like “don’t worry the driver”.

Finally, it was race time. We showed up after first call and I just enjoyed watching the different drivers show up and there little routines. I should mention that I was sitting with my new “cool shirt” on. What a dream! I would rather drive with old tires and and cool shirt than new tires and no cool shirt. It was one of my best investments in racing. I spent my time thinking of what I wanted to do rather than surviving.

I should mention that they counted down until they reached 3 minutes and then told us to shut it down. Confusion came over the drivers and we found out that if SCCA posts a time for the race they cannot start the race prior to that time. Otherwise someone could protest. It makes sense now why they many supplements say “Race group 8…to be followed”.

They finally released us from the false grid to what I thought was the grid on the track. Instead they just released us on our pace lap. I wondered with being so far back in the field where I would actually be when the green flag fell. Rick called over “Green flag” just at the turn-in for the last turn before heading on the straight-away.

a plan for corner 5...

All I wanted to was to beat Russ Adams into one and/or have a strong start. My goal was accomplished and some. I was next to the 13 place car going into the apex of one. I then went back to 15th, when the inevitable crash happened in the 2-3 turns. All I saw was Amy going sideways. I did what I could and held my position until corner four, when Russ did a great job in passing me on the outside. They told me to watch my inside there. Next time I think I will work on a plan to corner 5.

As I was going from 5 to 6 I swore I saw one or two cars traveling horizontal to the track towards me. As if someone had blown off the keyhole. I found out later that was Amy Ruman and Tom Sloe after the metal to metal in the 2-3 turns.

On lap two or three I braked too late for the carousal and went off. I got right back on and did not lose a position, but Russ got away. I took a lap to make sure that nothing was wrong. I sure thought there was a tire going down, but I was wrong. I then worked my way back up to Russ at about 2/3 of the race left. I tried everything to catch him. There were corners that I was better than Russ and would catch right back up and there were corners that Russ would pull away.

Rick called in when I was in 10b saying “last lap”. I knew this was my last chance and I was right behind him. I charged 11 and came out strong. As I crested the hill I could see that Russ wanted it more than I. He was side ways trying to exit strong to get a run and pass the lap AS car. It was that moment I knew he wanted it more than I did. I saw the whole side of his car. Only Russ, I, and the corner workers can appreciate his driving at that moment.

It worked and the lap car was between us going into 12. By the carousal I was right behind him and I did not get the job done in 15. It was a great race and I brought the car back under it’s own power and with a smile on my face. I also ended up with consistent 135.2’s. I still need more seat time, but I will get that done in August.

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