Honda Challenge Takes on a Rainy Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta

It was another rainy NASA weekend, but this time it was at the Race for Pi at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in March, a road course where slipping off track can be costly. We welcomed a few Great Lakes racers, who left the snow behind up north to make the journey south to see if they could take our trophies. Jeremy Lucas and Kevin LeClair brought their frozen Honda S2000s down for some fun with the NASA Southeast Region.

As we went out for warmup and qualifying, there was a chill in the air, rain was lightly falling, and we were hoping our windows would not fog over. Both race groups went out together for warmup, but a lot of drivers stayed in the paddock waiting for dry weather.

Both sessions were on rain tires, but radar apps showed we may end up with a dry race, so the sound of impact guns filled the paddock. Rob Oxford was the only H1 racer this weekend so his hope for a win depended on him simply making laps and staying off the wall. H2 was where the action was this weekend. Naturally, Karl Kondor was on pole followed by Kevin LeClair, Jesse Poage, Jeremy Lucas, then Devon Manno for the start of race one.

On Saturday, Honda Challenge started in wave three of the Thunder group. The track was dry, but the back straight still had some fog lingering. As you passed the black flag station at Turn 9 and brake for Turn 10A you could barely see the Turn 11 bridge!

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As we came down the hill, side by side and nose to tail, the green flag dropped! Karl Kondor jumped out in the lead going through Turn 1, up the hill and through Turn 3, followed closely by Rob Oxford. By Turn 5, Kondor and Oxford separated from the rest of the pack. LeClair and Lucas battled back and forth for most of the race, but Lucas got around one final time and LeClair was unable to pass him back before the checkered flag. Not far behind them were Jesse Poage and Devon Manno with their own two-way battle, running nose to tail for the entire race.

The H2 Sunday Race finished with Karl Kondor in P1, Jeremy Lucas P2 and Kevin LeClair in P3.

On Sunday, LeClair set pole in qualifying followed by, well, everyone else on a first-come, first-served basis. The rain came back Sunday morning, and we all had still our dry tires on. LeClair was the only one who changed back to rain tires. Soon after qualifying the sun came out and we ended up with a dry track by noon.

On the warm-up lap, we came around Turn 12 stacked tight and waiting for the green flag. LeClair was on pole, Lucas to his left then Kondor right behind LeClair and Oxford right behind Lucas then Poage behind Kondor and Manno behind Oxford.

The green flag dropped, Lucas got a great start and jumped into the lead by Turn 1. Next was Oxford with a good start, passing LeClair going into Turn 1 and following Lucas close all the way up the hill and gaining. LeClair held off Kondor at the entry to Turn 1 and they went nose to tail up the hill, but Kondor would have none of that, and put the pass on LeClair going into Turn 3 taking the jump on the inside. Poage and Manno brought up the rear going up the hill side by side toward Turn 3.

As we got to the long back straight, Oxford’s H1 S2000 had no problem passing the H2 S2000 of Lucas, not really a fair fight plus home track advantage. All up in the rearview mirror of Lucas was Kondor, who really was wheeling his Accord that day. On lap two, Kondor was all but rubbing paint off of the back bumper of Lucas going down the front straight, through Turn 1, up the hill and through the tight Turn 3 jump. Kondor and Lucas continued to swap places for the next 20 minutes and they put a small gap on LeClair in the process. Manno and Poage are having their own close race, keeping LeClair in sight, but not within striking distance. Manno got wide in a corner, caught some gators and knocked something lose.

Turns out his gas tank strap broke at the weld and the tank started falling, leaking fuel on his rear tire. As Manno went into the downhill esses he started sliding in his own fuel and spun at the bottom. Poage was not far behind and collected Devon as he was still coming to a stop. This put the two of them out of the race, in a dangerous spot, and with not much time remaining they black-flagged the race. Both were OK, the cars are reparable, and we will see them back on track soon.

Sunday’s H2 class finished with Lucas in first, Kondor P2 and LeClair P3.

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