Unlike past years when the club and pro courses were used, for 2023 racers were only tested by the pro configuration. However, like past NASA Great Lakes visits to Mid-Ohio, weather played several wildcards over the weekend.
Friday’s test and tune was expected to be in the rain, but luckily the precipitation held off until after the test sessions, allowing racers to experiment with a freshly repaved turn 1, picking new visual indicators and finding just how much grip was available.
For the early Saturday morning warmup session, the last few rain showers kept the track wet, but a couple of hours later for qualifying the track was drying for a Lightning field of 60-plus racers. Jack Dorsey found the greatest grip and some open track, picking up pole for race one with a 1:47.9 qualifying session. P2 was captured by John Allen at 1:48.2, followed by Will Dodd in P3 with a 1:49.6.
As the field pulled on track for race one’s warm-up lap, the first weather wildcard was played in the form of rain sprinkles, and the entire field was on slicks. As the Spec Miata field took the green, the rain set in making the initial run down to China Beach and Madness interesting, resulting in several out-of-class cars off track. A double yellow was thrown quickly, but not before John Allen grabbed P1 and Chris Finnigan jumped to second after starting seventh. After three laps under yellow, the race resumed, still under steady rain. Allen dropped to eighth after an off, giving the lead to Finnigan who held on for three laps until he spun on the final lap. Dorsey recaptured first at the flag, followed by Jeff Wood, and Finnigan. Blake Korth did well in his first Mid-Ohio race, finishing fourth after starting P11.
Sunday morning revealed the second weather wildcard of the weekend with temperatures near freezing, but fortunately, a dry track. For race two, Dorsey held pole again, followed by Finnigan and Jeff Wood. Finnigan immediately grabbed P1 on the first lap, and the remaining field shuffled considerably into China Beach. Wood dropped to fifth, but his son, Wyatt Wood jumped to second after starting P6. The battle for fourth, fifth, and sixth was hotly contested the entire race, with Olivier Henrichot, Jeff Wood, and John Allen separated by less than a second. Henrichot would prevail at the checkers. Charlie Hayes, in his first races with Great Lakes, finished P7 after starting P14, well done!
The weather played its final wildcard just in time for the start of race three. As racers were ready for grid, on slicks, and the temperature near 40, Mother Nature threw down pea size sleet mixed in with a few snowflakes. Approximately half the SM grid changed to Toyo RA1s, with the remainder hoping the sleet was temporary. Their hopes were poorly placed as the precipitation continued the entire race. Dorsey, on rains, jumped to first from P5, followed by Allen in P2 and Wyatt Wood in P3 who were also on rains. The five-lap race saw no other position changes after the start, and thankfully, no damage to repair post race.