JL Racing in Canada had their first meeting of the 2007 season and it wasn’t short on drama.
Following is a report from Phil Reilly, part of the Race Teknik team.
JL Racing’s Saab 9-3 is ONE STRONG CAR
The first weekend of racing for 2007 was full of challenges as the team launched the season at Mosport International Raceway (near Toronto).
Friday was the practice day and Jason Sharpe was out for the first session when some debris had become caught in the front of the radiator. The restriction caused the engine to overheat and spew water down onto the road where it hit the rear tires as Jason was coming down the back straight at approx 180 kmh. The car spun around four times before heading over a number of grass berms, and finally coming to a halt. Luckily Jason managed to keep the car off the wall and get the car back to pits. There was some minor damage with a bent tie-rod and the brakes had some issues, but the team were able to get things going again for Saturday’s sessions.
Saturday sessions started with qualifying and in order to get more track time the team opted to enter the Ontario Regional Sprints as well.
Len Clue entered the sprints and recorded a third place finish, which meant the car would be OK for the Championship race. It was the first good news of the weekend.
John Lockhart was driving in the first race of the championship series and the race started well. Around the fifth lap of the race however, John spun off the track at about 180 kmh and with a sickening crunch, the car went backwards into the tire wall barrier. The Crew Chief radioed John and said “Can you still drive it?” Amazingly, the car started and was still driveable. John drove back to pits, the team applied copious amounts of duct tape and John rejoined the race.
The Saab 9-3 is such an exceptionally strong car, and it was proved once again. Many other racers shook their heads and commented that their car would have left the track on a tow truck. The Saab 9-3 took an incredible hit, yet was still able to drive away and continue the race. These kinds of race incidents are a testament to the structural integrity of the Saab 9-3. The car really took a beating all weekend, and stood up to all kinds of punishment. The team worked late on Saturday and straightened out some panels, did an alignment and we were ready for Sunday.
Sunday was another challenge as the brake issues had returned and the challenge was to finish the race and gain valuable points which would be needed later in the year to qualify for the Toronto Grand Prix. There were a number of racing incidents for the 40 minute race including some rule violations where drivers were passing other cars under a yellow flag. Our strategy at this point was simply to finish with points, so although we finished the race mid-pack, the team was happy with the result.
The weekend finished with another sprint race with Len Clue driving with a difficult brake situation yet he managed to pull in another third place finish.
It was a tough weekend, yet our podium finish and continuing the race after a big hit, proves one thing – the car remains the star.