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HINDMAN: Mud-Ohio

In his latest Sportscar365 column, Trent Hindman recalls nearly pulling off the double at “Mud-Ohio”…

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

“It was a warm and sunny day.” Actually, well… it wasn’t. The entire weekend saw nothing but rain. I actually chuckled on the pre-grid for the WeatherTech Championship race Sunday afternoon when the crowd, who surprisingly stuck it out for multiple days in absolutely horrible weather, all roared when the sun finally poked through the clouds.

For the fans, it was a fantastic moment. However, for the teams, it became a much different story.

Wildly inconsistent conditions are, by my estimation, universally one of the most hated aspects of racing.

Racing in the rain? Awesome! Racing in the dry? Great! Raining for three days straight and getting your first real dry running of the weekend on race day? I’ll let you answer that one.

The one positive aspect about dealing with variable conditions is the very simple fact that it’s not just affecting you or your team only.

It’s not like Mother Nature decides “yeah, screw this Trent Hindman guy and especially his race team.” No, quite the opposite actually.

In this case at Mid-Ohio last weekend, I feel like the constant changes in weather and track conditions leveled the playing field.

This situation favored the teams that could adapt the best, hence why it wasn’t much of a nuisance since I knew I was secure driving the Park Place Motorsports/VOLT Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport and Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

Quality practice time was probably the most sought-after item on the weekend, as practicing in the wet conditions usually brings some level of unnecessary risk, especially around Mid-Ohio.

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

The risk was justified since, frankly, nobody had any idea as to what conditions we would be facing in either the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Saturday or WeatherTech on Sunday.

Even our super cool, über accurate radar was giving us a false narrative (this will come into play a little bit later on).

All I know is that each lap turned was increasingly more important towards having a direction to go with both cars when it came to race day.

Before Alan Brynjolfsson and I raced our VOLT Lighting Porsche GT4 on Saturday, it was all about qualifying the MSR Acura.

The black and pink livery with Autonation’s #drvpnk campaign onboard with Mario Farnbacher and me this weekend certainly added a few tenths… that car looked BADASS. Very much like those who are fighting the fight as we speak.

Remember when I mentioned changing conditions are universally hated in the racing world? Well, this was one of those moments.

Unfortunately, calling upon prior experience from earlier in the weekend, the MSR team and I decided that the wet racetrack we saw at the beginning of GTD qualifying would not dry by the end of a 15-minute session.

Unfortunately to our shock and horror, it did, and we were left to try and salvage a decent starting position with wet tires on a dry racetrack.

The very same drying process that took well over an hour the day prior now took less than 10 minutes total. Such is life. Starting P10 for Sunday, we knew it was gonna be elbows out to get the job done.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Luckily there was a chance at redemption later on in the day, as it was time for Alan and me to get after a first win of the season in Pilot Challenge competition.

Alan would be starting from the 11th position after qualifying in the rain around an extraordinarily slippery Mid-Ohio, and with an incoming storm on radar, nobody really knew how this one would go down. An early yellow meant we’d essentially rely on Alan for the first stint and a half of the race, save some fuel, and go for a short stop and driver change with just over 45 minutes to go.

Just past halfway, the drizzle began and most radar monitors saw the large incoming green blob that was about to once again envelop the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

That rain slowly picked up by the final round of pitstops and had a majority of the field, including us, contemplating the gamble to throw on rain tires. Although the rain was falling, the track was still dry, albeit a bit slippery.

We were the ones who gambled and took a scuffed set of dry tires on that final stop. The storm that was moving towards us and just about making contact with the racetrack began to split apart directly over us.

No guarantees, but the deeper we ran into the race, the more likely it looked like the rain wouldn’t arrive. Since a fair number of our competition decided to preemptively pit for wet tires, we had inherited the lead with roughly 45 minutes remaining.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Constantly changing conditions, running lines that made absolutely zero sense to find whatever grip the racetrack offered, and a few tense restarts right at the very end saw a VERY well deserved first Pilot Challenge victory for the Park Place Motorsports/VOLT Lighting team!

This is directly following an extremely rough weekend at VIR, where in four races we experienced four tire failures, a blown engine, and brake failure. To repay Alan and the team for their efforts in getting our car back in working order with a win like that felt pretty damn good.

As always with two races per weekend, there’s never much time for celebration (if you’re fortunate enough) as Sunday brought a whole new set of challenges, especially in this case.

Starting 10th on a dry racetrack that we really had not seen yet during the weekend made for a whole number of unknowns and plenty of opportunity to lose focus.

My only goal was to try and make up as much ground in the first two laps as I possibly could, before the field had a chance to really spread out, and give Mario a car that was in impeccable shape and drivable for the ever-changing track conditions.

The first lap was a complete surprise to me, as we had made it all the way up to P3. Quite a few drivers who had the same intentions as me became overly ambitious in some areas, opening up lanes to pass that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.

On lap two we moved into second position, made a pass for the lead shortly thereafter and didn’t look back for the rest of the stint.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Mario hopped in for the final two stints following a flawless full-service stop by the MSR crew and took off from there.

We more or less threw the guy straight out into the deep end, as it was his first time ever at Mid-Ohio and he had an extremely limited amount of running prior to the race. We came home a very strong second with an excellent battle for the win at the end. However, the No. 86 MSR team did gain the lead of the GTD title race.

We were painfully close to pulling off the double win at Mid-Ohio between GS and GTD, but nonetheless we achieved two fantastic results that were much needed heading into the busier parts of the championship season.

Thank you to Mike and the entire Meyer Shank Racing crew, Acura, Honda HPD, and of course, AutoNation, for coming onboard this weekend. Big thanks to Alan, VOLT Lighting, Trim-Tex, Mike Johnson, and the Park Place Motorsports team for staying on the loud pedal all week to get our car ready and in winning shape for Saturday.

To sum up my year so far, and I’m fortunate to be saying this, but “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Not much time at home since mid-February and that doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, which I’m grateful for. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

Trent Hindman (@TrentHindman) is the 2014 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class champion, driving for VOLT Racing in Continental Tire Challenge and Michael Shank Racing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races.

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