Here is my race report and links to videos.
Ann Arbor, Michigan - September 8, 2013
Race weekend #5 is in the record books for the Waterford Hills Road Racing season, and Phil Mather Racing is inching closer to another victory, but it was not to be this round. The three race weekend was full of excitement from start to finish.
(Feature race video links:
Part 1 - http://youtu.be/QiPalb6phzs
Part 2 - http://youtu.be/_HwuS3Z9p9I
Unfortunately, the weekend started out rough, with a broken half-shaft on the warm up lap for Friday's practice sessions. The rest of the day was spent rounding up parts which meant that Mather didn't get to test the changes made to the car since last race.
Friday started out better however, with the Phil Mather Racing/CG-Lock #06 SpecNeon qualifying on outside pole for the first race of the weekend. As race time approached, the weather wasn't looking so good and rain started to fall. It was light at first and Mather began to buckle in, ready to race. However, at the last second, the call was made to change to rain tires. Helping crew on Saturday was Josh Engstrom, who has lots of experience crewing for rally teams, so he is used to fast pace car changes. With his help, all four tires were changed and Mather was back in the car ready to race in less than five minutes. The race is self was quite a show. It was called "The best race I've seen in 10 years,", and "EPIC", by several people. For a little background, the SpecNeons race with other class cars on track at the same time, separated at the start by about half of a lap. They are typically the slower cars in the field. For the rain race, however, they were not. Mather and his usual competition #37, Sean Grogan, got an excellent start and were fighting nose to tail from the beginning. They quickly caught up to the slower of the SpecMiatas (many of whom chose to stay on slick dry tires instead of treaded rain tires). Mather got separated from #37 by traffic, but was never more than a couple seconds behind. They fought their way through the traffic and eventually it was #37's turn to get held up. Mather caught up and got a couple of lucky breaks being able to make faster passes than Grogan did. At the finish, Mather finished 0.327 seconds behind the #37 SpecNeon. Mather not only finished second in class, he finished second overall! There were also zero caution flags and no contact between Mather and the #37 throughout the race, even though they were at times separated by only a few inches on a very wet racetrack. "This was one of those races that I will remember for a long time, even though I didn't come away with the victory; it was just great, hard fought, and clean racing the entire way through," Phil said afterwards. "I only needed one more lap and I would have had him." Unfortunately the camera battery died while sitting on grid for the start of the 12 lap race.
Mather started in second place again for race two of the weekend. The weather had dried out for Sunday and Phil was able to evaluate the changes made to the car. Seven of the 8 laps were run within 0.5 seconds of each other, meaning the car was very consistent and Mather was running it as hard as possible. At the end of the race, he was 1.009 seconds behind the leader and knew a couple more changes were needed for the feature race.
Sunday afternoon's 15 lap Feature race was another one for the record books. Mather knew he had to push hard at the start for a chance for the win. And push he did. He again started on the outside pole, meaning he had the outside line through turns one and two. He knew if he could keep the nose of his car next to the #37 through turn two, he had a chance to get the lead. That is exactly what he did. By the entrance to the turn for Hill Top, he was in the lead. The #37 was right on his rear bumper though and wasn't going to let him get away easily. Throughout the race, you could have thrown a blanket over Mather and the #37. Once again, there was zero contact and the race was very clean. With four laps to go, Mather's rear tires were completely shot and he was sliding the rear of the car around almost every turn. The #37 finally got a nose inside of the Paddock Bend and was able to make a pass in the S-turns as Mather got a little sideways and put two wheels in the dirt on the exit of the turns. That was all that was needed. At the end of the 15 laps, Mather was 1.5 seconds behind, with absolutely no tires left.
Race weekend #6, and the last race weekend at Waterford Hills for the season will be September 28-29.