Thursday, July 28, 2005

2005 SpecMiata Milwaukee Cup

2005 SpecMiata Milwaukee Cup

July 24, 2005 – Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin: The second annual SpecMiata Milwaukee Cup was held this weekend at one of the premier road courses in the US – four mile long Road America. Phil Mather and the #69 CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata made the long haul from South East Michigan for this event hoping to improve on last year’s performance.

This year, Mather had the benefit of a test day and the help of his crew, Cory and Katie B., to tune the car for the races. Testing showed that Mather was going to be competitive for a top ten finish, having dropped several seconds per lap from his lap times last year.

By Friday night, there were over 50 SpecMiatas in the paddock area, with several more expected. Saturday morning revealed over 70 SpecMiatas had shown up for just this event. Qualifying was going to be extremely important for getting a good finishing position. Drivers of all experience levels, novice to pro, come to this race for the thrill of racing at Road America, and the level of competition. With the car dialed in from the test day and a bit of good luck, Mather placed the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata on the outside of row five (tenth position out of seventy!) on the grid, and the third fastest 1.6 Liter Miata.

The start of Saturday’s race was full of extremely close racing, but very clean as well. Seeing 70+ SpecMiata’s head into turn one at over 100 mph is quite a sight. Most people made it through without more than a bump or two. Mather had a slower start with a few cars passing by turn five. However, once he got on pace, he started making passes to get back up to his starting position. There was always someone to pass, defend from passing, or someone to draft with. Drafting is very important to good lap times at Road America. Being four miles long, and having only 14 turns, the straights are very, very long. And with the SpecMiata’s only having 120 horsepower at most, drafting can mean being more than five miles per hour faster at the end of the straight. For those that do not know what drafting is, next time you are driving with your windows down, put your hand out the window above the rear view mirror. Then move it to behind the mirror. You should notice less wind resistance on your hand. Drafting is when you take your car, and get as close as possible to the person racing in front of you while going down the straight. There may even be bumping (called bump drafting) involved - at 115mph! At about the fifth lap, Mather was battling for position with Shane Benson of AIM Tuning headed into turn twelve, Canada Corner - a very sharp, 90 degree right hand turn. Canada Corner comes at the end of the fastest straight on the track. Mather misjudged his braking point by only a few feet and ended up going through the sand trap at the exit of the turn. But, luckily, he didn’t’ get stuck like several other vehicles did, and was able to continue. Now back somewhere in 20th+ place, Mather started making his charge forward once again. By the end of the 17-lap race, Mather ended up in 13th position; very close to his goal of a top ten finish. Since this is not the normal regional race that Mather competes in, the finish of Saturday’s race determined his starting position for Sunday’s race.

After a short warm up on Sunday, Mather was ready for combat in the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata. This time, Mather got an excellent start, moving up a couple of positions right away. For almost every lap of the race, Mather was drafting, defending, or passing somebody. With five laps to go, Mather was in a three-car bump draft going up the main straight, with him in the middle. Headed into turn one, the lead car in the draft and Mather went in faster than ever before. The lead car went slightly wide on the exit, getting two wheels into the dirt. Mather was trying to tighten his line to give his competitor room. However, at the exit of the turn, Mather and the #16 car collided side to side, resulting in a bent tie rod in the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata, ending Mather’s day. Mather limped the car back to the pits and had to park the car, unable to continue.

While having a disappointing ending to the weekend, Mather was still very positive about the racing overall. Mather proved that the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata and himself are competitive with some of the top drivers in the country. Mather’s next race will be at Mid-Ohio, in Lexington, Ohio. This is one of Mather’s favorite racetracks, and he is historically strong there.

Mather would like to thank his sponsors, Total Fitness Personal Training and CG-Lock. Total Fitness has kept Mather in top physical condition for this racing season. With this weekends races being double the normal length and with the weather being extremely hot and humid, Mather’s endurance was key to staying focused in the racecar. And when he is not on the racetrack, Mather uses a CG-Lock in his personal vehicles in order to help keep himself in control and more comfortable for his driving. The CG-Lock provides him with 80% of the holding power of a racing harness, like in his racecar.

Most of all, Phil would like to thank his crew. This year has been the best racing of his career thus far. Much of that is due to the help and moral support of his crew. Victory is not far away.