Walking around Road America on this open test day, I ran into some old friends (drivers) that have been unfortunately absent for much of the season and came across a couple new cars that we have not seen in anger before.
Most notably to ALMS fans is the arrival of the Courage which will be run by Miracle Motorsports. Having just run in and won the LMES event at Silverstone, the car was immediately shipped over to the states where its new team was waiting. Since the ALMS cars are not allowed to test during the test day, the team spent time changing the little things that differ between the two series and getting it fitted for its new drivers.
I talked with James Gue, one of the trio of drivers for Miracle Motorsports, about his new toy. He is excited and you could hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes. Today had been the first time he had laid ice on the car and it immediately met his approval.
The team is planning on running the rest of the season in the car with the possibility of running a second car in one or both of the final two races at Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca. This is all in hopes of continuing with the cars in the series for '05. In any case, its a fabulous car and will be very exciting to watch this weekend.
I also ran into a couple drivers from World Challenge races past. Mike Van Sicklin and Robert Baxter were both present and accounted for this weekend and driving cars in the touring class. Mike had been one of the drivers of the Lexus IS300s that ran last season and Rober Baxter was a driver and team principal with SpeedSport who ran a pair of Proteges last season with Roger Foo being the other driver.
Mike will be driving one of the RSXs out of the Real Time stable and said that he has a couple of "plans" in the works for next season. The word "turbo" was thrown around in jest...but who knows, only time will tell. Robert Baxter has his name on one of the BMWs sitting under the same tent as Nic Jonsson and James Sofronas. Both Nic and James have been very fast in recent events with Nic having won an event and James getting ever so close two weekends ago at Mosport. We know the cars are fast so its likely we'll see Baxter fighting for a top position before the weekend is over.
Lastly, what can we say, they have finally arrived. After a long and hard haul, the Volvo has finally made its debut this weekend. Derek Bell is back behind the wheel and will put on a good show this weekend I'm sure. The car was off the pace today, but should come along through the weekend as this is its first real time on track in anger. Bob Miller said that they are happy with the handling and the chassis at this time, but are still down a bit on power. There was a small army of Cosworth engineers working on the engine while I was there, so I'm sure that extra power will certainly be found at some point soon.
The car looks amazing though and its great to see another fighter out there to do battle. They are looking at the last three races as test sessions in order to be able to come out strong at Sebring next year.
All in all, it looks like a fun weekend is to be had. If you are in the area, make sure you get your tickets and come out to the track, you are guaranteed a good time. Otherwise set the vcr, the tivo or get ready to watch Speed on Sunday, it promises to be a good show.
2002 Speed Arena