Road America is my home track – it’s about an hour drive from my home and we were able to sleep in our own beds during the Runoffs, a nice bonus – and the track knowledge that comes with it was certainly an advantage. But I had an extra edge: I really know this track in the wet, and it rained during the H Production National Championship race.
Dick Gagliardi and fellow Honda racer Mike Moser are two of my closest competitors. They are in my Division and I get to race with them year-in and year-out. I’ve raced against Dick in the rain at other tracks, and Mike has an extensive ice-racing background. I did not expect that I would have as much of an advantage as I did in the wet. But I was really able to capitalize on my track knowledge to eke out a small advantage.
There was absolutely nobody that could touch me in the Carousel, the long, sweeping, slightly more-than-180-degree right-hander. In the race, I was the only one that was running right out to the white line. That’s where you have to have the confidence to run, because that’s where the grip is in the wet.
It’s intimidating, though, because if you make a mistake and run wide, there’s no room to recover. But it’s amazing how much difference there is in terms of traction. I was able to build up a gap in that area even though the other cars would gradually reel me in over the course of a lap. That was the difference in the race.
This was a trick I learned, not from driving, but rather from my many years of working corners at Road America as a flagger. Whenever I’ve flagged at the track and it has rained, I’ve made a habit of walking onto the track surface between sessions and scuffing my feet across the track to literally feel the surface. Over the years, I’ve made lots of mental notes as to where the track is slippery and where there is a lot of grip. I really feel this had as much to do with my success at the Runoffs as my driving ability.
Of course, my Honda Civic racecar was a big part of the winning equation as well. It started out as an Improved Touring C car, and I raced it that way until 2003, when I converted it to a G Production car. In the Production classes, it’s classified as a limited prep car, which means the modifications you can make are quite limited compared to the ’60s and ’70s roadsters that had made up the class historically. It was a mid-pack car until SCCA added weight and moved it to H Production, at the same time the G Production class was eliminated.
The Civic does well on some tracks; it’s not as good as a lighter, more nimble full-preparation H Production car like a Sprite, Midget or Spitfire at the tighter, more twisty tracks. But on a longer track like Road America, it does well. It holds its own, it’s been a fun car to drive and it’s absolutely bulletproof in terms of reliability. It is also very neutral and easy to drive in wet conditions. We just keep working on it year after year, trying to find a little bit more speed where we can.
It’s my second Honda racecar. The first was a 1984 CRX that was also my daily driver. I raced this car first in the Showroom Stock class, and later in Improved Touring. The car had minimal modifications and was still street-legal. This allowed me to drive it to the track, change the tires, race, and then hopefully, drive it home. I set racing aside for a few years; when I returned, it was time for a new chassis onto which I could bolt my existing parts, as our Midwest winters had taken their toll on the CRX. Enter my current Civic that has served me well for a more than a decade.
The Honda Racing Line program has been a big help. While the age of my car and the nature of the Production class make it hard to make use of parts discounts, we have certainly taken advantage of the contingency program. I greatly appreciate the support Honda has given to the racers at the grassroots level. It helps offset our expenses throughout the course of the year.
I look forward to using it again in 2012 while I pursue another National Championship.
Look for Greg Gauper in Central Division SCCA events and at the Runoffs as he seeks another H Production National Championship.
And if you’re a racer in a Honda or with Honda Power, don’t forget to register for the Honda Racing Line program at www.hondaracingline.com.
Honda Racing Line is proud to offer original equipment replacement parts, performance parts and crate engines to Honda and Acura grassroots racers in the entry-level through professional ranks.