The legendary Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, surrounded by banks of leafy trees and manicured fields, played host to a memorable leg of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge this past weekend. With early season rankings still very much in flux, the May 15th race represented an opportunity for the drivers and crew of the Racing to End Alzheimer’s/Hardpoint team to capitalize on the flashes of greatness they have shown all season. Unfortunately, despite another great team showing – and with just minutes left in a rollercoaster of a race – the team’s luck took a dramatic turn for the worse.
Hard Work and High Hopes
Nick Galante kicked off the weekend with a promising qualifying lap, putting the No. 22 Porsche 718 Cayman Clubsport GT4 RS at a season-best 11th starting position. As the race got underway, however, it became clear that the finish would depend to an unusual degree on an ability to avoid collisions and strategize effectively in the midst of the melee.
Within the first hour, multiple caution periods broke up Galante’s run. As a result, many of Mid-Ohio’s long straights and passing opportunities were neutralized, and Galante had to grind his way into the top 10. Maintaining the team’s hard-fought position, he steered the No.22 into the pits with an hour to go.
The Proof is in the Pits
The timing of a pit stop can make or break a race. If a team pits too late, it risks losing valuable positioning. Too early, and fuel runs out or tires slow down on the home stretch. Decisions weigh heavy, as the high-stakes calculations make fools or heroes of seasoned professionals.
During this race, the Racing to End Alzheimer’s/Hardpoint team made a risky decision to pit during green flag conditions, giving competitors a chance to close ground at full speed. The team would lean on the pit crew, hoping for a flawless stop. Their faith proved well placed, as the No.22 was on track with a new driver, fuel and tires without giving up a single position.
A Different Kind of Pits
After the second fastest pit stop of the race, Sean McAlister roared out on pace for a top 10 finish. As usual, he entered a very crowded and motivated field. Despite the jostling, however, McAlister expertly held off his competition for close to 55 minutes.
With a top ten finish in sight, the No. 22 found itself surrounded by TCR cars battling for position in the waning minutes of the race. When the leading car hit the brakes and made contact with another competitor on the keyhole turn, McAlister had nowhere to go and collided hard. With just three laps left, the Porsche sustained significant enough damage to end its run, dropping the team to a 23rd place finish.
The disappointment of such a last-minute disaster stings, but it is somewhat softened by what was widely viewed as a quality team effort. In racing, as in anything else, some things simply cannot be controlled. Luck will have its way. But success comes to those who continue to put in consistent effort and push forward through the difficulties. We are confident that this team has what it takes to come out on top. Stay tuned.
The next race for the No. 22 Racing to End Alzheimer’s/Hardpoint Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport is at Watkins Glen International, June 23-26, 2022.