PJ Groenke: Mid-Ohio Recap
Mid-O is awesome! With corners named “The Keyhole”, “China Beach”, “Madness”, “Thunder Valley” and “The Carousel” how could it not be? Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is one of those old school driver’s courses that demands respect and is extremely challenging, technical, and a ton of fun to race on all at the same time. Being able to race at Mid-O for the third season in a row as part of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships was amazing and to be a part of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race weekend made it all the better.
With the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper back together after our DNF at Road America and the issues we suffered through the first half of the season causing a lack of power and driveability resolved, P.J. Groenke Racing and team were set to get our season back on track. Testing on Thursday in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper went very well and our lap times were extremely consistent and improved throughout the three sessions as Crew Chief Sean Asselin dialed in the set up. Skipping the official practice session as it was back-to back with qualifying worked well as we secured our best qualifying result of the season for the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper with the 5th fastest lap time, our best qualifying result of the season to date and even better than the overall result, we were the fastest MINI in qualifying.
Round 10 of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Championships in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper did not go as planned as things so often do in racing. The handling of the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper was not as it was through testing and qualifying and even though I had a great start to the race gaining positions, we soon found ourselves moving backwards and battling intensely to maintain our position. Mid-O is a very difficult track to pass on and traffic with the faster PWC TC and PWC TCA cars coming through the field makes it extremely difficult to maintain momentum, and momentum is everything in a TCB car. While running in 6th place I left space for a PWC TC car to pass on the inside of “The Carousel” in the closing laps and that apparently was not enough as I was hit and pushed even wider killing all momentum in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper allowing the 7th and 8th place competitors to pass me and crossed the start finish line in 8th place. Definitely not the result we expected for the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper, but a solid result and championship points gained.
Back to a standing start for Round 11 of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Championships and I took full advantage of my 7th place starting position rocketing off the line to 3rd place through Corner 1 in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper. I was passed by the 4th place competitor in the early laps and settled in waiting for my opportunity to pass and the battle ensued. Trading places for 3rd place on and off in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper I realized that we were only losing ground and decided to maintain position and leave the fight for a podium finish until the end of the race. Unfortunately the 3rd place competitor began the fight for podium positions with the 2nd place competitor too early with 10 minutes remaining in the race allowing the 5th place competitor to catch up and join the mix. Passed for 4th place I bided my time in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI
Cooper knowing that an opportunity would present itself sooner or later and it did on the last lap. Flying into “China
Beach” the 3rd place competitor got all out of shape and was teetering on the edge of control allowing the 4th place competitor to make his move, too aggressive of a move and as I entered “Madness” the 3rd place competitor was sideways at the apex and the 4th place competitor exited the corner extremely slowly. As I made my move to the outside it looked like the 3rd place competitor recovered and was heading right back at the 4th place competitor in retaliation. In a split second decision I bailed to the grass and avoided any carnage that was about to possibly occur rejoining the track through Corner 7 just behind the recovering competitors to complete the race in 5th place and our best finish of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season.
Starting from 5th place for Round 12 of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Championships I had another great standing start and was once again in 3rd place heading into Corner 1 and then it all came apart. Heading into “The Carousel” on lap 2 I carried way too much speed and got loose allowing the 4th place competitor to get a run on and pass me on the main straight. I tucked in behind him and headed into Corner 1 knowing that the 5th place competitor was close, but now where near close enough to make a pass. Right on the bumper of the now 3rd place competitor I turned into Corner 1 and was hit and spun off track careening through the gravel trap but maintained momentum and carried on in last and 12th place in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper. As determined as ever to make up for lost ground I continued on in hopes of a full course yellow while setting lap times as fast as the leaders and my wish was granted, full course yellow and this was my opportunity. The green flag flew and I was back up to 6th place in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper in a few laps! While attempting to pass for 5th place in “The Keyhole” I made a move to the outside passing the 5th place competitor and attempted an over under pass as he overcooked the corner and went wide. All was going as planned and I had a great run out of the corner until the 5th place competitor pinched down on me on the exit and we contacted taking both of us off track to the outside dropping the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper back to a 7th place finish.
While not the optimal results for the Pirelli World Challenge Optima Batteries Grand Prix presented by MOMO race weekend, P.J. Groenke Racing and team are finally up to speed with the teething problems of the first half of the season in the Verax.ca, Tundra, MINI Cooper firmly behind us. Having set the 2nd fastest race lap in Round 12 of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Championships it will be a long but short few days of work at home in Toronto until we are back on track for Rounds 13 -15 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, UT and I cannot wait!
About P.J. Groenke
P.J. Groenke has been racing professionally in Canada since 2001 and across North America since 2013. Highlights of Groenke’s racing career include winning the 52nd Annual Indian Summer Trophy, finishing as a semi-finalist on Discovery Channel Canada’s Star Racer in 2006, and sweeping the Canadian Touring Car Championship races at the Vortex Brake Pads 200 race weekend with back-to-back victories in 2011. Most recently, Groenke finished 6th in the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship with three top five finishes including one podium, 13 top ten finishes, one Optima
Batteries “Best Standing Start” award, two Sunoco “Hard Charger” awards, and captured his very first Pirelli World Challenge Pole Position at Road America.
P.J. Groenke is sponsored by Verax.ca, Tundra Technical Solutions, Mulligan Gold, Clairhaven Ltd., Clorox Pool&Spa, Martinrea International Inc., Pelto Agri Investments, and Warp Speed Computers Inc. Other sponsors include ARS Access Restoration Services, Affinity Luxury Car Rentals, Alpha Laboratories Inc., Amsterdam Brewery, Confident Paintless Dent Removal, Diplomat Trucking Ltd., Eventscape Inc., Payne Capital Corp. & Hawthorn Equity Partners, Proprint Services Inc., Ro-Ro Property Management Corp., and 4XM.ca/4Print.ca. For more information, please visit www.pjgroenkeracing.com.