The September event at Autobahn Country Club featured three races and three different winners in the NASA Prototype class. While only two of the races counted for Round 9 and 10 points for the North Atlantic Divisions for the NASA Elan NP01 cars, the competitors were given a bonus race on Sunday morning.
Saturday morning saw Alex Wright of Mount Vernon, Ohio taking pole over Chuck Liniger out of Parker, Colorado. Wright’s time of 1:33.655 and Liniger’s run of 1:34.099 was plenty quick enough to place them at the front of the 34 car Lightning race group. Meanwhile in the paddock, NP competitor Dave Balingit of Denver, Colorado and crew were busy placing brand new body work on their car. Balingit, needing repairs after a big shunt at the April MidOhio event, had just picked up fresh body panels in Chicago the day before. Wright led all 17 laps of the race with Liniger always within striking distance. Several passes were attempted and there was close side by side racing, but Wright kept control of the race and kept Liniger in his mirrors* (see side picture). Balingit who started last due to not qualifying was able to climb half way through the field but was unable to strike at the leaders. Liniger set the track record which would hold for the entire weekend. Win #1 goes to Wright.
Sunday Qualifying the order flip flopped as it was Balingit’s time to shine. The qualifying order from the early morning session was Balingit, Liniger and then Wright with times of 1:33.717, 1:33.751 and 1:34.096 – a difference of 0.3 seconds from first to third position. If anyone says the cars aren’t closely matched, then they aren’t paying attention!!! While the second race was considered a qualifying race and primarily to set the grid for race #3 of the weekend, the NASA Prototype competitors put on one heck of a show. Liniger had the jump over Wright at the start and held onto second place for the first two laps, until Wright was able to nail the pass in turn 1. The two battled back and forth several times while Balingit kept them back a few car lengths until lap 5 when Liniger was able to repass Wright. At this point the Prototypes had gotten into the back of lapped traffic and carefully picked their way through the slower cars. On lap 7, Balingit was a little over cautious getting around a soon to be lapped car and Liniger took advantage as they exited turn 4. Going into turn 5, Liniger held the inside line and took away the lead from Balingit. Wright got caught up in the same traffic and had a quick off course excursion to avoid contact. Despite setting the quickest lap of the race attempting to catch Liniger, Balingit had to settle for second overall. Win #2 goes to Liniger.
As the third race start was set be the fast laps of race #2, the order on grid was Balingit, Liniger and Wright. As with the first two races, the finishing position could not be determined until the last lap. Balingit charged hard into turn 1 with Wright and Liniger behind him side by side. For the first 6 laps, it appeared that Liniger might hold off Wright but on lap 7 Wright was able to force the pass on Liniger due to a slight bobble and take over second overall. That change in position was short lived however when Wright made a larger bobble and dropped to 6th overall. Liniger now in tight possesion of second place, took off after Balingit and in the process started turning laps faster than in qualifying. Liniger set fast race lap of 1:32.388 besting Balingit by nearly a second, but was unable to catch him with just two laps left. Wright made a fantastic recovery and made his way back up to third overall.