Story by Vickie Miller Photo by Myles Regan

This past weekend was the 63rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, or also known affectionately as “Sebring”.  The racing series participating included the TUDOR Championship, Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge (CTSC), Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge (GT3 Cup), Cooper Tires Prototype Lites (Lites), Mazda MX-5 Cup (MX-5), and the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR).

First let’s cover the racing.  Between all the race series, car corrals, taking track laps, and the hot laps, there was always action on the track.

The weekend practice rounds proved to be optimistic for the second race appearance of the 60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD Ligier with an average place of second over the four practice sessions.  The Shank crew worked had on Friday to replace the engine and the car headed out onto the track in time for Oswaldo “Ozz” Negri Jr to qualify the car.  After dancing around top position for the pole, Ozz took a little off-road trip to land a fourth place spot to start the race.

The excitement was dashed on lap 47 when Ozz saw the GTLM 17 Falcon Tire Porsche 911 RSR on the right and sadly the curbing was unforgiving. There was not enough room for both the Porsche and Honda Ligier to pass cleanly around Turn 14. Ozz bounced off the inside curb and the car spun hard into the tire barriers at a very high rate of speed.

Ozz was taken to the care center, released and will be okay, but the incident was difficult for this fan to watch.  Ozz had visited pit road since the drop of the green flag working out handling issues.  The car was retired with heavy damage reported.

As with any car race, endurance or sprint, much carnage was left around the track.  I am thankful I didn’t take part in a drinking game when the words “a Porsche lost a wheel” was the chosen phrase! While the race weekend is referred to the 12 hours of Sebring, there was a CTSC race held on Friday.

Ever since I read the announcement, I was anxious to see the return of the MINI Cooper and especially since friend and driver Remo Ruscitti would be at the wheel.  The 37 MINI Cooper entry with LAP Motorsports is in the ST (Street Touring) class, which started the race in 20th spot and ended in 18th while having an impressive showing for the first time with this team racing on the bumpy and punishing Sebring track. Oh yea, the car is so cute…there is that!  Keep an eye on this car with Remo at the wheel.

Now, let’s cover the rough stuff.  Although I am sure the heat at Sebring was mentioned on Twitter and on the television coverage, it was hot…okay, not New Jersey hot, from which I base everything, but it was miserable.   While I had a fun time in the infield, camping with friends who had air conditioning in the RV, there seems to be some confusion over the terms “men” and “women”.

Multiple times for both the showers and the restrooms, the “women’s” section was claimed by the men.  It has been several years since I camped at the track, but I could not be more disappointed as to the shower situation.

In years past, before NASCAR bought the track, Sebring brought in a long trailer which offered at least 5 showers for women, and I am assuming the same number for men.  This year, the one trailer marked “Tidy Coast Event Services” had a total of four showers, 2 for men 2 for women.  I arrived Friday morning 6:15am to the trailer only to find men in the women’s showers.

It was explained to me by the lady cleaning the showers that due to no women being at the track, the men were going to be allowed to use the women’s showers.  Seriously? This confused myself and the other women in line behind me. We waited while the men were done, the lady mopped up some of the standing water in the showers, since the trailer was level, the showers didn’t drain, and then the women were allowed to enter the “women’s” showers.  Duh.

Apparently when we got the right to vote, we lost the right to take a shower.   The answer is NOT to take the women’s shower but supply more for the men. So I informed the cleaning lady, I would be here at this trailer Saturday morning 6am, expecting to use the women’s shower.  Any guesses what happened?  I was there at 5:58am to be exact, to find no cleaning lady and men in the women’s showers!! Okay, rant over, I would wash my hands clean of this situation but there’s a man at the sink!

Now, let’s cover the driver interview stuff.  Often I am asking, “How do you pick the drivers you write about?” Until this week, it was sort of a random process.  I picked some of my favorites whose team I had followed for years even before Facebook and Twitter.  Yes, there was racing before social media! Those teams/drivers made my “favorite list” primarily because I would see them regularly at the track and I was always offered water, a place to hang out, and even lunch! Basically, just be friendly….there’s a lot to be said for being nice.

So this week it’s a little different.  This article is about a driver I met at Sebring for the first time. Why did I pick him to interview? Basically, he’s friendly.  He started following me on Twitter and I returned the follow.  Then he asked if I would be attending Sebring and he wanted to meet me.  I was intrigued.  Usually drivers hide from me….apparently he is new and didn’t get the memo.

I was honored to meet and chat with Lucas Catania, #26 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA Platinum Cup driver for NGT Motorsport.   I hope you find him as interesting as I do, if not, I have not done him justice.   First a little background and then just part of my chat with Lucas:

Lucas, at age 16, completed the Skip Barber driving school in Lime Rock, which quickly turned into his first club race podium.  Lucas won many Monticello club races waiting to turn the minimum age of 18 for his first Porsche club race at Watkins Glen International (WGI), beating out of a field of over 60 cars to take top honors with the win.  Lucas has successfully competed in the Pirelli World Challenge and Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, garnering Rookie-of-the-Year in 2014. Lucas has future aspirations of racing full time in the Tudor United Sports Car Championship.

I read about Lucas on his website and I am always impressed with young drivers who are also attending college.  Along with many of the race fans at Sebring, Lucas was also on spring break.  Monday found Lucas back at college; yes he attends in person, at Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York.  Lucas is on schedule to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science degree sporting a major in Biochemistry and minor in Environmental Science.

Education is very important to Lucas and he can’t imagine not going to college.  He must remain very disciplined to be an accomplished race car driver and maintain his higher learning pursuits.   Lucas applies his knowledge of physics learned in the classroom to the scrutiny of data reviewed at the track.

At the Sebring GT3 Cup race, Lucas’ car sported his primary sponsor, “New York Spine and Wellness Center.”

Now onto the question and answer part of this interview!

After a test session or qualifying and you “review data” what are you really looking for?

“I usually watch video first to determine the correct line through the corners, which is the foundation for understanding the quickest way around the track.  For data, I then review brake pressure, throttle application and corner speeds among other things.”

For Race 1, Lucas started and ended in 8th place. Reviewing this data and video must have helped, as Lucas improved for Race 2 where he started 7th and finished in the 5th spot, and as it turns out, he is also 5th in points.

As a race fan, which is your favorite track to watch a race?

“Watching the GTLM cars at Circuit of the Americas (COTA).”

As a driver, which is your favorite track to drive?

“Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport) because it’s fast, unpredictable and it separates the men from the boys.  Mosport is similar to Road Atlanta.”

Which track is on your bucket list to drive and what car would you race?

“Circuit of Spa Francorchamps racing a Porsche 911 RSR.”

One interesting fun fact which fans can’t find on Facebook, your website or on Twitter:

“I have helped synthesize an HDAC inhibitor as a research project in Organic Chemistry, which has showed promising anti-cancer effects.  Also, I enjoy playing the piano.”

I invite you to find out more about Lucas on his website and find him on Twitter (@lucas_catania) Instagram (@lucascatania) and on his Facebook fan page.

Please go to the NY Spine and Wellness Center website, and click on “Meet the Doctors” to find out more about Joseph A. Catania, MD.

Thank you all for reading and I welcome your comments. I have no affiliation with IMSA, TUDOR, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is “just the way I see it”. Got a response? Follow and tweet me  @viclovesracing