By Jeff Olson
It’s among the oft-spoken truths of racing: Everybody loves racing at Road America.
Whether it’s the beauty of the timberland surroundings, the challenges of the 14-turn, 4.048-mile layout, the camping, the weather or the food, rare is a discouraging word spoken of Road America. That’s been the case in the days leading up to this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event.
The famous road circuit near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, features challenges of high speeds, heavy braking zones, elevation changes and difficult turns. That suits Jonathan Bomarito just fine.
"I love Road America," said Bomarito, who will defend his 2019 win at Road America with Harry Tincknell in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda RT24-P DPi. "It’s one of my favorite tracks. I think it’s high on the list for every driver, especially in the IMSA series. These cars are just made for that track, pretty much."
That goes for almost every driver in all four classes.
"I don’t know any driver who doesn’t like Road America," said Laurens Vanthoor, who shares the No. 912 Porsche Motorsport Porsche 911 RSR-9 with Earl Bamber in the GTLM class. "It’s difficult to say why. "It’s one of those pure, American tracks. There’s not much room for mistakes or run-offs. You have a little bit of everything — good braking points, quick corners, good overtaking possibilities. It’s a bit of an all-arounder. I personally love to drive there."
Last year, Vanthoor and Bamber finished on the podium in the No. 912 at Road America, a key moment in their run to the driver, team and manufacturer championships in the GTLM class. Now second in the class standings heading into Road America, they hope to improve this time.
"We probably had a seventh- or eighth-place car last year, to be honest," Bamber said. "We needed the points to keep that gap. … Coming away with the podium was massive points for us. It changed the balance of the championship quite a lot. It’s such a critical weekend."
The event starts Friday with practice for other IMSA-sanctioned series, with the first WeatherTech Championship practice set for 5:35 p.m. ET. The amount of track time is similar to recently heldo two-day events at Daytona and Sebring, meaning teams need to use practice sessions wisely.
"Even though it’s a three-day schedule, it’s still the same amount of track time," Bomarito said. "With the long lap, it’s not many laps. In the first practice session, by the time you get six laps apiece with the driver change, the session is almost over. There’s not a lot of time to work on setup."
That’s where having two cars comes in handy. With Bomarito and Tincknell in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports entry and Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez in the team’s No. 77 car, data and experimentation can be doubled. The key is in the organization of it.
"Having two cars is an advantage if it’s structured right," Bomarito said. "If you’re using that and there’s proper communication and the engineers are talking about how they want to try this and another one wants to try that, which we do a good job of within the team. But to capitalize on two cars, it’s planning, communication, having structure and following that through the session."
NBC’s live network coverage of Sunday’s 2-hour, 40-minute main event begins at noon ET.