Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course welcomed the ALMS with 90-degree temperatures and 50 percent humidity-a combination that made for a sweltering, sweat-soaked experience. Corvette Racing ran a brief test session on Thursday, then buckled down for Friday's practice and qualifying chores. The No. 3 car, under Crew Chief Danny Binks' stewardship, was off the trailer and into action without much drama. The No. 4 team, however, seemed to struggle, with the drivers complaining that the car wasn't controllable in the turns.
Through qualifying on Friday, drivers Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta never felt comfort-able behind the wheel. In desperation, Crew Chief Mike West called for a transaxle change. The swap seemed to quell the car's handling problems, setting the stage for yet another "sibling rivalry" in GT1. The category's lone Aston DBR9 was noticeably absent from the grid, having suffered a mishap at Lime Rock that proved too extensive to be rectified in time for the Mid-Ohio race.
Saturday's 2-hour 45-minute race began at 2:10 p.m., just in time to subject the teams to the full brunt of the oppressive weather. Fortunately, the Corvettes are equipped with a very effective air-conditioning system that keeps the drivers relatively comfortable on the track. The crews manning the pit stalls, clothed in three-layer fire suits, weren't so lucky.
Another challenge posed by Mid-Ohio came in the form of a new 42-inch-high wall in the pit lane. The taller wall requires crewmembers to crawl-rather than jump-over, slowing their progress considerably. Fortunately, the short race requires just two pit stops-provided nothing goes wrong on track.
For the first two hours of the race, the yellow Corvettes kept up a steady, quick pace around the circuit. With Le Mans over, the pressure to preserve the cars was diminished, giving rise to some especially intense jousting between the two GM entries. As the C6.Rs entered pit lane, nose to tail, for the final service, the No. 4 crew was keen to get its car out in front and take over the GT1 lead.
West and company managed an impressive driver-fuel-tire change, completing their routine just ahead of their No. 3 car counterparts. When Beretta and No. 3 pilot Johnny O'Connell dropped the hammer almost simultaneously, the two cars became locked in an all-out drag race for the pit-out line. Some traded paint between the two cars was the inevitable result, with Beretta just making it past O'Connell to grab the class lead.
The only problem was that race officials had shown a red flag at pit-out. This signal requires that all affected drivers stop their cars and proceed onto the track only when directed to do so. As a result of the infraction, both cars were called in to serve a 2-minute, 40-second stint in the penalty box at the end of pit lane. Their time served, the C6.Rs rocketed back onto the track to rejoin the battle.
When Beretta was forced to slow under pressure from prototype traffic, O'Connell was able to recapture the class lead. But when ALMS officials decided to levy additional penalties for the earlier infraction, the cars were ordered back into the penalty box for an another five minutes. When they were finally released, O'Connell managed to hold on to the lead through the end of the race. It wasn't exactly Le Mans, but for fans accustomed to predictable showings in GT1, the fighting spirit evinced by both C6.R drivers made the Mid-Ohio race one of the season's hottest.
Corvette Racing Profile: Dan Binks
Dan Binks, crew chief for Corvette Racing's No. 3 C6.R, has been involved in cars and racing his entire life. Racing fever came early, as Binks' father, Phil, raced Bugeye Sprites and later a Dolphin sportsracer, recruiting his son to crew on the car. The younger Binks built his first engine for his dad at age 11 and has been wrenching seriously ever since.
When Binks was still in high school, racer Fuzzy Stewart recruited him to crew for his SCCA D-production Datsun roadster. After graduation, he was offered a position as a mechanic at Phil Conti's organization, which raced modified Lolas, with John Morton driving. That first season started out rough, with the car not performing up to its potential. Binks was soon asked to take over managing the car's race preparation, and by the time the Road America event rolled around, he was the crew chief.
In 1985, Binks moved to the Clayton Cunningham team as crew chief for its IMSA GTU and Camel Lights programs. It proved a very successful stint, with championships coming that year-with Jack Baldwin driving-as well as in 1986, 1987, and 1988, with Tommy Kendall at the wheel. In 1989, Kendall and Binks teamed up to take a Third-Place season finish in Trans-Am, followed by an overall championship in 1990. The pair was then hired by Pratt & Miller for an Intrepid project that ran from 1991 to 1992, after which Binks moved to Roush Racing. While there, he led an IMSA GTS Mustang campaign to championships in 1995, 1996, and 1997. Roush then moved Binks to the Craftsman Truck Series, where he oversaw Greg Biffle's Second and First overall finishes in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
When Pratt & Miller needed an accomplished crew chief for the Corvette Racing program, it decided Binks was the man for the job. He came to P&M in 2003 and has played an integral role there ever since. Binks' role at the track is crew chief for the No. 3 car, but back at the shop, he oversees the assembly and preparation efforts for both of the C6.Rs. Since he began his term in New Hudson, the team has taken five consecutive ALMS GT1 titles and enjoyed three wins at Le Mans. Binks, meanwhile, has twice been named ALMS Crew Chief of the Year. As if all that wasn't enough, Binks also restores cars for private customers (he just finished a '60 Corvette for Max Papis) at his well-appointed home shop.
Despite his obvious dedication to his career, the cen-tering force in Binks' life is his family. His 15-year-old son, Philip, seems to have inherited a passion for racing and car preparation, as you can find him in the Corvette garage during ALMS events, helping out in whatever way possible. Daughter Sarah is quite an aggressive racer in her own right, with an eye toward go-karts as dad's budget and time allow. Holding it all together is Binks' supportive wife, Sherry, whom Dan credits for making it all happen.