Jerome Mee stood proudly atop the Lites 2 podium in Round 6 of the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda championship Saturday, June 28 at Watkins Glen International. The first victory of the season tasted even sweeter for Alta Velocita Racing (AVR) driver/ team owner Mee after a disappointing crash in Round 5 on Friday eliminated him from that International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Development Series race.
“I am very excited,” Mee said. “I have to thank my engineer Brad (Pierce) and my crew for their hard work. It took 8 ½ hours to get the car ready after Friday’s hit. Saturday’s race left me flat-out exhausted, but it was rewarding standing on the podium and knowing my team was a big part of that rebound.”
Mee found himself tangled with Madison Snow on the opening lap of the 30-minute sprint race at the historic, 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course in the scenic Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
“I knew going into the first race that if there was a spin or something that happened in front of me, I would need to cut to the inside,” Mee said. “I saw the Tequila Patron car get bumped and slide, and in that split-second I thought: ‘I’ll go inside. Never mind, I’ll go outside.’ That moment of hesitation killed me. I realized I wasn’t going to make it. I tried to duck over, but I hit Snow’s nose pretty hard.”
The damage on the No. 95 Alta Velocita Racing machine included destroyed front right suspension and left and right corner panels. Mee and his team worked tirelessly at the track until 12:30 a.m. Saturday putting the car back together — making Saturday’s victory that much more satisfying.
“I got on Brian (Alder’s) rear right away, and I knew by the third lap that I had pace on him,” Mee said. “I was quicker through almost every turn and could have jumped on him, but I wanted to wait. I drafted on him going into the Bus Stop and never saw him again. I had about a 14-second lead at one point, but on the double yellow Ludovico (Manfredi) caught up to me and passed me on the restart. I reeled him in with three laps to go and he spun in Turn 8. After that I backed down and cruised the rest of the way home.”
That pursuit of Manfredi, combined with the hard work of his team Friday night and Saturday morning, showed the building strength of Alta Velocita Racing and Mee’s continued improvement behind the wheel.
“This was the first time I was actually able to hunt someone down with better pace and pass them,” Mee said. “It was far more fun, and I think it comes from feeling more confident in the car. Before it was more about survival, and I would pass someone as a result of their own mistakes. This weekend was actually racing, and it was fun!”
The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda field will be back in action for the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix Presented By Hawk Performance on July 10-13 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, the only Canadian round of the series.
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