Every round of the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda championship is important to Alta Velocita Racing (AVR) driver/team owner Jerome Mee, but there's no question the next two rounds of the series, Aug. 9-10 at the legendary Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, have been circled on Mee's calendar since the 2014 schedule was released.
Road America is one of the most challenging circuits in the world, with 14 turns - many of which demand high speed and even higher commitment - over its 4.048-mile layout.
The promoter test Thursday, Aug. 7 will be the first time Mee will step onto the 640-acre, park-like grounds where the famous track is located. He will turn his first laps at the circuit in the No. 95 Alta Velocita Racing machine that competes in the Lites 2 class of the series.
"I've been looking forward to racing at Road America the entire season," Mee said. "It's 4 miles, and it's probably the highest-speed track that we'll drive on all year."
Mee appreciates the history of Road America, a course tucked midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay that opened in 1955.
"It's a similar feeling to when I raced at Road Atlanta in the development series for Petit Le Mans," he said. "You have your obvious historic tracks in the United States including Indy (Indianapolis Motor Speedway), Laguna Seca, Sebring, Road America and Road Atlanta. Each is unique, but I think out of them all, Road America is a track that's designed to go fast for this type of car. The track accommodates speed because its design is long and straight. I think about Turns 1 and 2 and all the way to Turn 3, and it's almost a mile. You're flat out for a very long time, and to me that's very cool."
Mee has used virtual preparation for his first weekend at Road America. He has spent countless hours turning laps and learning the circuit's layout on Road America in the Xbox 360 game Forza Motorsport 4 at home in Houston.
"I'm a racing geek," Mee said, laughing. "Every night after my kids go to bed, I run about 20-30 laps on the simulator. It's more for track memory purposes. The Forza 4 game has the PC (Prototype Challenge) car on it, and that's about as close as you're going to get to the car I drive. It helps with the perception of speed and turning.
"Elevation is what you have to learn to adapt to quickly in person because the simulation doesn't give any concept of change of elevation or little nuances of the track."
The green flag will wave for Round 9 of CTPL competition, a 30-minute race, at 10:40 a.m. (CT) Saturday, Aug. 9. Round 10, a 45-minute sprint, takes off at 8:05 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 10.
Live timing is available at IMSA.com. Race details also are available on Twitter at @IMSALive.