Shift Up Now Athlete Loni Unser brought home a pair of top-fifteen finishes in the Mazda MX5 Cup races at Road America on Friday and Saturday, continuing her strong rookie season.
Weather conditions were ideal for Thursday’s practice sessions on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn, Wisconsin road course. Driving the No 92. Hixon Motorsports Peregrine Fund / Word of Honor MX5 Cup Car, Unser completed some solid practice laps in preparation for Friday morning’s qualifying.
With the draft worth almost two seconds per lap, finding the right mix of speed and tow would prove to be an art form during the short, 20-minute qualifying session. After a red flag shortened the session even further, Unser described the conditions as having a “frantic energy.” Every driver tried to advance his/her starting position in a limited amount of time. As the checkered flag flew, Unser’s time earned her a 15th place spot on the starting grid for Friday afternoon’s race.
Road America, infamous for it’s changing weather, continued that trend for the first race. The track was mostly dry for Unser and the MX5 Cup racers, with the exception of three corners of pouring rain during the first part of the race, creating extremely difficult driving conditions. Unser dropped back in the first few laps, but then settled into a rhythm and started re-passing cars and advancing to a 14th placed finish.
With a 14th place starting spot for the second race of the event, Unser had her eye on moving even further up the field and had a strong start to the race. However, she lost momentum during a passing attempt in the final corner and onto the front straight, causing her to drop to the back of the pack. For a second race in a row she would have to pass her way back to the front. Describing her ensuing comeback as “fueled by anger,” Unser proceeded to drive her way back through to field to a 12th place finish, at which point she ran out of laps to climb higher.
“Earlier this season, I would have been pretty happy to have had two top-fifteen finishes in this field and I’m trying to remember that because it helps remind me how much progress I’m making,” said Unser. “With that said, while I’m still furious about my mistake in race two that dropped me down the order, I am pleased with how I drove to get back to a twelfth-place finish. I am having so much fun driving this race car, and I can’t wait for another chance to race it again.”
Unser will be back with Hixon Motorsports for the next Mazda MX5 Cup event at Laguna Seca on September 10-12, 2021.