Laguna Seca 2008

Laguna Seca. To cap off the ALMS season, Laguna Seca was mission accomplished. Our outright objective was to lock up the third of the three championships in the ALMS, that being the manufacturers’ championship. The season-long fight with the Acuras was so fierce that as we expected, it went down to the final race. To lock it up, we needed to get one of our cars onto the podium, but we figured that if we worked as a trio, we’d get the manufacturer’s title for Porsche. I started the #6 car and was able to capitalize on a good start into Turn Two which can be very treacherous. I got into it a little bit with Franck Montagny in the Andretti Green car toward the end of the first hour on a restart. It involved a bit of hip-checking from him, followed by a bit of “that’s now how it works for me” direct car-to-car communication. The cost was a new nose, but luckily, strategically it worked in our favor. We were able to work our way back up all the way to leading the race into the second hour with a comfortable margin and I was able to put in some really strong lap times. I was really happy with the way it turned out after a little bit of a rocky start.

Sascha took over the car and he and Helio in the third Penske RS Spyder were running strong up toward the front and we were really just biding our time with the longer four hour race, letting things sort of settle in. Unfortunately, the way the chips fell, Sascha got caught out with cold, used tires as the sun went down and slipped off on one of the restarts. This scenario has played out before, and we knew track conditions were going to be treacherous – when the sun goes down at Laguna, the falling grip and sand on the track make it very, very slippery.

After running wingman to the #7 car and helping them get their drivers’ championship, we thought this might be our race. Sascha has been so strong at Laguna the last couple of years; I was really confident we had the right guy for the task at hand, but the chips just didn’t fall our way with the way that the strategy ran. I felt really bad for him, we had high hopes of victory there. In saying that, we were able to stay on track and provide support to the #7 and the #5 and help bring the manufacturers’ championship home by just one point against the very competitive Acura contingent. All in all it was sort of bittersweet once again, but the theme of this year has been really fighting the Acuras and it came down to one point—I think that’s really symbolic of how close the whole season has been.

PLLooking back on the season, I see it as having been a tremendous opportunity—just so much knowledge and insight and wisdom that I was able to put in my toolbox, running in the company of the drivers and all the team members in the RS Spyder program with Penske and DHL. Certainly the objective always was to win races but I learned that this business is more a team sport than some people might think, me included. Because of that I feel like I am so much more experienced and a stronger driver. I can’t remember learning this much in any given time frame of my career. So I am very happy to have had the opportunity—it has been a great, great experience.
It’s still a little too early to talk about next season but I can tell you where the speculation is. The GT2 championship quest in ALMS is going to be such a hot bed of manufacturers and top rated drivers and teams next year. I really think that a lot of emphasis will be put on retaining the title that the Flying Lizard boys captured this year. So I’m thinking that I’m going to be some way or another involved in that quest.

Driving the road cars. In the meantime, I can talk about my integration into Porsche Cars North America the last couple of years. From a business standpoint it has really multiplied and a lot of that is owed to the opportunity that Bob Carlson has given me. A huge part of my job as a racing driver is fueled from the road car sales and marketing and it’s great to learn that side of the company. It’s terrific to be involved in such a tight knit group of guys like Hurley Haywood, Derek Bell, Chip Robinson and Dave Murry, guys that have been involved for so many years.

For me to come in as a young buck and be given the trust of PCNA to be a part of the road car side of the business and media launches has been a great opportunity. We’ve been really busy. Starting just before the final race of the season at Laguna, we launched the new 911 with PDK and DFI up at Salt Lake. To be out at Miller Motorsport Park and up at Park City was a great event in itself and a very big one. We had five waves of journalists, 36 hours per group, coming through and it was great to be a core part of that.

We then moved to the Boxster launch of the same PDK and DFI technology and that was just this last week. It was actually the international debut, so it was another new experience handling it from a world level. There was so much involvement from Weissach and Zuffenhausen. That event was in Willow Springs. Klaus Bischof, who takes care of Porsche’s museum cars, came over with Roadster #1, Porsche’s first 356 to ever hit the road, and Hurley Haywood brought the 914-6 and the 550 from the Brumos Collection. All of this was to give the guests a hands-on history lesson in our mid-engine heritage as a company.

From there we went straight with our international group of journalists back to Los Angeles for the opening day of the auto show where we presented the new Boxster and Cayman to the media at the auto show. It was another new experience for me. Wolfgang Dürheimer was there to launch the car and it’s always great to work alongside him because as head of R&D and therefore motorsports at Weissach, he combines not only the road car development but all of the motorsport activities. It’s always great working alongside him and we have a great bond.

That’s what I’ve been doing as of late and the next thing coming up is the Legends Course at Porsche’s Sport Driving School—another new experience for me and one that is just completely humbling. I am just honored to be asked to be a part of the Legends group with Brian Redman, Vic Elford, Derek and Hurley. These are guys that were winning the world’s greatest sports car races in the heyday before I was even born. Even to share a cocktail or the racetrack with them is going to be an unbelievable experience for me. To work alongside them in a curriculum with some of the Porsche Sport Driving School’s elite students and graduates is going to be a great one for December.

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