Petit Le Mans, October 2008
Petit Le Mans. Petit was the ideal weekend. To lock out the podium—not only to lock out qualifying one-two-three but to emulate that in the race,was in my eyes defying odds with the competition that’s been in LMP2 this year.With that, the team and driver championship are locked up and that was mission accomplished for us.I think it was a brilliant race by every member of the team from Porsche and Penske. To completely dominate the podium in such a competitive year—we couldn’t ask for much more. Locking up the championship for Romain and Timo was fantastic, too.
The race was ultra challenging, as we expected. Traffic and the intensity of the pace for nine and a half hours was really unparalleled in the previous ten Petit Le Mans races. It was just great also to do it efficiently and win the inaugural Green Challenge—it sort of checked off all the boxes in terms of what this RS Spyder program and the partnership with Penske is all about.
For me, the race was straightforward. The battles were as intense as in any sprint race I’ve ever been involved with in my career, but my two double stints went very cleanly and successfully.
Adding a third car was a strategic decision to run a rabbit, if you will— another strategy to fight off the forces of the Acura contingent who had been arguably dominant through the summer races. But I think the real improvement and glory came from just a tremendous amount of work and progress from the engineering staffs in Weissach and in Mooresville. The times that we did in qualifying and during the race were some two seconds a lap faster than we had ever gone around there and it really just shows how much progressive improvement has taken place at the height of the competition. It is a tremendous endorsement of what LMP2 has become—sort of the Formula One of sports car racing, in my opinion. The pace of development is just so intense from race to race. We did two separate full multi-car tests at Road Atlanta before the race week even started at Petit and I think the results showed what had been accomplished.
Laguna Seca. The battle continues into Laguna. The initial plan was to fight for this championship all the way to the end of the season and fortunately we got it done for Porsche ahead of schedule, but there is still a manufacturers’ title on the line and we are fighting hard for third place in the championship with the #6 car. So again, we are going to go out and put the #5 car as the rabbit, and have the #7 and the #6 stick to their championship plans.
Laguna is a challenge but I consider Sascha a specialist at Laguna Seca. I’ve never been here in an RS Spyder so I’m looking forward to taking the corkscrew in a prototype—at every other track, running the Spyder has been a revelation, compared to any other cars I’ve driven. Being on the California coast, it’s a home track for me and I love the four hour length of the racing, driving into the twilight. I’m very hopeful and excited to attack it, as always.
Q: How does a team decide who starts the race and who finishes it?
A: I think each individual car decides differently on how drivers are picked for qualifying and starting the race. It’s something that goes into our strategy depending on the length of the race and really just how the driver combination sees it. We’re lucky on the #6 car that a lot of input is asked of Sascha and me and we have a great rapport. We attack the race together and a lot of the time it’s a toss up. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. So we talk about how each one is feeling and make the decision. Of course, the start of a race is always touchy because you can really set the tone for the race but also a lot can be lost in the start. Traditionally this year I’ve felt really confident in starting the races and Sascha is very, very solid. So I don’t know what we’ll do for this weekend but I’m thinking that this being Sascha’s strongest track on the calendar that mostly likely we’ll try to have him in at the end to go for broke at the very finish. He’ll be qualifying. We predetermine who qualifies before the season starts and a lot of the time the qualifying driver starts, but it just depends really on driver lineup. If there is a clear cut number one and number two, then usually the number one will go in at the end of the race if he is having the stronger of the weekends. But with Sascha and me, it’s more of a fifty-fifty thing and we just talk it out.
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