Pre-Daytona 24 Hours 2009
Hi everybody. It’s great to be back at Panorama on the Web for another
year. The season always kicks off quite early with Daytona and the official pre-test.
I had a very nice and relaxing holiday week off and then right after the New Year
it was straight up to Daytona to prepare for the 24. This year is unique for me
as it’s my first year back in a GT car at the Rolex since 2005 when I was with the Flying Lizards in one of their
few appearances there. This year I’ll be driving a TRG car with Kevin Buckler and
the Racers Group. The drivers are Andy Lally, Jörg Bergmeister—guys that I’ve
had successful partnerships with in the past—as recently as the Salt Lake City finale
for the Grand Am last year with the same crew line up and with Andy driving. Also
joining us for the 24 will be Justin Marks and RJ Valentine. Justin will be making
a full-time comeback to sportscars after a couple years of oval track ventures and
will partner Andy for the whole season in the #67 car. RJ and I go way back and
he’s both an accomplished businessman and driver and a good friend. The five of
us have a great working bond, meaning that when you have the maximum number of drivers
allowed at five during a 24 hour race, the challenge comes logistically and giving
up the limited track time before the race starts. After that, having five drivers
becomes an advantage, because we can share the difficulty of the long race—the workload
is on the lighter side.
The test went very well. It’s certainly a different perspective than where I’ve
been the last three years at the Rolex, which was in the “attacking” DPs rather
than the “attacked” GT cars. I touched a little bit last season on how my progression
and perspective on how to win 24 hour races has become more of a survival and consistency
quest. I’ve begun to preach to my team members that if we’re flawless and mistake-free
on the track and in the pits, our odds of winning the race become extremely high.
The main difference being in a GT car at Daytona compared to Le Mans is the track
distance. Daytona being significantly shorter means many more cars per square foot
of racetrack, which keeps things interesting from green until checker.
The test went fairly easily. And as I said Daytona teaches you to be very patient.
There’s not a lot of drive time for the number of days that you stay there with
the pre-test being three days and then a couple of days before the race. I look
forward to the race next Saturday. Today’s technology lends itself to being able
to run the car close to flat out. That’s pretty amazing but it takes a toll on the
crew and certainly the drivers. You need that much more physical endurance and you
use that much more energy because you’re pushing as though it were a sprint race,
for sometimes seven or eight stints over the 24 hours—of course staying mistake-free.
There will be plenty of competition. There will be a major contingent of Porsches—I
think there are something like 24 Porsches entered in the GT class. Farnbacher Loles
will really be on a speed level to be one of our toughest opponents. With factory
drivers like Wolf over there, J”rg and I are going to have our hands full. And if
you look at the Mazda success from last year’s race and also their pace through
the year in the Grand Am, they are going to be tough. And the GM contingent with
the Banner Racing guys set a pretty high bar this last season and are the defending
champions of the series. There will be multiple competitive manufacturers, but I’d
like to think that speed and reliability favor the 911s and TRG puts out a great
car and has a lot of experience. A little sidebar there is that it’s been a little
bit of a reunion coming back and running with those guys. They were the first team
I ever drove for in the States, coming back from my European years. It’s been five
years since then but it’s nice to be back.
We’re going to try something a little different here for the Rolex race weekend.
As circumstances permit, I’ll be sending you periodic updates from my Blackberry.
So for those of you who’ll be catching the race on television, come back to pca.org
every now and then. As you know, anything can happen in a race, especially one this
long, but when and if it’s possible, I’ll try to send you an update.
Send your comments and questions to Patrick at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Although he can’t respond individually, he’ll get to as
many as possible in his blog.