February 2012

The Daytona 24 is one of my favorite races. It’s so unique and it’s such a great way to start off the season. So I walk away from our 15th place finish still in a positive mindset. We know that more days will go like they did this year than the ones when you end up with a watch, but it was certainly a great year for Porsche and that was reason enough to celebrate. Although Flying Lizard didn’t have a weekend to remember, we were really excited for our brothers at Magnus, TRG and Brumos, and I mean that sincerely. Our next watch will come. Somehow I’m able to sleep soundly knowing that I was fortunate enough to be on a team in 2009 that walked away with the riches, but it makes you want that next one that much more.

Now I’m sitting at Gate E6 at Atlanta on my way to Frankfurt for ten days of “Hell Camp.” I’ve talked about fitness camp previously; it’s where we all get together and have a great pre-season training camp and although it’s hell on the body and the mind, it’s also a lot of fun and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to have all the doctors and the facility, and there are worse place to be than Tenerife in the Canary Islands at this time of the year.

I’m really excited with how the test went at Sebring. We were down there for the ALMS winter tests and it’s exciting to get back into the groove of what the American Le Mans Series has going, which is a ton of momentum and a huge subscription of GT cars. It was the first time we rolled out our new RSR and this year it’s a brand new version of the 997. It’s not just an update package bolted onto our existing car but it’s an all new car with zero miles. It was very cool to bring the virgin car out of the truck. I took the helm from the beginning and we basically bedded in the new brake pads and got right down to business. This is almost unheard of in the modern world of high level motorsports. Usually when you have a brand new car there are weeks of testing and havoc, diagnosing all types of teething issues. But Porsche turns out more race ready cars than any manufacturer in the world and when they say race ready, they mean race ready.

There’s never been a greater example than this test. From aero to the front track width to the tire height to the rim width to kinematics—everything. It’s kind of a ground up redo on the 997, which is a platform we’ve been racing on since 2007. As I’ve touched on in previous posts, it’s already long in the tooth but what they’ve done is much more than a face lift. I could feel it instantly when I went out on the race track. The car turned in differently. It handled the bumps and there’s nowhere more ferocious than Sebring for that, including street courses. I’m just very excited with how things went.

Of course there’s no way to know where we stand pace-wise because in motorsport, it’s all about when to play your cards and when to fold them. Everybody’s keeping their ultimate pace pretty close to the chest but I just have a really strong feeling that we have a versatile car that has more aerodynamic balance and a lot of things that we’ve struggled with the last two seasons. I feel like we’ve made some great steps forward. You can hear it in my comments that I’m very, very excited.

The cutouts behind the wheels, the way that they’ve protected the dive planes in the front and the splitter—everything is just so much more refined. I was a little gun shy going into the tests, just knowing that what you see on the shaker rig or in wind tunnel numbers doesn’t always instantly translate into practical race track performance, especially when you go to the wild, wild west of the USA. This time, though, I think they’ve hit all their marks and I’m excited that we have a car with a ton of potential. In saying that, the work starts now. We had a great roll out and a successful test but we’ve never once gone away from a pre-season test at Sebring and turned up for race week with a car that was right the way we finished off. Sebring is renowned for changing, sometimes from morning to afternoon, but almost always from February to March. So you’re dealing with a whole different race track. We know that the work begins now, but by no means is our back against the wall.

We don’t test again until race week. It’s exciting to have Marco Holzer as our third driver. Our regular third for Sebring, Marc Lieb, is involved in the World Endurance Championship and therefore has to be in his full season ride since Sebring is part of this new endurance championship. We’re bringing up the youngster who will also be in the #44 car the whole year and he definitely fits the Lizards mold. It’s great to have him on board. He’s ultra quick; he comes from a racing family, he’s grown up in the right environment and already drives like a veteran.

Hope to see many of you at the track!

Send your comments and questions to Patrick at askpatrick@pca.org. Although he can’t respond individually, he’ll get to as many as possible in his blog.