January 2, 2010
Post season, there was only a little bit of time to soak up the celebrations after Laguna, spending time with the Lizards and picking up our hardware for winning the championship. The time was limited because it was a direct drive down to Southern California to test the new 2010 Cup car. Other than the parade laps that Wolf and I did at Laguna Seca for the GT3 Patron Challenge races, it was the first time that I really got to shake the car down in anger. It was a pleasant surprise—not much of a transition coming from the RSR back into the Cup car. That says a lot about the revisions that they’ve made, mainly a larger engine displacement, but also much improved mechanical and aerodynamic grip as well. The purpose of the test was to go through the tire selection for next year’s Challenge with Yokohama. Working at a tire test is always a challenge mentally and physically. You’re in the car non-stop all through the day, and really it’s down to making clear and concise comments on the numerous sets of tires that are thrown at the car, sometimes with just very small differences between either the casing or the compound. It’s tough, but an enjoyable part of testing for me because it’s so technically challenging and you have such a large number of people around you who are willing to do whatever you need to get the best results and feedback on the tires.
Racing down in Costa Rica in mid November was an opportunity that came up from the importers of Porsche in the Dominican Republic. Jacinto Peynado and I had been in touch through the last few months of the season. Jacinto had kept me briefed on what he had been doing in the Central American championship, chasing a GT2 title, and asked me if there was any time in my schedule to come out and coach him and give him my feedback on his cup car. As it turned out,I was not only going to do all those things for him but he asked that I race one of the sprints of the weekend as well. Naturally I jumped at that, but really I have to say that initially I was really looking forward most to my first visit to Costa Rica My father’s an avid surfer and has traveled down there quite a few times chasing some of the best surf in this hemisphere. I’ve heard nothing but great stories about the country, the culture and the people. As soon as I got there and linked up with my team from the Dominican Republic and got out to the race track, I found that all of the stories of Costa Rica appeared at first glance to be true. The track itself was pretty challenging. The high speed flow combined with some pretty substantial bumps in some key places meant that it was very technical but quick. The circuit, La Guacima, is just outside San Jose. The racing was a blast! We were able to come out victorious in GT2 after some big fights with some various types of cars down there, from Trans-Am cars of the past, to touring cars and even a GT1 spec Porsche RSR. Surprisingly, there were some familiar faces. Terry Borcheller and Tony Ave ensured that I didn’t forget how to speak English! . The Quiros brothers are from that area, as well as Jorge Trejos. All three of those guys have done quite a bit of racing in the States at Daytona and various IMSA races. So they were great hosts to me and my Dominican Republic teammates that they knew well from previous races. It was wild visiting Amadeo Quiros’ (Current Patron GT3 cup driver for AASCO) farm retreat, a stone’s throw from the race track, and find myself in a rain forest paradise the night before the race. From the resident spider monkey to the massive ceiling vault of the garage/boy’s room where we had dinner , it was just a place you’d dream about. In the end, it always came back to the people; just so welcoming, and so humble.. In all it was a quick trip but quite incredible.
The last three weeks I’ve spent in Europe. First over in the U.K. for the wedding of a close friend of mine from the racing world, and it was quite a spectacular one! From there I dipped into Weissach only for about 24 hours before I headed back to the States for an event over the weekend of December 7, where I was invited as part of a consulting team to go onto the campus at West Point and work with the cadets in the mechanical engineering department. The trip was twofold. The mission was the help that the designers, the machinists and the fabricators on the consulting team were able to give the students as they constructed their own race car there on West Point’s campus. For me it was about discussing the fundamentals of racing and helping them with the ergonomics of how to best design the interior of the car—certain clearances with pedals and seating and steering. That was really where I focused my time, much less to do with engineering per se on the CAD models or fabrication. The other side of the trip was a huge bonus for us as visitors. We were able to get a behind the scenes tour of such a spectacularly prestigious and historical place. We were welcomed with open arms and so I came out of there with perhaps more of an education than I had given to the cadets and to the department. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
From the couple of days at West Point it was back to Stuttgart. It’s traditional that during the week leading up to the annual motorsport night for there to be quite a few activities for us as factory team drivers. With all of us being in town at one time, we usually have a pretty full program and this year was no exception. The main theme was to spend a few hours each day at all four locations that Porsche has in Stuttgart: R&D and motorsport at Weissach, production at Zuffenhausen, marketing and PR at Ludwigsburg and then, of course, the new museum. For each one of those we spent a few hours signing commemorative autographed posters of all three major GT championships that Porsche took this year. The six of us just had a great time meeting so many of our colleagues that might not get a chance to get out to the race track—from the engineers and machinists to the production guys and the marketing girls up in Ludwigsburg. The turnout of internal employees was amazing and the last day we finished up at the museum. That was more the public interaction part of our tour and the turn out was stellar! Through the week, we traveled with one of the factory 911 GT3 RS cars that ran in this seasons LMS series.. A couple of the factory mechanics would post up with the car for display, but would then fire it up and rev the engine up. The look on some of the guys’ faces was priceless. I realized that all of us in Motorsport really take it for granted sometimes. Here were a lot of people, some who had a huge role in designing an element of our race projects in some aspect (or funding them), but many of them had never seen the product run, let alone race. It was a lot of fun meeting and speaking with so many of them. We even had the car running four stories up in the museum! We had set up post of the fourth day in between a few of the museums motorsport exhibitions and with the use of the museum’s high tech exhaust exit system were able to run the car from high above the Stuttgart streets! The public really loved it! But the highlight for me was at Weissach where in two and a half hours on the lunch break we signed 1700 autograph cards for or colleagues. It was like doing a double stint in a race. There was no chance to even take a sip of water; the cards were coming across in kind of an assembly line. It was great fun and we had a lot of laughs signing cards for the employees and their kids. Porsche just prides itself in racing and the results so naturally; the folks at R&D knew what was up!
The Motorsport Department’s Night of Champions is definitely a highlight of the season, the opportunity to get Porsche’s top drivers and team representatives from all over the world under one roof. It’s so much fun. I have to say that it’s an honor to be up on that stage anytime I’ve had the chance; being a factory driver doesn’t get you up there like some might suspect. To be up there this year with Jörg on two occasions, to celebrate the 24 Hour Rolex win in GT, along with Kevin Buckler who was there, and then to be up there with Seth Neiman to pick up the prize for the GT championship in ALMS, was pretty special. The opening speeches from Mr. Dürheimer and Dr. Porsche were pretty special for all. Both of them made reference to how important motorsport is to Porsche and that it will remain that way. Having our new CEO, Michael Macht, there was that much more special. Mr. Macht is a racer at heart, and he’s the first one to remind you of that! You know, the motorsport blood runs very thick at Porsche and you only need to be at one of those nights to realize that. The night was made a bit sweeter when the Flying Lizard group announced the return of a championship defense quest with Jörg and me back together in the #45 car for 2010 and with Seth and Darren back in the #44. It’s my dream ride, when I look at what we had in 2009 and what we’re up against for 2010 in ALMS and in GT2. It couldn’t be more ideal for me and it’s certainly made this a great holiday season, knowing that I’ve got a spot for next year—and a great one at that. I’m very thankful to be a Lizard.