July 16, 2009

Greetings. After the long post-Le Mans pause, it’s back to the grind. For some reason the break between Round 4 in Salt Lake and the start of our summer season with Round 5 at Lime Rock has seemed longer than in previous years. I guess I can chalk that up to excitement and the desire to get back out there and continue to chase the ALMS championship. I’m conscious of the fact that now we’re going to get into the stride of quite a few races over the next couple of months and consistency is going to pay.

I haven’t set foot in an RSR since the 24 Hours of Le Mans which is nearly a month ago now, but being in a 911 comes very naturally to me these days. That’s one of the coolest parts of the job, a 911 just has begun to feel second nature. Although I’ve not been in an RSR lately, I have dipped in and out of GT3 Cup cars through instructing and developing the cars with Porsche and with their private teams. I was just recently working with Melanie and Martin Snow in their preparation for this weekend’s race. The Lizard guys are always funny; they give me a hard time about coaching the new challenge class drivers. “Hey, you’re out there helping our competition!” - a friendly quip because of the new addition of the GT3 class to the ALMS.

On the subject of the challenge cars, I was very leery and cautious about what the GT3 Challenge class would bring to the American Le Mans Series. After Salt Lake I had only good things to say about it. That vision from the ALMS so far has been extraordinarily positive. It has helped us with our grid counts and with the slow process of GT1 fading into the background in North America, it’s nice to keep the evolution going forward as well with the addition of a new class. I’ve had some experience running in a GT2 car with tons of GT3-class cars racing in the 24 Hours of Spa in the past and it’s interesting to not only be racing against the faster GT1 cars but also to have the GT3 cars to get around. It works out just fine and actually adds a little bit of excitement to being in GT2 because you’re now dealing with slower traffic a lot like when you’re driving a prototype.

Lime Rock itself is a special place; tons of heritage! The excitement and the passion of the New England crowd is electric. With it being our only race in the northeast and such an enthusiastic region of our country as far asa sports cars are concerned, it’s always a lot of fun. The track itself is quite a challenge. It’s been criticized over the past couple of seasons by a lot of top name drivers for its tight, twisty nature but also because of the changes to the layout that came last season. Being there this Tuesday I could see just how much work has been done in the past 12 months. The place looks like a country club golf course!

The two-day schedule is tight but it’s no different than some of the temporary street tracks that we’ve raced on. Things like that are a little bit of an equalizer. The teams that are very organized and efficient with their time usually excel in those situations and that just breeds confidence knowing I have the Lizards behind me. Every weekend I’m looking for a pole and a win. If I didn’t go into the weekend with that mindset, I wouldn’t be firing on all cylinders. Once you get through practice and qualifying, you sort of know what you have on a speed basis but that’s what endurance racing is all about; you don’t always have to be the fastest car to win—with the length of the time that you race and all the attrition and adversity that come in these action-packed races.

As I look at stats and track records over the last few seasons, the #45 car has been pretty dominant at this track and I’d like to think that this is one of the strongest tracks for me personally. With all that, I’m confident and realistic that we can walk out of here with another pole and victory—we’re going to try to go four in a row.

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.