Sunday, June 14, 2009 9:00 p.m. Le Mans

 

Well, I have to say there was no shortage of effort or organization put forward by everyone... a finish just didn't turn out to be on the cards.

After a remarkable rebuild of the gearbox, it just wasn't our day. The casing seemed to be damaged too far beyond repair and it wouldn't hold fluid by first look. Upon returning to the track, it only took an out lap to call it a day.

As I said to everyone I met afterwards, there is only positive reflection of my experience here this year. And my outlook stands: if winning Le Mans was anything but a huge challenge and feat, it wouldn't carry near the prestige. 

Editor's Note: at 12:56 p.m., Le Mans time, the IMSA Performance Matmut 997 GT3 RSR officially retired after a gearbox breakdown. They had tried to fix it for most of the morning and rejoined the race, but the repairs did not hold. 



Sunday, June 14, 2009, 11:25 a.m. Le Mans

We've been in the garage now for over half an hour. I was in the car, holding third by a lap when the gearbox started to self destruct. One thing these mechanics and the team at IMSA Performance lack is the thought of giving up.

We should be back on track shortly, but the goal has gone from victory to podium to now getting to the end. When many teams would have rolled down the garage door and called it a day, these guys are covered in gearbox oil and are attempting to rebuild the "guts" of the box. In this class of racing, no entire box changes are allowed, so they are going at it the tough (and hot!) way.

I'm feeling OK, physically. Mentally, a bit bummed out, but still having fun and awaiting a big meal and a beer when we get to the end of this gig!


Sunday, June 14, 2009 7:49 a.m. Le Mans

True grit sets in. Spirits remain high in the #76 camp, but I can see on the mechanics’ faces that it's been a long one for all.

I just keep telling myself (and my team members), "We are still in this!" Position 4 at the moment. The car is fast and still fun to drive. The clutch isn't a happy bunny at the moment, so extra time in the pits to bleed the system has cost us quite a bit of time.

We are now the last remaining 911 in the race. With that, I feel extra motivation to bring this one to the finish, on the podium.


Sunday, June 14, 2009 12:50 a.m. Le Mans

Sorry it's been longer than I had hoped between updates.

Lots to do between double stints. I've been in for two now, and we have had a solid race so far. I think we are further out of the lead than we deserve to be, but we're still in striking distance.

It's wild out there tonight. There are a lot of prototypes driving like it's the last lap of the race! I was only just explaining to my engineer how much fluctuation there is in lap time based on where the leaders catch you on the circuit.

Other than two quick unscheduled stops, we have been there and in the hunt! The beginning of the race was mega! Racing hard, and the car is handling great. Double stunting tires isn't something we have ever done at Le Mans, but it's gone well for us so far today.

I'm off for an hour of sleep.


Sat. June 13, 2009 11:23 a.m. Le Mans

With warm up behind us all is running to plan. The car was great this morning. A touch of understeer (push) but very stable is just what I was looking for when finalizing my requests for aero balance.

Strategy meeting #1 was post warm up, then it was up to Porsche’s medical team for a pre race check and a quick massage. I just had breakfast #2 and now I'm back to my driver cabin to change suits and head back over to the pits for our second and last meeting before the start. The plan at the moment is to double stint (two hours) the entire race, with a couple of triples tomorrow morning for me if I'm up for it. I will start the race and then hand the car over to Patrick Pilet, and Raymond will drive 3rd.

I'll try to check in after my first stint.


Sat. June 13, 2009 8:06 a.m. Le Mans

Race day.

It’s quiet, not a cloud in the sky.

I'm excited and feeling a strange sense of calmness as I walk through the tunnel into the paddock.

It’s going to be an epic day.


Friday, June 12, 2009 1:53 a.m. Le Mans

A great evening! Sure, sixth isn't what you shoot for, but the team and I will rest easy knowing we have a great race car for this year's race. Any of you who are part of a PCA region that has invited me to speak at one of your meetings or parties know that I'm all about sports psychology. In my education, one major teaching is not let yourself live and die by the time sheets. The best way to live is by judging your own performance and asking yourself, "Did I (or we as a team) perform to our very best?”

We had three major objectives: to continue to focus on getting Patrick Pilet more laps in the car, produce a car that can go 24 hours quickly and consistently, and get a time on the board to keep us toward the sharp end of the field. We had talked leading up to today about the lack of time to put a quali set up on the car after the rain yesterday and the fact that the traditional pre test (two weeks prior to race week) had been scrapped. The time it takes to dedicate to qualifying just wasn't there for us tonight, but I'm confident we haven't shown our cards yet when it comes to speed. Bottom line, we have a car that is on rails and all three drivers agree on that, which is mostly unheard of at Le Mans.

Last year after taking pole and putting lots of time into that, our race went anything but smoothly. So this year is all about getting back to basics. Back to the way we approached 2007 which worked pretty darn well. We aren't going to race the front pack with any desperation for the first half of the race, but rather race the track and stay to plan. Once some of the dust settles, our plan is to be there to start to turn up the wick.

Well, that's the direction at this point. I'll keep you posted if “coach calls an audible” between now and when the green drops on Saturday. For tomorrow, it's a day of preparation at the track and afternoon festivities downtown. Le Mans comes to a stop every pre race Friday and throws one wild parade and party through the center of their beautiful city. I always look forward to it and this year is no exception.


Thurs. June 11, 2009 1:20 a.m. Le Mans

Just getting out of my race suit and heading for the farm house where we stay during the month of June.

Practice was pretty uneventful. In saying that, in dark conditions in the rain at Le Mans, that's all you could ask and hope for. Patrick Pilet (FRA) is my rookie teammate this year. We needed to get him his minimum ten laps to qualify as a first year driver. Then the objective was to qualify all three of us for the race’s night driving by completing three laps at night each. Mission accomplished on all fronts.

I haven't yet completed any laps on slicks, so tomorrow will be eventful getting a race setup, a qualifying lap and all drivers comfy and confident in the four hours of track time. Four hours might sound like a lot, but remember that one timed lap takes over 14 minutes to complete when you consider in and out laps at this place. It goes faster than greenbacks at the blackjack table!


Wed. June 10, 2009 5:23 p.m. Le Mans

Our second and final team meeting before the car hits the track for the first time this week is complete. The sky is mixed, but the track is soaked. No rain at the moment, but it looks to be one of those weeks of on and off. Surely a challenge for setting up the race car and qualifying, but we have been there before.

It's all about staying calm and reintroducing myself to the track they call "la Sarthe". ...it's a romantic and dynamic track when it receives the respect it deserves and a hell of a beast when it doesn't get what it demands.

Six hours tonight, straight through until midnight.


June 2, 2009

Salt Lake City—three in a row. It's a bit misleading from the outside looking in, because the competition in the GT2 class is as fierce as I've ever felt it since coming to the ALMS in 2003. It's just a combination of the strong version of the 2009 911 GT3 RSR (dominating around the world at the moment) and the chemistry I keep referring to. The “gel” that the team currently has and the pace of this car have kept Jörg and me at the top of our game. With every box checked off from preparation to engineering to the strategy, it only leaves us drivers the option to turn in one flawless lap after another.

I can tell you, this never gets old. Winning is what drives me to crave being at the track week in and week out. As soon as the quest and the high of victory are gone, I think it'll be time to start golfing! Thankfully, I don't see it ever happening! The class acts of the Risi boys, the Rahal BMWs and our little brothers at Farnbacher mean that every lap we lead we can hold our heads high with pride. In saying that, we are focused on building the largest points margin we can now while a few of the listed above continue to find their feet. It's not a matter of if, but when, and they will begin to push us harder and harder for wins and positions as the summer wears on. The threat of pace has been there from the beginning; it just seems that we are putting whole races together on a consistent basis, and that has been our strength to this point. Also, you never discount Corvette's lineup of drivers and team that join us at Mid-Ohio, just around the corner from now. Throw a couple of Jaguars in later in the year, and I will question if there are as many factory-run cars in any road race series in the country, if not the world!

Now I’m back in Europe, looking forward to Le Mans. I’ll be back for a third year in a row with IMSA Performance Matmut. It’s a great organization. It’s unbelievable to be with a group of individuals that don’t come from professional racing but that possess so much professionalism. It’s also a fresh vibe to be on a completely French team at Le Mans. It adds to the mystique and the flavor and it’s very cool to be an American represented in a French team. Most times Americans go to Le Mans to race with Americans. I’ll go out on a limb and say I’ll be the only one from the USA represented within the organization. I revel in that chance to not only brush up on my French but also to hold a little bit more of an active role in the team—not just as a driver—and that’s a lot of fun for me.

The unique part about Le Mans is that you sometimes end up racing against your full time team, right in the middle of the championship, but I’ve never had an issue with that. I think that the professionalism that Porsche demands of us as drivers and from their teams means that there have never been any crossed wires. In the past I competed against TRG in France while being a full time member there and I’ve also competed against Petersen with the Flying Lizards, of all people. So although it might have seemed unusual being on the Lizards team at Le Mans when I was racing against them in the ALMS and now being with them full time and racing against them at Le Mans—it’s what that race is about. The 24 Hours is a great time to branch out because it’s really you against the race track and the race itself and not so much about rubbing door handles with another team.

Stay tuned. While I'm in France, I'll try to send text messages directly from the track like we did for Daytona and Sebring. This time we'll also have the challenge of the six hour time difference, but I'll do my best to keep you up to date on what I'm doing at the Sarthe.