May 8, 2009
The win at Long Beach was just unbelievable. We had a race car from the beginning and our focus through practice was to set up the car for the race. We learned from St. Pete that with the limited track time on the street courses we really had to focus on tire life and compound choice and it turned out that not only did we have great confidence in our car for the race but when it came time to qualify we set a pace in the first half of qualifying that surprised everybody including myself. Unfortunately we didn’t get the pole that we thought we had a chance for because of some issues with traffic at the end of the session, but in qualifying third we knew we were in striking distance to continue our quest for the championship this year.
From the start we kept the pressure on the #87 Farnbacher Loles car without racing too hard in the beginning. The strategy was to pull away from our GT2 rivals as a Porsche pair to insure that we had a good lead come time for the pit stops. When we pitted we had a 30 second lead over the GT2 field. Our stop was in the range of seven to eight seconds better than any of our rivals and we were able to protect our lead just the way we had done in St. Pete. Although we didn’t have as big a lead as we had in St. Pete, we were able to protect to the end and secure back-to-back victories on both street courses, and that was pretty sweet for me. St. Pete is my home today and Long Beach is where I grew up as a youngster, so winning both my “home” races felt great. The other huge goal for me was that although I had been on the podium every time I had raced at Long Beach in the previous three years, the top step had eluded me and finally we got there. So all in all it was a huge success and a great momentum builder—a very positive weekend. The pits stops and the strategy continue to amaze me; I recognize just how good this team really is. I feel like on outright speed there are three or four cars that can win the race, but so far on consistency and teamwork, that’s where the Lizards have really separated themselves from the pack and it’s an honor to be a part of it.
Still, with all of our momentum and confidence, not an ounce of complacency has slipped in, nor will it. We know how tough the Ferrari contingent is and how good the #87 Farnbacher Loles car is. The BMWs are getting stronger and when Corvette comes in, they’re really going to be a threat. So we’ve kept it all in perspective and the greatest example of that is that three days after Long Beach, we were in Salt Lake City for a two-day test—hitting the books and running through everything that we can improve for the next round.
Salt Lake is the beginning of the middle of the championship for us where we focus on traditional road courses. The emphasis on set up, strategy, driving style—everything changes now. It’s really where I think the championship is won or lost. This is where we have to be just so good on tracks like Salt Lake City, Mid Ohio, Lime Rock and Mosport. It takes a huge amount of engineering to really focus on the aerodynamics of the car and the mechanical grip and that’s exactly what we’ve done, starting at our Salt Lake City test after Long Beach. There is so much drive and so much ambition in the whole organization—from the partnership with Porsche and the engineers from the Flying Lizards and from Jörg who is such an integral part of the engineering. I really feel my own personal program rise to a new level, being amongst these individuals and this team. It’s all about keeping the progression and the development moving forward and staying ahead of the curve. That’s our focus at the moment.
Speaking of Jörg, it’s crazy to think that we’ve won three out of our first four races this year, including the Rolex and back-to-back races on the street courses. I’m not much of a stats guy and I’m a little bit more superstitious than I am into stats but I think that the chemistry between us is such that we picked up right where we left off. I’m just humbled and very appreciative of the opportunity that I have this year. I think that as a driver it’s easy to sometimes get caught up in your own press and believe that as a driver you can make a huge difference, but the bottom line is that there is no “I” in “team.” Everybody makes a difference and it’s just really clicking right now. In saying all that and with all the positives and confidence, I know how quickly tides can turn and so there’s not an ounce of me willing to count my chicks. I realize that there is a long way to go in the championship, but I can feel the enthusiasm in my own energy and I think that a lot of our team really shares that.
All my attention is on Salt Lake City right now. It’s such a demanding race track and I really relish the chance to drive there when I get the opportunity. I’ll have been there a total of five times this month on separate trips, including media advances, private coaching of GT3 Cup teams and drivers and, of course, pre-testing there. It’s the kind of place that becomes very familiar in the months of April and May. There’s a great family of people who run the race track there and I always look forward to going back.