August 2010 - Mosport

Mosport, to be completely blunt, is my least favorite stop on the schedule. In saying that, it’s a place that demands respect, is very challenging and those aspects of it make success there that much more gratifying. What I don’t like are the tons of surface changes on the race track. The place hasn’t been repaved in a long time so it is very tricky on tire wear and on setup. And there is a need for safety improvements. So a lot of drivers aren’t overly thrilled when we go to Mosport. But, as they say, it’s the same for everyone.

With the points so close and Mosport being a high aero track, we knew we needed to work hard on setup and we went there to test early on Wednesday. My mindset when I race, and my mindset in life, is not to think about what you don’t want to happen, but to think about what you do want to happen. So the goal was to forget the negative thoughts about the track and to grab the bull by the horns and just get down to business. We tested some new things from Porsche and found some great direction. The lap times were not quite where we wanted them to be but we knew there was some more there and we went into the weekend organized and confident. Official practice went well and we qualified P2 but started up front after the Ferrari had to go to the back on account of a late driver change.

My goal at the start of the race was to run clean, keep the car up front and not take any unneeded risks before turning it over to Jörg. For the last few races we’ve been getting great tire wear from the 911 and that’s a testament to the guys at Flying Lizard and in Weissach. So we were confident that if we could stay up front early in the stint, we would capitalize on better tire wear just as we did at Road America.

I quickly found that the key was really going to be about traffic management. This year I’ve felt that the more traffic, the better our chances have been and Mosport was hectic in that regard. Oliver Gavin in the Corvette ran me very hard and kept us under constant pressure for the first hour. It was easily my toughest stint of this season and right up there with one of the toughest stints of my career. At the speeds that you travel at Mosport, the most you ever downshift is two gears. Sometimes you’re not lifting; sometimes a lift and maybe one or two downshifts, but there are no long brake zones where you go from sixth gear to second. It’s just about running flat out—when you are putting a car on the edge at those high rates of speed, those are the days when you really earn your pay. It’s always in the back of the driver’s mind that one inch of a mistake at Mosport often leads to a catastrophic accident. More on that later.

There were no yellows and with that it felt like a one hour qualifying sprint. The Ferrari, the Corvette and our #45 car were able to put a healthy gap on the rest of our competition but that was quickly dissipated with the first yellow of the race. This yellow was key as two separate incidents happened that had a dramatic effect on the GT field. First Dirk Müller in the Rahal Letterman BMW tangled with the Ford GT and they were out of the race on the spot. This was key news as the BMW had come into the race tied for second in the drivers’ championship and ahead in the team and manufacturers championships. On a separate part of the track, the Dyson prototype came together with the #4 Corvette who at that point had been our toughest competition. These were two examples of how one little misunderstanding in traffic can take a toll on your day and championship respectively.

We had a great pit stop where I turned it over to Jörg and I just had a sense of relief knowing that we had held the lead at such a tough place and that I was turning it over to in my opinion the best man to close out a race at Mosport. Jörg did an unbelievable job holding the #62 at bay while advancing forward as the pit stop sequences evolved. With just over 30 minutes to go the race was red-flagged after a dramatic crash that was a scary one for everyone. Fortunately there were no injuries but the hit was so big that the track was unrepairable. Traditionally, ACO rules have the clock running during red flags, but IMSA stopped the clock to try and make the repair. In hindsight the final pit stop under that incident yellow carried as much as weight as anything that happened that day. We actually took four tires and fuel in that last pit stop under yellow and the Ferrari only took two tires and fuel, but we were still able to beat them out of the pits. I know I sound like a broken record when I keep talking about how good our guys are on the pit stops and how much credit they deserve in this lead we have in the championship. It’s just unbelievable. There are a few key rivals of ours who have come to us and acknowledged that they just can’t get their heads around how quick and flawless our guys are on pit road.

So on to Petit and the finale. We are confident not only because of our points lead but because it’s an endurance race and the longer the race, the better for a Porsche. I love Road Atlanta and I feel it suits our car. We’re going there with the same goal which we have had all year, which is to push for the win. We have a healthy 22 point lead in the driver championship, which means we don’t have to win the race to win the championship, but we are only one point ahead in the manufacturers and team championships. We want all three of them. I hope to see all of you there.

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.