March 31, 2009

Thinking back on Sebring, I have to say it was a high for me. So many people wrote in and called and said, “Sorry you had a rough weekend.” Although we faced a lot of adversity, the end result was inspiring and positive—first of all to survive the couple of hits that Marc and Jörg received and to finish with strong points on the board was important, but to know that we’ve got a competitive horse to ride this year in the ALMS is even more gratifying. I think our lap times and our pace were as good as anybody’s if not the best. There is a little different perspective when you’re charging from behind and trying to make up all the laps that we were able to achieve, but I think the competition with the Ferraris is going to be very close. We are optimistic that all the work that we’ve done in the off season, both at Weissach and in testing at Sebring, has really pushed us into a promising position in regard to pace. The other side of it is that working with the Flying Lizard group is only becoming more and more rewarding. The continuity is so solid and there is such a bond and structure that makes it easy to work forward. And of course there are always good laughs and great professionalism working with my friend Jörg.

St. Pete is the beginning of our street course stretch. With Detroit no longer on the schedule, Long Beach and St. Pete are where we really flex our muscles as far as running on a temporary street course with low grip and an ever changing track. As I’ve mentioned before, St. Pete is one of my favorite races of the season. It’s only a 20 minute drive from home with lots of family and friends around. The circuit itself is so picturesque and well promoted that it’s great to be there. Street courses mean limited amounts of track time, constantly changing conditions and no room for error—but taking all those things into account, it’s my favorite kind of race track. It’s a great equalizer with its low grip and the driver really is left to do more of the work than at any other type of track in my opinion.

I’m hopeful for a win. I think something other than a victory might be acceptable but that’s not what the goal is. The shorter race presents a little bit more of a sprint format; having only one pit stop, we’ll be hard at work on our driver changes knowing that there will probably be less fuel going in than a full tank. I’m confident that Thomas Blam and the strategy team will have us on top of our game since strategy is such a crucial element in street course racing. I think we’re looking good.

Street courses have been challenging in the rivalry between Ferrari and Porsche the last couple of years and they’ve been an up and down swing for us. I feel that track layout has had a strong influence on how well we do. Where we’ve been working hard is in trying to make the car very agile in direction change and good in tight corners. The mid-engine Ferrari has proven to be pretty strong on street courses, so this is something we’ve worked very hard on in the off season and we’re looking forward to spreading our wings and seeing what we have.

After the race Sunday, I’ll be heading to Atlanta to take part in a couple of days of tire testing and media involvement for this year’s Patrόn GT3 Challenge. We’re going to continue developing their spec tire from the driving side and then from the media side we’re going to do a little bit of intro and commentating for their new one-hour TV broadcast for each one of their rounds. So that should be an exciting and busy couple of days.

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.


Sebring, March 22, 2009 12:56 a.m.

Well, it's time to head for home. What a finish.

Fourth place it was today, but not without some serious drama. The #21 car battle was what I expected, and then some. When Marc and Ian in the #21 car tangled, seeing our car go head first into the wall had me believing that was our day over, right on the spot. Well, needless to say, we were able to nurse it home and put some reasonable points up on the board.

What a testament to the new RSR. The car is a tank: to take that big a hit and even still run, let alone lose very little pace is huge. I'll do my best to get you guys some photos of the aftermath.


Sebring-Saturday, March 21, 2009 8:38 p.m.

Just out of the car after my third and what should be my final stint! We are chasing the 21 Panoz for the third step on the podium! If we can get them, it will be as close to a win as it could be. Coming from behind makes for some of your best days at this level. We were a lap and a half behind them just over an hour ago. Now: 11 seconds and closing each lap.

 


Sebring-Saturday, March 21, 2009 5:54 p.m.

P4! We can taste a podium after being so far down in the order. This Flying Lizard 911 is hooked up at the moment. As a team we've been able to set the pace in lap times and pull back laps from the competition.

The weather is looking sketchy, as is the fight for the lead between Audi and Peugeot!

I had a bit of a close call with the leaders in my second stint when I knew they were catching me at a tough spot just on the entry to the Turn 7 hairpin. I made it known early that I was keeping the door shut and making them both wait! It was wild going in there pacing those two monster Diesels, but I knew from my recent days in the RS Spyder, if a GT car leaves the door open you are going to have to stick the nose in. Taking that option away insured that I'd keep my car safe. In the end it created a dope banging exercise between the two of them on the exit and a swap for position. If it'd been the closing hour I would have just chosen to get out of the way, but the way they have been racing all day you must take a selfish stance and keep your hand in on the decision making out there to make sure the car you are driving doesn't get caught up in someone else's potential slip up. Needless to say, a fine line.....


Sebring-Saturday, March 21, 2009 2:24 p.m.

Mark Lieb is just in to finish our first round of stints. After a rough start with contact between Joerg and the #40 GT car, we are mounting our comeback. Currently we are up from 13th to 7th. Personally my stint was issue free. The contact knocked our toe in the rear out a bit, but other than that the #45 was solid. The field is pushing pretty hard out there, especially the overall leaders. The plan here is to be solid to the end and capitalize on the race attrition and mistakes from others. I'm now on deck and Joerg is out for the start of our second round of stints.


Sebring-Thursday, March 19, 2009 7:52 p.m.

Well, it's Thursday evening at Sebring and the momentum is really picking up toward the start of the 12 hour on Saturday morning. The fans are setting up their motor homes and SPEED is live on air previewing the race as I write this. Now is usually the time where time starts to fly and before you know it you are in the car for your first stint.

Quali brought us P2, but an all Porsche front row. The Ferraris are looking threatening. In a 12 hour race, quali is more for bragging rights then it is a "be all end all." In saying that, racers are only happy with first. You all know that!

For now it's night practice. Its been pouring this evening, but the rain has stopped and it looks to dry out during the session. I'm off to pit lane to jump in and get some night laps under my belt.

I hope to send you a few updates through the race as I mentioned in my last post.

Regards to all!


March 9, 2009

Fitness camp this year was, as always, a blend of challenge, perseverance, enjoyment and accomplishment. To survive the strenuous program and the hours that the doctors demand of us always feels like a victory at the end of the camp. We had a tremendous program with lots of guidance and great weather. Being in the Canary Islands, I certainly can’t complain. After the pace of the Rolex 24 and then going straight on to Sebring the next morning, directly to Europe after that and finally ending up at camp, it was a small relief to get to fitness camp and to know that I would be staying in one place and getting full nights of sleep for the first time in a little while. Some drivers might have been a little bit apprehensive about the work load coming up but I was actually looking forward to training with my Porsche colleagues and really getting a little bit of a mental break even though I knew the physical side of it was only just beginning.

The camp went without any notable issues. I think that each year I find, as I mentioned in my last post, that you know better how to pace yourself mentally and physically to endure the 70 hours of physical fitness over ten days. The leadership and guidance that our team of doctors and physiotherapists provide as well as the therapy that they offer all through the camp means that it is more than feasible. I definitely lean on the past years and the trial and error of the camps I’ve done before to really get through. Like racing, it’s all about pacing yourself.

From camp I went directly to Vail, Colorado, for what I knew would be my only window for a vacation for the next few months. I sort of see my life as a racing enthusiast’s vacation, so I have to be really clear and speak to the relevance of what a vacation means to me—basically doing what the doctors recommend, which is engaging in some physical activity but at a much more leisurely pace. So I thought that going on a ski trip in the mountains would be a great way to change it up with the altitude and also a chance just to go somewhere great I had never been before. I’d heard such great things about skiing in Colorado that it was one of the items to check off on my list of things to do before I die. The weather was great; we had phenomenal conditions. I don’t consider myself a ski aficionado but every couple of years I like to have a nice trip up in the mountains.

So that was just what the doctor ordered. I felt rejuvenated and refreshed and from there it was out to Southern California for some testing and a little bit of preparation for the season. We just finished up last week at Sebring, which was our last run before the 12 hours and the start of my official season in ALMS with the Flying Lizards. The test went unbelievably well. It’s rare that you pick up right where you left off and that’s what we did—we started right where we left off from the winter test. That’s a tribute to the Lizards who really go home and take what we learned and apply it to the race car. The reason that’s not always easy is because a lot of things change in the interim between testing. When there are a couple of weeks between tests, updates come on the race car, different theories and strategies are applied and the conditions of the race track change. So it’s rare that you come back a few weeks later and jump in the car and find that it feels just how you left it. That was a great start to two full days of running which leaves us in a really confident mindset going into the 12 Hours of Sebring.

We got great positive response to the blog that I kept during the Rolex 24 this year and I’d like to take a stab at keeping that going for at least the endurance races this year. We’ll look to see how it goes at the 12 Hours. It’ll be an exciting race for me, beginning the season full time with the Lizards. I think that we’ve got to be confident in what lies ahead but know that we’ve got tremendous challenges from so many manufacturers that are involved. I think that’s a testament to the series and what the ALMS does because everybody knows that times are tough right now and manufacturer involvement is what we need to continue forward in these tough times. I’m looking forward to getting the season started. See you down at Sebring!

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.