March 2010 - Sebring
Monday, March 22
Well, no matter what, the 12 Hours of Sebring is just tough. The race proved to be as competitive as billed! The battles with the Vettes, BMWs, Ferraris and Porsches nose-to-tail for the opening stints of the race were incredible. We lost a couple of lead competitors after Corvette Racing made an uncharacteristic communications mistake which led to their two cars colliding in pit lane and causing substantial—though repairable—damage to both cars. Scott Sharp’s new Extreme Speed Ferrari 430GTE had a spectacular nighttime fire down the long back straight, but prior to that, the new team proved they were more than just a good looking team. We were all happy to see Scott was OK.
This year it was fourth for us. After making an entire lap up on the field together with the Risi car, it looked like it could be another battle to the end for the top step of the podium! A stray tire was the main factor in sending us to the pits, putting us out of contention. We finished fourth here last year and the season didn’t end up too badly for us. For now I am taking comfort with that after having such a great car. It’s about putting points on the board early in the season and getting into the swing. The bottom line is as hoped, expected and slightly feared: this is going to be a monster of a season in GT2. I predict some three-wide final laps for the win and plenty of highlight footage for the American Le Mans Series to capture and use to promote this wild series we call home.
Saturday, March 20 8:28 p.m. - Update
Early in the race, I was able to pass Johnny O'Connell in one of the Corvettes and held him off for the first half of my stint, and then Johnny got passed by his teammate Olivier Beretta. I was able to hold Beretta off too, and then in the next stint is when they had their pitstop wreck.
The big issue we've had so far obviously was Jörg getting hit by the loose wheel from our sister Falken Porsche. They'd replaced the wheel once because of a wheel nut failure and then the wheel came off a second time, and right at the split second that it happened, Jörg was passing. The wheel came off the Falken car at a sharp angle and while it looked like it was just a glancing blow, at that speed it just wiped our our wheel, tire and fender.
It was a pretty routine flat tire for us, but when we came in, race control went yellow to clar up the tire on track, and by the rules, it meant that we couldn't work on the car until the pits were declared open. To rub salt in the wound, the pace car missed the leader the first time by, so we sat in the pits an extra lap. I think we lost four of five laps, which set us back a bit. The car's okay now, just a little cosmetic damage. We've had great battles with the Corvettes and the Ferraris, and right now we're just soldiering on in 4th place.
Saturday, March 20 6:30 p.m.
Editor’s note: Patrick called in just after the pair of Corvettes took themselves out of the race about 1:40 p.m. He reported that he had just had a great 30-minute battle with Johnny O’Connell in the #3 Corvette, but that his phone was dying—making blog reports impossible.
The Flying Lizard 911 GT3 RSR Patrick shares with Jörg Bergmeister and Marc Lieb was running only three seconds out of the GT2 class lead at 6 p.m. EDT when a run-away wheel from another 911 hit the #45 car, breaking the left rear wheel and causing the tire to shred, forcing Bergmeister into the pits. The pits were closed, however, as the pace car had not yet picked up the overall race leader, with the Lizard team not allowed to work on the car until that occurred. Bergmeister sat in the car for more than three laps before the team was allowed to change the tire.
Patrick is now in the car, running three laps behind Pierre Kaffer in the GT2 class leading Ferrari 430. With his phone out of commission and an intense run to the finish on his agenda, we’ll wait to get Patrick’s view of the race after the dust settles.
Friday, March 19
It's been even busier than normal this year at Sebring, it seems. Between driver's meetings, engineering meetings, pitstop practice, autograph sessions, driver pitstop challenges and then just the driving on track, it's been hectic!
We've had a trying week getting the car to handle, and dealing with the new updates to the car from Porsche. It's taken time to find a balance between having a high-performance car and a car that's manageable over the bumps here. Up until the last session prior to qualifying, we were still making massive changes to our setup, and we were happy with P2 in qualifying. Even though we were a few tenths off of BMW's initial pole time. We thought it was strange that the BMW that set the pole was so much quicker than its sister car, and faster than they'd been all week, and our suspicions turned out to be true when they failed the post-qualifying stall test.
We're hopeful for tomorrow, but it'll be a challenge just to be in the top five. It's more competitive in GT2 than it's ever been! With that extra competition, it's created more focus and aggression both for the team and for us as drivers, so we're feeling positive. It's supposed to be warm for the race which makes it physically tough, but Marc, Jörg and I are ready, as is the team.
Send your comments and questions to Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Although he can’t respond individually, he’ll get to as many as possible in his blog.