January 2011

Happy New Year! I have to admit I’ve been shut down completely for the last 12 days and it’s been a great recharge, so I apologize for not checking in sooner. I’m down in South Florida training and enjoying some friends and family time. It all starts for 2011 this coming Thursday when I head to Daytona for the winter pre-test for the 24 Hours. Since my last blog entry, it’s been announced that Flying Lizard is going to run a Riley flat-six Porsche in the Daytona Prototype category at the Rolex 24. This is exciting news as we’ll be going for overall…different from the last couple of years chasing GT. I’ve raced three times before in the prototype division and it’s a wild and fun perspective to take on what is always a spectacular race at Daytona on the high banks. We tested well in November down at Homestead and the guys have been hard at work on the car since then; we’re very confident. Jörg and I have done plenty of racing together, especially at this race, but we also look forward to working with Johannes van Overbeek and Seth Neiman who we’ll join in the car from last year’s lineup where we had the same driver pairing, so it’s very familiar territory and an exciting time.

The other announcement in the off season was that we’ll be returning as a team to tackle the ALMS GT championship. It’s really cool to be back for the third year in a row with the same roster, a lot of continuity there that will help us to continue to persevere and try to make it three titles back to back. It’s going to be incredibly competitive. This time last year, we weren’t tremendously confident and didn’t consider ourselves favorites. We definitely knew that we had a shot with the reliability and speed of a 911 combined with the Flying Lizards’ efforts and Jörg and I knowing each other as a driver pairing. We were positive but we were not as confident as we’ve been in previous years. I would say that the competition level is higher for 2011 than it was in 2010, but I now see it differently. Last year’s drivers’ championship was something that shouldn’t have happened and it did, so I have a whole new-found perspective and I’m as positive as I’ve ever been. It’s no longer about sitting back and calculating theoreticals and looking at lap times, comparisons of the other manufacturers and teams—we’re just going to get our heads down and work as hard as we can this off-season testing and preparing, and then we’re just going to go and do what we do.

One of my favorite sayings is that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. That means if you want the same result, you need to stick to the plan; and if you want a different result, you have to change things up. I think as two-time defending champions, we should be counted as favorites this year. If the pace of some of our competition might appear to be overwhelming, that’s not part of my mindset at this point in time. The returning BMWs and Corvettes will only be finding more momentum and consistency. Ferrari has a new car with the 458, which should be a beast and will definitely keep us on our toes. But this is what I love; it’s hard to believe I get paid to do this. It’s what I thrive on—the challenge and the competition!

I think the series is going in a great direction. There are even more new GT and prototype cars coming in. It was announced this week that we have a new TV package with ESPN and ABC. The addition of ABS as a network, combined with ESPN2, which is a power house of sports broadcasting, is terrific. The most exciting part for me is ESPN3. This is an on-line TV channel but it’s pretty turnkey and easy to go to if you have a relatively modern data connection. You’ll be able to watch not only the races, every single one of them live, but also an hour qualifying show. So for the enthusiasts that are really hard core about following it all, that couldn’t have been a better announcement. And for the casual followers that might catch a race here and there, I think that the ESPN and ABC brands will bring something to the table that might make it fun for even first time viewers.

So it’s an exciting time. I’ve just kind of been in a thankful, cheerful spirit this off-season to be going into my ninth year with Porsche as their sole factory representative from the U.S. It’s just a wave that keeps on becoming more fun to ride. I look forward to all the things that are forthcoming on and away from the track. There was one other pretty cool off-season present that came across the desk; I signed a multi-year extension with Porsche and that means that I’ll have the honor of being part of the factory squad for some years to come!

Ask Patrick: James Shoffit wants to know about the fastest lap from Zhuhai in the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. What contributed to making that the fastest lap?

The main variable in lap times during a race has to do with two things. The weather—as the air temperature cools off, we make more horsepower and the tires are happier and more consistent. The second element of that sweet spot when the stars all align and you usually see fast laps being ticked off in an endurance race has to do with the rubber build-up on the track. The grip level on the track builds slightly during a race weekend leading up to the race, through practice and qualifying, but in the race when you have so many hours of racing in succession with the same class of car going around the track, the rubber is laid down and the grip level comes up exponentially. There can also be variables such as where the fuel level is on the car in comparison to how new the tires are, but those are small factors. The big effects come from air temperature and grip level on the track.

In closing I just want to say thank you for all the great questions and letters that you guys have all sent to the blog. I do my best to get to each and every single one of them and read them through. Many of you I’ve even connected with at the race track. Thanks for the feedback and acknowledgment that you are a fellow PCA member and have caught a few of these blogs! It has really made me passionate to share some of my racing travel stories with you. Here’s to a 2011 resolution of trying to answer as many questions as I can in upcoming blogs.

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.