September 13, 2011 – Mid Ohio, Road America, Baltimore, Silverstone
We’ve got a little catching up to do since I last checked in. Mid Ohio was a double weekend of World Challenge and ALMS and it was all about doing our best and going to work. In the ALMS race we climbed forward through great strategy and reasonable pace and a great call to dive in when it started raining. We got our tires on early and and were leading the race I believe. There were a few yellow flags and such and then the rain really picked up, as a lot of people might have seen on TV. We were circulating awaiting the questionable idea of going back to green, which a lot of us were scratching our heads about. I just decided to do my best and the monsoon caught me out. Right on the restart I think there were a total of nine cars off the track and we were the ninth car to go off. Because of the yellow flag the race never restarted. I was heading towards the keyhole and just completely lost the car in a straight line and was a passenger from there. The rear wheels were completely locked going in a straight line. There’s really nothing that you can do in that situation. I had enough time to try everything—going back to throttle, putting the clutch in, whatever I could come up with, but I just slid for about a quarter of the length of the straightaway. That was a really, really tough one to swallow, but it was as clear as the rain coming down that it was out of our control. A tough result but that’s the way the chips have fallen for us this year in a lot of different scenarios.
The World Challenge was a double header on the same weekend so there was plenty of running between cars and changing overalls all during the weekend. We were able to get a second and a fourth place, which was mission accomplished; our competitors were caught up in the dogfight and got into incidents so we were able to capitalize there, stay out of the real fight because we just didn’t have the horsepower to fight with the Cadillacs or Corvettes and we walked out of there with the points lead. That was a great consolation for an otherwise disastrous weekend on the ALMS side.
Road America was next and it was a race where we were just destined to have a solid weekend. Based on where the balance of performance and the politics lie we had a perfectly executed race that in any of the last three seasons’ races would have had us victorious by a good margin, but here it meant that we were only fourth place. We have to hold our heads high; I was really happy with my performance, the team’s, and Jörg had an unbelievable final stint holding off cars that were much quicker than he was, but unfortunately we had nothing for the BMW right at the end and they were able to just drive around us on the outside of the straight. So, frustrated, but nice to put a good solid weekend together, put Mid-Ohio behind us and get some points on the board. It was only the second weekend of the season where we were able to establish a decent result without having any major mechanical or driver issues, so that was a good momentum builder.
The World Challenge then picked up the weekend after at Sonoma and that was a great weekend through and through. It was just about as dominant and text book perfect as they come. Qualifying wasn’t our strong suit but as soon as we got into the race and tire wear and traffic management became something of an equalizer, there weren’t many that had anything for the Truspeed team or myself and that was a great boost for the final two weekends that we’re heading into at Laguna Seca this coming weekend and the final at Atlanta on the World Challenge side. If we play our cards right and stay out of trouble, then we’ll be looking solid for a championship on that end. World Challenge has proved to be sort of a blind date I went into not knowing much about the series and never really meeting the team, and in a lot of ways it’s been sort of a sanity preserver for me in what has been a very trying season on the ALMS side.
Through all of it, it’s been easy as a team to band together and realize that as long as you execute and get the best out of yourself, like I’ve always said, then that’s all you can do. From the Flying Lizards standpoint we were excited to go to Baltimore. It was a new track which meant it was a pretty even playing field and street courses have been good for us. The 911 is great on tire wear. With the street course, you have to really take care of your tires. We’re good on the brakes, we’re good on traction, we’re just lacking a little bit in aerodynamics and straight line speed. With a street course, those two things are second to agility and consistency and the great things that Thomas Blam and the strategy team and all of the Lizard guys do from an engineering and pit stop standpoint. So Jörg and I were really excited to go into Baltimore. It was trying from a logistical and organizational standpoint but we rolled with the punches and by race time we looked very strong. Fortunately, a Porsche won the race but, unfortunately, it wasn’t us. We lost an axle, which is really a fluke; a scenario that just happens to the best of all of us. Sometimes your number is up and something gives way. It’s just unfortunate racing luck that has been with us for most of this season. What I said on record to some of the media is that now it’s just down to ridding ourselves of all of this bad luck and finishing strong for the rest of the season.
Then last weekend I was at Silverstone. It’s another example of how honored I am to be as busy as I am, but it certainly has tested and challenged me from a schedule standpoint. After Baltimore I went to Road America to do a little bit of development on an upcoming project and then straight from Road America on Tuesday night I flew over to the U.K. to prepare for the ILMC. I’ve been doing a couple of races in that series for the Felbermayr Proton group, a Porsche factory supported team in Europe. It’s a different thing for me on those weekends. I’m driving in the GTE Amateur class and this was the second of two races I was scheduled to drive with them. We were there fighting my old compatriots in the IMSA Performance Matmut team. We got a second; we didn’t have the pace to fight for the lead at the end of the race, but we were able to take the lead from second place on the grid and I led for an hour and 15 minutes of the race, but slowly through a bit of lack of pace we lost ground. The lineup from IMSA is just remarkable; Raymond Narac, who has been a teammate of mine in the last years at Le Mans, is on top of his game and he was able to fit a gap on my driving colleague like himself who does this at an amateur level. We hit all our marks and it was nice to be on the podium back in a place I used to call home in Silverstone and the Northampton area. I got home last night and I’m packing my bags and I’ll leave tomorrow to drive up to Laguna. No rest for the weary but it’s what I’ve worked my whole career for, to have the opportunities that Porsche’s been giving me. Rest will come in the winter.
Laguna has been strong for us in the past couple of years. It’s a great event; it’s an iconic track, so we’re as optimistic as ever. Six hours is a long race and that plays into our strength as a team, so we’re optimistic but I don’t imagine we’ll be fighting for a pole position. Last year we started eighth and we were able to win the race and who’s to say that couldn’t happen again? There are some things in the works for next year that will hopefully have us in a more competitive position and for right now we’re just going to have to play it smart and let the race come to us.
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